Sunday, November 13, 2011

an absence of apology

I haven't posted for some time.  I could say that I have been feeling better, but that would be dishonest.  No, what I have really been doing is waiting.  Mostly I've been waiting for my sister-in-law to be happily married.  But I've been waiting for other things, too.  I've been waiting to set some short and medium and long-term goals.  I've been waiting to write out that ever-elusive bucket list.  I've been waiting to see if I'd feel better on my own without having to go back to the doctor and deal with the poking and prodding and stabbing and testing.

I've also been thinking.  And talking.  And thinking some more.  I've been thinking about who I am and what I truly want to accomplish.  I've been thinking about what is important and what I can let go.  I've been thinking about my friends and acquaintances and family.  I've even been thinking about those of my readers that I've never met.  I've thought about wills and finances and endings.  I've thought about hopes and dreams and I've realized quite a few things - some of which surprised me.

Finally, I couldn't manage not knowing some sort of solid number.  So I gave up on waiting this thing out.  I know the signs of anemia by now.  I've lived with it in one form or another all through my life.  The blood transfusions last year and early this year didn't do any lasting good.  Of course I was still bleeding then.  But I've stopped bleeding now, so there's no logic to why my hemoglobin levels would continue to fall.  The IV iron didn't do any lasting good, either.  But I told myself that it was pre-surgery and the drop after surgery was to be expected.  That's true.  It is.  What's not to be expected is for the levels to continue to drop long after the surgery is over and the scars are all that remain.  So I went from having that magic number get up to 12 (still not close to the 30+ we'd like to see, but out of the single-digit danger zone) to an 11 just before the start of the fall semester.  I'm now a month away from graduation and the numbers continue to fall.  Immediately prior to my sister-in-law's wedding (October 30th, the day before our 10th anniversary) I dropped back into single digits with a 9.  They re-tested because they were so sure they'd messed up the test.  I get that a lot.

The wedding was beautiful and I am glad that I went.  My new brother is a good man and my sister-in-law did right to wait for so long until she found the one that was a perfect fit.  The wedding also made me realize how worn out I was.  The wheelchair was my friend by the time the wedding day arrived.  But it was more than that.

The ice cravings are returning.  The dark patches on my face stand out in vivid relief as do the circles beneath my eyes.  The headaches are rarely interrupted.  The restless legs are back in full force... as is the insomnia.  I'm experiencing episodes of confusion again and that very unsettling feeling that comes from knowing that I know something, that tip-of-the-tongue word or phrase or idea, and having it slip away as though it never existed.  I am once again having to read books two and three times just to follow the basic plot.  I am terrified that I will get to my final exams and have no idea what any of them are asking.

The latest test had me at an 8.5.  Down half a point in two weeks.  That was a week ago.  If this trend continues I'll be at 7 by graduation.  6.5 by the new year.  5 by my birthday.  4 in March.  The expectation is that sometime after this point my body will go into crisis mode.  As my hemoglobin continues to drop, my oxygen saturation level will fall, my heart will struggle to pump harder to keep me going and will either give out or slowly give up.  I expect that there will be pain involved.

Don't mistake my analytical explanation for a lack of concern, an absence of fear or peaceful acceptance.  Well, maybe there's some element of peaceful acceptance.  I know what I am unwilling to do to sustain my life.  I am unwilling to have marrow samples taken.  I am unwilling to have any more transfusions or iron IV infusions.  I am unwilling to go through chemo or radiation treatments.

What does that leave?  Well, I'm using supplements that may enable me to maintain a level of 5-6.  I'm regulating my food consumption.  I'm meditating and utilizing self-healing methods.  I'm controlling my pain primarily through visualization techniques augmented by the occasional tylenol or ibuprofen.

I'm trying not to let fear or panic control me.  I refuse to let this illness keep me from accomplishing the things that are most important to me.  I'm working with my professors to let me write my final papers a little early - and perhaps take my final exams early - while I retain the majority of my faculties.  I am setting goals and working toward them.  Not just long term goals, but those ever-important medium and short-term goals as well.

Right now my goal is to graduate.  I will be the first in my family with a BA.  So many of my brothers started college and fell just short of their degrees... I need to show them that it can be done.  I need to show myself that it can be done.

After that, my goal is to see my son in person again.  It's been almost a year and I miss him.  I'd like to go visit him in Louisiana, then go up to Missouri to see my mother and two oldest brothers.  It's been too long.

Another goal is to get an online business started - something that my husband will be able to continue regardless of my outcome.  That one is in the works, it just needs a little push to get it going.

I joke and say that my long-term goal is to go to Burning Man in 2012, but that isn't entirely accurate.  It would be fun, I'm sure, but honestly what I really want is to experience that sort of freedom.  To live in a way that doesn't leave a physical trace.  To give freely.  To love wholly. In fact, I hope I already do those last two.

So, for a little summation.  The best guess is that I'm experiencing some sort of chronic hemolytic anemia.  The marrow just isn't doing it's job correctly anymore - after years of being under horrific stress, I kind of don't blame it for giving it up as a lost cause.  I'm not looking for sympathy or pity.  I'm not trying to come off as heroic.  I just want to live as normally as possible for as long as possible.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

when did all of this happen?

It's been a little stressful around here lately.  And by stressful, I mean that I've been sick again.  Sick as in gastro-intestinal distress coupled with an unhealthy dose of blood leaving my body through various orifices. 

For some reason, that word looks like it should be pluralized as "orifi" but maybe that's just me.

The illness means that I missed another day of school which has me bummed a little.  What irritates me more, however, is that one of my professors decided that we should have a spiffy little writing assignment due on Tuesday and chose today (Sunday) to send out an email reminding everyone -- or surprising the heck out of those of us who missed last Thursday.  The assignment isn't difficult.  It's simply annoying.  The syllabus says two papers, two exams, a few note-taking and posting assignments and occasional reading quizzes.  I realize that the instructor thinks of these little surprise writing assignments as reading quizzes.  I just can't agree with him on this point.  Don't call writing assignments "quizzes" when you also hand out actual quizzes which are done during class.  I guess it's just one more thing to put on my "don't do this" list for when I'm finally teaching a class of my own.

Meanwhile, September snuck up on me again this year.  September holds such diverse holidays as Peter's Mum & Dad's anniversary, Peter's Dad's deathday, his sister's birthday, his dad's funeral anniversary and his birthday.  Of those, I'm most concerned about the birthdays.  The rest, well, they happen and we deal with them as they come.  But birthdays.  Birthdays get me every time.  Peter's sister is awesome.  I love her beyond belief.  She's a strong, independent woman.  And being a strong, independent woman, there's not much she needs or wants that she cannot get for herself.  Birthday present.  I could go with the typical card and a gift card, but I'd rather do something / get something for her that she will remember and enjoy.  She's older than I am by five months.  It shouldn't be so difficult to come up with ideas. 

To top that off, Peter's birthday comes just two days later.  I definitely have no clue what to get him.  I'm thinking of making him an outfit.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that's what I'll be doing for him.  It might not be on time... but it will be special.  Still, it adds to the stress level.

And then it hits me.  September already.  Next month is October.  October.  Easily my favorite month during the year.  I mean it has Samhain / Hallowe'en.  Definitely my favorite holiday.  Which also happens to be our anniversary.  Ten years, this year.  How will we be celebrating?  Well, we won't.  That's a little harsh -- let me explain.  On our anniversary we will be driving back from Miami because Peter's sister is getting married on the 30th.  We'll be leaving Friday, cooking for the family and friends Friday night, meeting all of her fiance's family Saturday, going to the wedding Sunday and driving back Monday.  Tuesday I will be back in Tallahassee at school.  No time to celebrate.

Did I mention that we're driving down with Peter's Mum?  And seven chihuahuas?  This is the difficulty of having four-legged furred family members.  It should make for an interesting ride, though.  We'll be staying at the home of a lady who has moved out (mostly) to live with her significant other... a friend of Peter's sister.  It's very sweet of her to let us use her home for the weekend.  Part of my stress has been trying to arrange either puppy-sitting or accommodations that allow seven dogs.

Oh, and having a mouse jump on my head whilst in the bathroom on Saturday?  That was stressful, too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

night terrors and day dreams

I had such high hopes that things would settle down once I managed to get back into the school groove.  Either I've not found that groove yet, or I have, and things are just refusing to fall into place.

Some good things have occurred.  I've reconnected, albeit briefly, with a handful of old friends.  I have a small wardrobe of wigs - three so far - that I can rotate through as the mood strikes and I've encountered less embarassment from the shaved head than I expected during those days when a wig is just too uncomfortable or too much of a hassle.  I found wig stands - but more on that project in a bit.  I'm keeping up with my classes and it should be a relatively stress-free semester, all things considered.  I'll be writing a total of six 5-7 page papers - no research, two annotated bibliographies (in lieu of actually writing a research paper) and will be taking three midterms and three finals.  Other than the random smattering of "reading quizzes" - which are generally announced ahead of time and are brain-numbingly simple and straightforward - that's it - that's all I have to complete in order to receive the next document in the series of wall-hangings.

I keep looking at my syllabii and wondering when the 16 page research paper is going to appear... or the 10 page essay with sources... or the journal with weekly entries... but no, nothing shows up, and I'm left wondering just what exactly I'm supposed to be learning this semester.  Patience, perhaps?  Tolerance?  How not to bang one's head repeatedly against hard objects out of frustration with an instructor who insists on treating 4000 level students as though they are freshmen?  The up-side of that was the reading quiz last class - he handed out expo markers and turned us loose on the whiteboard to draw "sketches" of what we'd read.  English majors.  Drawing things.  Hilarity ensues.  Along with "how many stick figures does it take..." jokes.  One comment from the crowd: "Is it bad that my first impulse was to write words instead of drawing something?"  A response: "Oh, crap! I put words on mine!"

We are English majors.  We use words.  Get over it.

I felt a little bad for the group that came to do a presentation about FSU's international programs.  90% of our class are graduating seniors, 5% are first semester seniors (neither group can study abroad as you have to have classes the following semester on the home campus)... and the other 5% had a marked lack of interest.  Our only question to them?  "Do you have to be studying abroad in order to use the passport services?"  The answer: "No. Anyone enrolled at FSU can get a passport through our office and it's the same price as it would be going through regular channels, only more convenient because we're right here on campus."  (Can't you just see the perky little grin?)

Oh, and the instructor embarassed the crud out of one of our classmates - by pointing out that she was a "celebrity" for having been on the cover of the prior international programs catalogue.  He had a copy of the catalogue.  He held it up and showed everyone.  The girl tried her best to melt down into her desk.  It didn't work.  I felt bad for her.

Back to times not changing.

I'm still getting very little sleep.  Not because I'm not going to bed.  I get to bed at a very reasonable hour for the most part.  But when I sleep, I've been having horrific nightmares.  Nightmares that are so vivid that they snap me awake.  Yet when I fall asleep again I'm right back in the dream, only rewound a little.  I ended up with over twenty endings to the last one of these dreams (two nights ago).  And last night, when I finally fell asleep again, I added another half-dozen more endings to the same dream.  Enough is enough!  How many times can I be in a car, flipped over on its roof, in a lake, sinking?  How many ways are there to die/survive this scenario?  I can name 26, just off the top of my head.  Sometimes an infant was involved.  Sometimes there were people standing on the bank.  Sometimes there were alligators.  Or more specifically one alligator.  One giant albino alligator with the attitude of a vengeful god.  I was never driving.  I was always in the passenger seat.  The driver was always the same.  She sometimes lived, sometimes died, sometimes got attacked by the alligator, sometimes got tossed back into the water by the people on the shore.  Sometimes the people on the shore stole the baby.  Sometimes there was no baby and I died looking for it.  Sometimes I knew there was no baby and died saving the driver.  Sometimes everyone lived.  Sometimes I fought the alligator.  Once.  Just once.  I let the alligator win.  Let it.  I was done.  I'd had enough of the dream.  I was well beyond the point where I recognized -inside the dream world- that I was dreaming, again, of the same scene.  And I just let the alligator win.  I felt the clench of the jaws around my midsection.  I felt the air escape my lungs and the water enter as the 'gator did the death roll with my suddenly lifeless form.  I felt the scrape of branches as the 'gator tucked me into his larder.  I was dead, but alive, gone, but there, and the driver was safe on the bank (no baby this time around) and the car slowly settled down to the bottom of the lake and I saw that, too.  And when I stopped fighting, and let things play out... the dreams finally stopped and allowed me to sleep.  I remember feeling a little sorry for the 'gator, because when the car settled down, it blocked the entrance to the larder... and after all that work, he wouldn't even be able to get to me later on. 

Moving on.

I ordered "Salt" again.  This will be my third attempt to get the novel from this major online retailer of books and sundry items.  Some may recall my first attempt, which ended in a 6-week wait for them to email me saying they didn't have the book after all, followed by an email three days later saying they recommended I buy "Salt" based upon my other selections.  I tried.  They told me it was out of stock.  I wrote them, demanding to know why they recommended I buy a book that was out of stock.  They told me (in an automated email) that the recommendation emails are automated.  I told them their automation needed some fine-tuning to make it link up with their inventory.  I used nice words.  I didn't actually type "Bless your heart." But I thought it.  Oh, I thought it.  UPS tells me that my shipment should arrive sometime today.  It is currently "out for delivery"... the company tells me that both "Salt" and "The White Witch of Rose Hall" are included in the parcel.  We shall see.

Meanwhile, I've tried my hand at ordering underwear online.  Ok, it started with a search for "lunch lady bras" because I can't find anything that fits correctly.  I'm a big lady and I need a big bra.  You wouldn't think it to see me - because for the last 5 years or so I've been strapping the girls down with too-small sports bras.  It's time for a little freedom.  I've ordered a set of "foundation" garments as well.  Ones designed for those of us with ample curves and voluptuousness.  Here's hoping they fit.  USPS says they're in Jacksonville today - which means they should be here tomorrow.  The foundations are a standard brief-style panty and a tank-style camisole top.  I'm not looking for miracles.  I'm looking for something to smooth out some of the bulges when I go to my sister-in-law's wedding in October.  And, in order to get the free shipping, I added something pretty and frivolous to the order - a midnight blue nightgown.  It looks... cool and swishy and comfortable and sexy all at once.  Strange that I go through these phases of total body acceptance followed by a desire for constrictive undergarments which tends to end in frustration and disappointment before coming full circle to body acceptance again.  Maybe if the unders that I found actually -fit- I would be able to break the cycle. 

I was asked, rather bluntly, why I didn't just lose the weight if it made me so unhappy.  Sure, let me wave my magic wand and have that happen.  Have tried. Am trying.  Heck, I even do a weigh-in every week and write the result on the bathroom mirror as a constant reminder.  I've tried the many small meals a day thing, I've tried eating once a day, I've tried meal replacements, supplements, and portion control.  I've tried programs where they send you the food.  I've stuck with plans for 6 months to years hoping for results.  I've been small once since my son was born.  I made it down to a size 10 using that aforementioned program.  Yes, I consider that "small."  I looked like I was dead.  My cheeks were hollowed, my eyes sunk in with dark circles and I was miserable.  Within months I was climbing back up the weight-gain ladder.  Still, I've no desire to be that small again.  I'm in the midst of a plan that rewards me for pounds lost.  I've made it to the first reward, a sketchbook, and am working toward the second, a lovely scarf.  So yeah, I am losing the weight.  It just takes time.  Meanwhile, don't begrudge me the joys (or the heartaches) of foundation garments.  And just wait, naturally slender people, one day your metabolism will catch up with you.

How did this turn from a nightmare and back-to-school rant to one about weight-loss?  Oh well, love me anyway.

Monday, September 5, 2011

aware of the awareness

One of my friends posted this status earlier today:  "Can I make a request? Is anyone willing to post this and leave it on your status for 1 hour? It is Special Education week & Autism & ADHD Awareness month, and this is in honor of all children who struggle every day. Lets see how many of you do it."

Hmm.  Now, being all too familiar with ADHD, I know that September is, in fact, ADHD Awareness month. However, being a good friend of several Autistic persons, I know that Autism Awareness month is actually in April.  Odd that they would be combined.  But what about Special Education week?  When is that?  

A somewhat exhaustive web search revealed that there is no such thing as "Special Education week."  

All of the above researched facts contribute to the growing mountain of support for my "I don't care what it's for, I'm not reposting that status" attitude.  I like kittens and puppies and children.  I volunteer with the elderly and veterans.  That doesn't mean I have to post my support.  

While we're at it... I'm not posting the color of my brassiere, where I place my purse or converting my birth month and day into baby-on-the-way lingo.  It doesn't help spread awareness of breast cancer.  I'm pretty sure everyone is already aware of breast cancer.  

How about we post things like "I just donated $20 to breast cancer research, will you match it?"  or "Logged 5 hours volunteering today, how about you?"

Back to awareness months/weeks/days...  if you're curious about what we're supposed to be aware of during September, here's the list:

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Fruit and Veggies - More Matters Month
Healthy Aging® Month
Leukemia & Lymphoma Awareness Month
National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month
National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month
National Cholesterol Education Month
National ITP Awareness Month
National Pediculosis Prevention Month/Head Lice Prevention Month
National Sickle Cell Month
National Yoga Awareness Month
Newborn Screening Awareness Month
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
Whole Grains Month

And then there are specific days and weeks:

13th - National Celiac Disease Awareness Day

15th - National School Backpack Awareness Day (Although why we have to be aware of backpacks is beyond me. Perhaps they are planning to overthrow the education system.)

18 - 24
National Farm Safety & Health Week
National Rehabilitation Awareness Celebration

18th - National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

19th - Get Ready Day (It didn't say for what we are readying ourselves.)

21st - World Alzheimer's Day

22nd - Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) Day

24th - Family Health & Fitness Day USA

27th - National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

28th - National Women's Health & Fitness Day
World Rabies Day

30th - Sport Purple For Platelets Day
World Heart Day

And if that isn't enough, feel free to celebrate the birthdays of my lovely Sister-in-law (22nd) and awesome husband (24th).

Awareness data for this month, and all the rest of them, can be found at this nifty location: Awareness Data List.

I'm still not changing my status.

Monday, August 29, 2011


It finally happened, just as I've been dreading since last year.  The conversation started innocently enough.

Peter: Hey, honey?  Do you know where I put my glove?
Me:  Glove? No.  Why do you need... oh.
And it hit me... there's another snake in the house.  Dangit.
Peter: Oh, here it is.
He dons the glove. 
Wait a second, he's going into the guest bathroom.  The same guest bathroom I'd just been rummaging in trying to find my composition books for class on Tuesday.  The same guest bathroom that is, I now realize, chock full of snakey hiding places.
Me:  Where is it?
As I try to see around him in the tiny space.
Peter: There.  I lifted the toilet lid and it was just hanging out there on the seat.
On the seat.  The seat.  This fellow had nestled his snakey self in multiple draping coils along the back of the toilet seat near the hinge.  Lucky thing it was toward the back when Peter lifted the lid.
Peter grabs the awkwardly positioned snake.  I have retreated to my desk.
And then I hear Peter quietly talking to the snake.
Peter: You cheeky bastard!
Me: What happened?
Peter: He bit me.
Me: What can I do?
Peter: Reassure me that it's not poisonous.
And without even getting a closer look at the snake, I respond calmly.
Me: It's not poisonous.
I look closer, confirming that it's the same type of snake we've been finding all year and repeat again that it's not poisonous.  Peter brings it out into better light, unhooks its fang from his finger and gets a better hold.  I look again.
Me: No, definitely not poisonous.
Of course, inside I'm freaking out, thinking I -could- be wrong.  I could have misidentified the thing.  There might, right now, be venom coursing through Peter's veins.  Oh geez, what if I'm wrong?
Peter: Ok.  Going to go release him then. 
Me: I'm going with you.
Thinking, just in case you pass out and I have to drag your toxin-filled body to the ER.
Peter gets to the end of the driveway, gives the snake a not-so-gentle toss up into the branches of a pine tree about 20 feet away.
Me: Nice distance. 
We watch the snake as it casually makes its way along the branch to the trunk of the tree.  We return to the house before it can get down and exact further revenge.
Peter: I was ready to just hang onto the thing and have you drive me to the ER, you know.  Bet they wouldn't have kept me waiting long with Mr. Slithers in my hands.
Me: How are you feeling?
Peter: Hmm? Oh, fine.
Me:  You. Our bathroom. Now.
I rinse the area under running water, which has the effect of taking away the minuscule drops of blood and removing all traces of the shallow bite.  But I insist on a soap-and-water wash.  Then rinse it with alcohol.
Peter: It's fine. Itches a bit, but it's fine.
Me: I'm going to peroxide it.
Peter: It's fine.
Me: I am going to peroxide it and you are going to let me because you have just been bitten by a freaking SNAKE.
Peter lets me pour hydrogen peroxide over his fingers - no bubbling occurs.
I douse it in alcohol again and finally let him escape from my semi-frantic wound care of his now nonexistent wounds.

So.  It finally happened.  Snake number six managed to get a bite in before being removed.  We figured it out, though.  The way Peter had to grab the critter is what got him into trouble.  Usually he can go for the tail and tease them out from their hidey-holes, but this time it was curled up and he had to go straight for the head.  In a cramped space, that's difficult to do.

He's fine, by the way.  No redness, no swelling, no itching after the first few moments. 

I'm fine, too.  But I'm steering clear of that bathroom for... maybe forever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

(don't) panic!

It's 5am and I'm minding my own business, clicking away at a game on Facebook.  It's dark outside.  Periodically I'm making an attempt at walking puppies. The weather is mild.  A bit warm for still-dark-morning, but not overly humid.  No thunder or lightning.  No rain.  No wind.

I mention the weather because suddenly...
...the room goes DARK!

30 seconds of pitch black.  Computer: off.  Kitchen light: off.  Fan: off.  Fridge: off.  Absolute silence reigns.

And then it's light again.  Computer starts to reboot.

And I think:  "I should get a candle ready.  Just in case."

Ah, there's the beautiful candle lamp on the kitchen counter (because it hasn't found a home yet)  I'll just move it to Peter's desk and light the candle.  Just in case.

So I go over to the counter and move the lamp.  I go back to the counter and look for a lighter.  Or matches.  Nothing.

I check the tool drawer.  Because who doesn't put a box of matches or a couple of lighters in their tool drawer?  Nothing.

For good measure, I check the hot-pad drawer.  Lots of birthday candles.  No matches.  No lighter.  Found the beaters for a mixer we no longer own.  But no incendiary devices.

What the heck, I'll check the other drawers.  Cooking tools: Nothing.  Silverware: Nothing.

I'm in a bit of a panic now.

There's nothing on the shelf in the living room because we've just redone the living room.

There's nothing on my altar because, well, I'm a slacker and don't have the altar back up completely yet.  Besides, I don't keep matches or a lighter on the altar, anyway.

How can I be living in a Pagan household and NOT have anything handy to light a fire?

Bathroom.  There are votive candles in the bathroom.  Surely there are matches.  I rummage.  I search.  None.

Finally, on a shelf just above my eye level, I find a lighter.

And I remember a late-night conversation with Peter.  Several weeks ago I wanted a candlelit bath to soothe my headache and help me sleep.  The lighter was his solution to the "no matches in the matchbox" problem.

It's ok.  I have a lighter and a candle and if the power goes out again, I'll have light.

Let me just light the candle.  Just in case.

Click.  Nothing.



Shake.  Liquid noises.  Ok. 



Notice that the clicking part of this particular lighter is split in two.  What?  Hmm.

Click the tiny edge portion.


And in my exuberance at figuring out what is apparently a child-safe lighter, I manage to burn myself with said lighter.

But the candle is lit.  Just in case.

Just in case another freaking squirrel farts on the power line causing a blackout of half the grid serviced by our local co-op.

(That's the only thing I can imagine that may have caused the earlier interruption in service.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

emotional turmoil equates to physical distress

I have such rage within me at this moment that I cannot speak.  I have trembling in my extremities and my vision is blurred.  My intestinal fortitude is being sorely challenged.

Why?  What has cause this distress in one who normally maintains at least an outward semblance of calm?

As with most things, this rage-inducing event is the culmination of the rock-strewn pathway I've been navigating today.

Today started with some alarming physical issues.  The leg of the infamous jellyfish sting refused to bend at the knee this morning - and absolutely resisted bearing weight of any kind.  I graciously spent the morning abed, with hopes of improvement.

No such luck.  At least not for several hours.  At this point, nearly 24 hours later, I can finally bend the knee and have learned a somewhat awkward shuffle that allows me to walk from point A to point B with only moderate discomfort.

But that was only the first boulder in the path.

Suwannee County turned out to vote today on a single issue.  Should the county remain dry or permit the sale of alcoholic beverages?  And if yes to wet, should these beverages be available only in packages or should they be available in drinkable form from eateries and bars and such?  Overwhelmingly Suwannee County voters turned out to declare they wanted to be able to give their tax dollars to their home county rather than having to drive to adjacent locales in order to purchase their poison of choice.  I voted wet, all inclusive.  As did my spouse.  As did his mother.  As did over 7,000 voters.  Wet won.

While at the voting place, I was mistaken for a man.  Maybe it was my hat?  Or the dragon-print t-shirt?  Or the grey jersey mid-calf length yoga pants?  Or the yoga shoes?  Whatever it was, boulder number two quite clearly addressed me as "Sir."  Not once, but twice.  The first time I shrugged it off.  The second time I stopped, looked at her with what must have been an odd expression and watched as realization dawned that I am not, in fact, a Sir.  She stumbled through an apology.  I smiled and nodded and agreed that no harm was done.

We had a lovely dinner and made our way home.  Granted we encountered several other drivers intent on killing us, but we made it through.  I'll call them rock number three.

Once home, and once the election results were posted, boulder number four came rolling in my direction.  I, my spouse and my mum-in-law, along with the other 7000+ voters who said "Yes" today were called "FOOLS" (emphasis is most definitely not mine) by a friend of mine.  Although I think we've managed to finally agree to disagree on this issue (as we have on so many others), it has put a rather nasty ding in our relationship.  And the buildup of stress is taking its toll on my body.  Intestinal distress.  An upswing in joint pain.  That hazy glaze to my vision that means my heart is not behaving itself.

All of that means I need to calm down.  Slow down.  Maybe meditate a little.  At the very least I need to do something I enjoy to take my mind off the pain.

I enjoy writing.  I've been working on The Sequel, an apt working title for the sequel to my first novel.  Things have been going well lately and I've been churning out some rather good quality work.  I'm a half-dozen chapters in, have the outline set for the rest, all the character descriptions are done and tonight, the muse was working overtime.  My fingers were itching to type.

And then I opened the file.

For reasons unknown to me, the current version of Word insists on making its own decisions as to font, font size, paragraph spacing, blocking and will not - not even when I muck about with the actual internal files - will not accept any alteration to this strangely set default.  I don't think it's too much to ask to have 12 point Times New Roman set at single space with no blocking when I open a new document.  Apparently Word believes otherwise.  I've solved this dilemma somewhat by making a template file which I open when I am going to start a new document.

Tonight, Word had a new trick up its sleeve.  I opened my work-in-progress file to find that the entire thing had been reformatted to the strange Word default.  What the heck?  Ok, staying calm.  Select all.  Reset the settings.  Save.  There, all better.

Except it wasn't.

It wasn't all better because it was gone.

Completely gone.

The file.  The folder.  Gone.

Not in the recycle bin.  Not saved somewhere strange.  Just gone.

Virus scan... negative.

Virus scan from an online source... negative.

Virus scan from a different online source, just in case... negative.

I tentatively opened a different file.  A letter I'm in process of writing to my aunts.  The formatting was fine.  I saved.  I looked for and found it again.  It opened just fine.

Ok, am I paranoid?  Where the heck is my book?


Looking again.  Well, the "writing" folder is back.  Whew!  But wait.  It only contains the original novel and some publishing notes.

Continuing to look.

And... wait, let me look in the original novel folder ...

Jackpot.  Well, sort of.  The who's who is there.  The outline is there.  But the entire file for The Sequel is gone.

That's not entirely true.  There IS a file.  But when I open the file, it is a blank page.  With the default Word settings.

Microsoft, you mock me, and I have RAGE.

Unfortunately, that rage is making me harf uncontrollably, shake violently and whimper with pain.  Don't get mad, your body will get even.

Monday, August 15, 2011

sun, surf and stingrays

We have never had a vacation.  I'm not talking about those trips where you go to a relative's house and spend a few days or the day-trips where you exhaust yourself by trying to cram as much as possible into a short time and then deal with the lack-of-sleep grumpiness for the entire next week.  I'm talking about time away from home, just the two of us, for more than one night. 

Heck, even if you disregard the "more than one night" requirement, we've only had one vacation.  That was a trip to St. Augustine, the weekend after we were married, nearly ten years ago.

So, we planned an overnight camping trip to St. George Island State Park.  Granted, this was to be a single night of camping, but because it was at a beach and we planned two days of fun-in-the-sun activities, we were calling it a vacation.

Excitement mounted through the preceding week.  We had the tent.  We had a giant beach umbrella.  We found two cheap beach towels.  We started planning our menus and gathering together odds and ends.

We planned to leave home between 4 and 6 am on Saturday, stop along the way for breakfast, then have a sandwich picnic lunch on the beach when we arrived.  We planned dinner for Saturday around some chicken we began marinating in Mojo on Friday morning.  Peter even pre-cubed the meat for skewer cooking.  We gathered this, along with some other refrigerated items, put them into a canvas shopping bag in the fridge and planned to grab the bag on the way out the door Saturday morning.

Ah, plans.  How they go awry.

Friday, we gathered with two good friends for an afternoon/evening of pizza and games.  One thing led to another and we found ourselves getting home around 2am.  Obviously a 4-6am start had become unrealistic.  Instead, we went to sleep with the alarm set for 6am.  We still had to load the truck, after all, and we hoped to be on the road by 7. 

7am rolls around and I happen to wake up, look at the clock, and panic.  Upon waking Peter, we discover that the alarm had been set for 8, not 6.  Still not a big deal - after all, we're on vacation!  So what if we're running a little behind schedule.  Throw out the schedule and have fun with it.

So we load the truck and we head down the road.  About an hour into the trip, Peter turns to me and says something along the lines of: "Chicken."  I am somewhat confused.  "What about the chicken?"  and then it dawns on me... "We didn't bring the chicken!" 

Yes, the lovingly marinated and painstakingly cut-up chicken was left in the fridge. At home. Turning back was not an option.  So, I laughed.  "We're on vacation! We'll cook it when we get back, it will be fine.  We'll just have to improvise something when we stop for groceries."

Because we'd not only left the chicken.  We'd left everything food-wise except the sodas and the cooler-jug of lemonade.  We could stay hydrated... but not fed.  Not to worry, we were stopping for brunch anyway, so we'd stop by a store and pick something up.

10:20am found us in a Burger King, having one of the best fast-food breakfasts we've ever eaten.  The eggs were perfect.  The pancakes were fluffy.  The sausage was a little spicy but not too greasy.  The biscuit I could have done without, but otherwise the meal was quite yummy.

We found a store and picked up the necessary supplies: charcoal, some bratwurst things for grilling, lunch meat, bread and pork chops to replace the missing chicken.  Only we couldn't find any Mojo!  At least not of the flavor we are accustomed to using.  So we substituted a different flavor.  Chipotle pepper.  Now, I'm not particularly fond of spicy things.  Not true.  I like them, but they do a number on my tummy so I tend to avoid them.  Still, we weren't going to be marinating for long, and it was better than the other option - bitter orange.

We arrived at the campsite around 2pm.  Pitched the tent in the blazing heat while being eaten by mosquitoes.  Apparently no one has informed the blood-suckers that they are not supposed to be out and about during the heat of the day.  We pulled most everything out of the truck, stuck it all in the tent, changed into swimwear and headed for the beach.

I've been to St. George Island before.  Once.  With friends.  And I used a new-to-me sunscreen applicator - the spray-on kind.  I didn't realize that I needed to rub the sunscreen around once I sprayed it on.  So I ended up looking somewhat redder than a firetruck.

I headed off that problem this trip.  We had sunscreen, oh yes, SPF 50 sunscreen without aloe (because I'm allergic.)  Waterbabies sunscreen, even.  A brand I've never had reason not to trust.  So I slathered.  And I had Peter help me slather.  Head to toe.  And with as short as I've cut my hair, "head" in this case means "face, scalp, ears, neck."  Every exposed inch was carefully covered.  Peter declined use of sunscreen.  I asked if he was sure.  He said he'd put it on after he went in the water for awhile.  Okay.  His decision.

We went in the water to play.

It was... wonderful.  The waves.  The sand.  The swim goggles that decided to leak when I tried to swim underwater.  The giant patch of hermit crabs that I found with my feet, the water being too cloudy to see deeper than about 6 inches.  The little fish that kept trying to nibble at my fingers... and then proceeded to attack my toes and my leg.  It appeared to be a juvenile damselfish of some sort.  Apparently I was tasty.  I had to explain to the fish that I was not "noms" and finally Peter startled it enough that it left me alone.

So, it was wonderful.  Interacting with the sea creatures.  Peter would dive down and scoop up whatever pointy object I happened to step on and bring it up for us to examine.  I saw quite a few things for the first time.  Hermit crabs smaller than a pencil eraser - shell and all!  A mollusk shell of the sort usually used by hermit crabs but with an actual mollusk in it.  A live sand dollar.  They are brown and frilly looking when alive.  Quite different from the bleached white of the washed up remains.

It was wonderful.  And then the jellyfish incident happened.  Stung my foot.  The top of my foot.  While I was standing still minding my own business.  And it hurt.  It hurt with a great muchness.  Tears came to my eyes.  That was one mean jelly.

My foot still has red lines on it from what I am calling "the aggressive attack by jelly or jellies unknown" and my lower leg is sore.  I don't know if my upper leg is sore or not because that happens to be the leg with nerve damage - the thigh area is always sore. 

We took a break from the water for awhile and built little sand creations.  Dug some holes.  Giggled as the water filled them up.  Generally acted like we were little kids.  I wore my Real Deal Brazil hat most of the time.  Considered wearing it into the water, but decided against.  Meanwhile, Peter continued to avoid sunscreen.

We were only on the beach for about two hours before heading back to the campsite to make dinner and get settled.

Peter burned.  Oh did he burn.  Poor dear is burnt from his waist to his shoulders on his back, and most of his front.  Lucky for him, he is already starting to turn to tan.  I felt confident that my sunscreen had worked... so I might have been a little bit smug in my offering of sympathy to my lobster-esque spouse.

Dinner was delicious.  We even foil wrapped several baking potatoes and two apples and placed them among the coals in the fire-pit, anticipating lovely roasted treats for evening. 

As the sun was low in the sky, we decided to take an early evening stroll along the beach while our potatoes and apples baked.  We were using charcoal instead of the wood-fire we usually use for such things, so figured the cooking time would be a little longer than usual.  No worries.

An hour or so later, we arrived back at the camp to find our securely packaged treats had become potato and apple shaped blocks of foil-wrapped charcoal.  Apparently a charcoal fire is much hotter than a wood fire.  Oops.  We each managed to salvage about a spoonful of somewhat burnt tasting applesauce from the center of our blackened orbs before giving it up as a lost cause.  The potatoes we didn't even try.  When unwrapped the largest of them revealed a solid black surface that gave off a hollow, dull thunk when tapped with a fork.  It was toast.  In the toastiest sense of the word.

No worries, though.  We were still quite full from dinner and content to have had a warm shower (courtesy of the state park system!) and slip into our jammies.  It was at this point that we discovered, although it is possible for the two of us to sleep on a twin size inflatable mattress in an air-conditioned environment, doing so in a very warm tent is quite another story.  We had power (again, courtesy of the park) and had thought to bring an extension cord and small fan - so we had some air circulation at least.  But it was miserable.  And trying to sleep on the floor of the tent with the underlying rippled sand was even worse. 

I stared at the moon and tried to shift position as little as possible, but sleeping was simply not happening for me.  Peter, of course, has the lucky ability of being able to sleep almost anywhere.  I finally gave up around midnight-thirty and announced that I was heading to the restrooms.  Peter woke up long enough to help me escape the tent and I hiked the short distance to the facilities.  While washing up, I noticed that my skin was roughly the same shade as my sleep-tank-top.  Unfortunately, the tank top in question is a vibrant red.

I wore sunscreen, dangit all.  I wore it.  Peter helped me put it on.  We applied the heck out of it.

I burned anyway.  Oh did I burn.  My burn, it appears, is actually a deeper burn than that of sunscreenless Peter.  His covers a larger area - but mine is over my entire back and shoulders and the back of my neck and is not so much red as almost purple-red... with throbbing pain at every heartbeat.  Imagine my joy and delight at finding out the reason I could not get comfortable.  The source of all the pin-prickly sensations I'd been having. 

It was all I could do not to break down in tears.

My foot and leg hurt with the sting of the jellyfish.  My sunburn, well, to say it was like fire would be inaccurate.  I've been burned by fire.  This... this was different.  This was a sneaky burn, deep and thorough. 

I walked back to the campsite.  Stubbed my toe on the side of the road.  Tripped over my flip-flops - and realized that they had given me a pair of blisters on each foot from the plastic strap. 

I walked past the truck and up to the tent.  I heard Peter snoring inside.  My spirit collapsed.  I said the only words that would come to mind.

"I want to go home."

Peter snapped awake with an "Okay."  followed by rustling and rummaging for bits of discarded clothing... then he stepped out of the tent and asked "What's wrong?"

I could do nothing but repeat, "I want to go home."

"But why?"

"Because I'm burnt to a crisp and I can't get any sleep and I ... just... *fighting back the threatening sniffle* want to go home."

He sighed.  I started putting things in the back of the truck.  He started helping.  We broke camp in the middle of the night and my wonderful, patient and understanding husband... took me home.


We discovered around Tallahassee that we were both hungry.  Of course, we were both in pajamas, too.  So, where could we go to get food at 3 am in Tallahassee looking like sleepwalking vagrants?  Of course.  Steak-and-Shake.

They didn't even bat an eye.  We ate.  We wished we hadn't.  The food made us sleepy.  Dangerous when we had another hour and a half to drive.

We ended up stopping at a rest area along I-10 and there we discovered that the seats in my truck do not recline.  At all.  So I leaned on the window and Peter leaned on me and we were both asleep before I could even pet his hair. 

An hour later, we tried driving again.  Didn't make it very far.  Maybe another 20 minutes.  We weren't quite to Suwannee county when Peter pulled over and let me drive.  Somehow I made it the rest of the way home.  I don't really remember much of the drive other than concentrating very hard on the lines and the lights of traffic.  But we made it home in one piece and didn't hurt anyone else doing so.

We walked in around 6 am, let the puppies out for a walk and called Mom to let her know we were home so she wouldn't need to come over to walk the dogs.  Got the puppies in, walked Morgie - who is still in heat - got her in and then took a short, warm shower to get the last of the sand and the rather thick coating of bug repellent off.  Each had a something to drink.  And that was where the energy completely ran out.  We fell into the bed and were out before we finished making contented I'm-in-my-own-bed groans.

Around 4pm we managed to drag ourselves out of bed.  Well, we'd each been up individually before then, mostly for bathroom trips for us and the dogs.  But at 4 we both got up, pulled ourselves somewhat together, and headed over to Mom's.  After all, we had to cook that chicken.  And the breakfast sausage.  And the brats (which I split, stuffed with onion and a little mozzarella and foil-wrapped for baking.)  And we did.  And it was all tasty.  And we added some lettuce and cucumber that Mom had, and a bit of leftover pork tenderloin, and quite a bit of beverages... combating dehydration, one glass of kool-aid at a time.

We went home around 7:30pm.  Set the alarm for 2am.  Went back to bed. 

Got up this lovely Monday morning a little before the alarm went off and have been trying to think up excuses to crawl back into bed ever since.

Sunburn status: dark blood red
Jellyfish sting status: red stripes have faded to red spots on foot, foot and lower leg still hurt when I walk

We can't count it as a vacation - not even an overnight vacation - because we left before we were there overnight.  But it was still a nice trip.  Peter had never been to St. George Island and he likes it there.  The state park is awesome, even with the mosquitoes.  (And inexpensive.  $26/night for a spacious campsite - and no park admission fee if you are camping!  For day-trips, it's around $6/car.)

And when we called them on Sunday to find out if we needed to do anything about check-out since we left in the middle of the night, and told them we'd done so because I wasn't feeling well, they were nice enough to ask -in all sincerity- if I was feeling better.  Good people.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

destroying childhood, one book at a time

My favorite book in the whole wide world is “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  This book is one of my stronger compulsions – when I see it, I simply must get a copy.  Logically I know I have copies at home.  From the dog-chewed copy that is missing a few pages that was my first-ever “big” book to the pristine paperback with the artistic cover (read once, because in addition to having the book, I must read it within a few days of purchase) to the newest find… an illustrated copy picked up for $1 at Wal-Mart.

I didn’t read the cover closely when I plucked this latest volume from the display.  I saw “The Secret Garden” and that was enough.  This morning, as I tried to fall asleep, I decided to read this newest copy.  Noting that the cover had a tiny notation “Fully illustrated and adapted,” I curled up under my cozy blanket and eagerly opened the text.

The editors thoughtfully include a foreword:

A note to the reader—

A classic story rests in your hands.  The characters are famous.  The tale is timeless.

This Junior Classic edition of The Secret Garden has been carefully condensed and adapted from the original version (which you really must read when you’re ready for every detail).  We kept the well-known phrases for you. We kept Frances Hodgson Burnett’s style.  And we kept the important imagery and the heart of the tale.

Literature is terrific fun! It encourages you to think.  It helps you dream.  It is full of heroes and villains, suspense and humor, adventure and wonder, and new ideas.  It introduces you to writers who reach out across time to say: “Do you want to hear a story I wrote?”

Curl up and enjoy.


And two minutes later I forced my eyebrows down from the raised position to which they’d slowly crept and muttered viciously enough to startle the sleeping Chihuahua at my side, “What the HELL is this?”

Whatever this book is, it is NOT “The Secret Garden.”  Oh, the characters have the same names.  The young girl was born in India.  Her parents and her Ayah died of cholera and she was sent to live with her uncle.  She found her cousin and befriended a village boy and a robin and a gardener.  They all end up inside the garden.  The boy recovers from his pseudo-illness.  The rich kids get over being spoilt little brats.  The bare bones of the story, I suppose, are given at least lip-service.

But, in shaving off those 90 pages (yes, ONLY 90 pages, from a whopping long read of 276 pages in original form), the entire book is lost.  No more does Mary grind her teeth and mutter about calling her Ayah “Pig. Pig. Daughter of Pigs!”  No more are her mothers’ gowns described as “full of lace” – no, now they are “lacy” – only saving a measly six characters while changing the entire meaning of the phrase.  Mary is no longer making a pretend garden, she is simply “playing on the veranda” when her tendency to create little imaginary gardens is one of the major themes of the entire work!

Come on!  The book is called “The Secret Garden” isn’t that enough to make gardening references important enough to keep intact?  Even the scene where the nursery rhyme “Mistress Mary Quite Contrary” is introduced has been chopped into meaninglessness.  No longer is Mary cast as the isolation-loving villainess who spurned the ideas of the other children who were trying to be civil.  Instead she is just “playing at making a garden” when one of the children decides, apparently out of the blue, to taunt her with the namesake verses.

All of the life has been unceremoniously sucked from this edition.  If this is being “carefully condensed and adapted” and in keeping with the authors “style… important imagery and the heart of the tale” then the editors must think the heart of this tale is a shriveled peach pit.

I love this book.  Mainly because it was the first book I ever encountered that made me see how much depth could be found within a text.  To this day, when I re-read a copy (or read a new copy) I am struck by the layers upon layers that can be unraveled.  I like to think that there are young people out there today who are as ready to receive good Literature, as hungry for it as I was back then, who would eagerly devour “The Secret Garden” and learn to cherish it layer by layer.

Unfortunately, many of them will instead encounter this tepid, lifeless husk and wonder, just as I did, “What the HELL is this?”

And don’t even get me started on how they completely eliminated any reference to the servants being “Natives” of India.

I need to go to a bookstore.

filing systems

“How would he know what I want, anyway?”  I demanded of my husband, who, to his credit, did not look at all confused even though we had been quietly sitting in our living room on our respective computers for the better part of an hour.

I did it again.  I keep trying to stop, but so far I’ve been unsuccessful.  I’ve randomly brought up a thought attached to a statement someone made days, weeks or, in this case, months ago.  No context.  No lead in.  No subtle hint in the comment as to which “he” or what that faceless entity had deemed to be in my best interest.

I seem to do this quite a bit.  Usually the outbursts are connected with something fairly recent or at least something identifiable.  This time, however, I was referring to a very short conversation I’d had with one of my brothers.  I’d casually mentioned the possibility of moving to Missouri to teach in my old hometown school.  He replied with a swift and firm: “You don’t want to do that,” dismissing any potential reasoning or desire as being not only unworthy of voice but as completely irrational. 

At the time I simply tucked the conversation away into a little compartment in my mind and moved on to other topics.

And I wonder why I don’t sleep at night.

There are thousands of these compartments.  Snippets of conversations.  A casual phrase spoken in passing.  Something overheard.  Unspoken rebuttals.  Each in their own little box with a neatly typed label.

While I think these boxes are closed tightly, this is not the case.  Instead, all of these bits and bobs are cluttering up my thought processes and giving me random feedback.  Often I can keep the outbursts to myself.  Occasionally, however, the righteous indignation or hurt or anger or frustration will bubble out and make me sound like I’ve lost my mind.

I had a tarot reading today.  As such things go, I concentrated more on the general impression rather than the details.  One of the things that remains with me (among many insights – my reader was quite adept!) is that I have a communication problem.  I bottle things up that should be let out.  I’m not happy about something but I’m not saying anything and therefore that something cannot be addressed. 

The underlying problem is that I cannot communicate about bottled up things until that little box slips open and allows me to see what my mind has made of the contents.

Maybe I just need a better filing system.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

projects and pins

Thought I'd do an update on the household projects.  It took a bit longer to finish the kitchen/living room than I expected, but I'm okay with that.  I'm just glad it's done.  Well, done may be too strong a word, as the assorted things we moved out of the living room are still stacked (albeit neatly) in the guest bathroom and I've not repaired and painted the two bits of wall that we are affectionately dubbing "the hallway" to remove them from the living room equation and I didn't quite get to the archway painting bit.  I did, however, start on the repairs and then... stalled out in frustration at more of the shoddy building techniques used during the construction of our home.

Okay, I know it's a mobile home.  I know they aren't the same as site-built homes.  I know that some of the specs are going to be different and some of the materials are going to be different.  But when one is going to go ahead and lay down OSB instead of plywood for a floor, it darned sure ought to be pretty thick OSB. 

The nifty part about a double-wide-mobile-home is the seam that runs down the middle.  This is a nifty thing for one reason.  When the crap that the installers filled the seam with starts to crumble (and oh, yes, it will  start to crumble) you get a good look at how your floors were made.  That darned OSB is barely 1/2" thick.  I'm being generous calling it 1/2".  And to top it off, the "columns" set on either side of the living room - theoretically there to hold up the roof - aren't even made with actual 2x4's.  And the gaps.  Don't get me started on the gaps.  Gaps that run beneath these "columns" and open right up to the ground.  Gaps that, once I vacuumed out the crumbling seam-filler, started readily swapping my nice air-conditioned inside comfort with hotter-than-heck outside nastiness.  Gaps that beg to be filled with whatever dirt and dust I'm currently sweeping up.  Gaps that are on the project list for tomorrow morning - where I'll be filling the suckers with as much drywall mud as they will hold, then sealing it over with a heavy-duty primer and some of that handy floor paint.  At least until we can afford to put new flooring in both the living room and the kitchen.

But the kitchen has vinyl - and it hasn't been that long - what's the problem?

The problem, again, is the installation of the product.  Well, that, and substandard product in the first place.  But when one puts down any kind of vinyl - regardless of quality - laying it over assorted, random loose screws, nails and debris tends to make the vinyl rip and tear and generally become FUBAR in short order.  Oh, the tears are tiny at first, and you think "oh, that's not so bad.  we can live with that."  And then you turn around one day and notice a 3" slice across your flooring that is peeling up on either side and you go "when the heck did that happen?"  And you're sitting in the bathroom, you know, enjoying a little downtime, when you notice that the tiny slices that were oddly in three sides of the grooves around one of the printed squares have now become mold-infested splits just waiting to shred open an unsuspecting toe.  Yeah.  The flooring issue has to be fixed.  In an ideal world we would install hardwood or one of its more affordable cousins.  In our world, the reality is six chihuahuas, two of whom are getting up there in years, tend to have accidents.  I don't care how tightly you hammer your seams or how secure that snap-lock is... unless you're going to seal that sucker with something akin to a 1/4" layer of solid acrylic, wet and wood do not mix.  Most likely we'll go for this nice vinyl option we've been shopping.  It is printed and textured to look like hardwood.  It's thicker than most of the other options.  It has a 20 year warranty.  Even with all that, it's still under $1/sq. ft.  Not bad.  Granted we have a chunk of square feet to cover, but we'll get there.  Eventually.

Meanwhile, I've mostly recovered from putting my body through the rigors of clearing and painting and am about ready to tackle the next few projects on the list.  This is good.  This has also given me far too much time to bounce around internet links.  Generally I tend to end up in places that resemble dark alleys... scary at best.  Today, however, I found something both fun and useful.  It's called "Pinterest" and is a site that allows users to collect images from their internet wanderings.  It's much easier than trying to copy/paste random photos and then figure out where you found them in the first place - Pinterest attaches the home website url to the image, and allows you to jot down comments about the image.  I've spent the last couple of hours joyously collecting things for my first pinboard (you can have more than one!)  If you're interested in seeing what I like to look at when no one else is looking, you can find me here: Annamammal's Pinterest -- it even lets you follow people and look through their pinboards. 

As with anything shiny and new, I'll probably play with pinning things on my board for a few weeks, then slowly let it slip off into obscurity.  Kind of like Google+.  I haven't logged in there for over a week, and I really don't miss it.  I sit on facebook for obscene amounts of time because of the games, and G+ hasn't added that sort of content yet so there's nothing shiny enough to keep me coming back.  At least that's what I tell myself.  Maybe I'm just afraid that I'll have to start posting actual content in a social networking format.  It seems too restrictive for the way I think.  Blogs are much better.  I can explore an idea to my finger-typing content and my readers are free to read or not read at their whim.  It's harder to avoid short snippets.  It's easier to misconstrue them as well.

Tomorrow I'll be repairing walls and gaps and if all goes well I'll be painting the "hallway" and priming the "arch" and grumbling at puppies who get underfoot.  I wonder if primer will stick to vinyl... I think a test patch is in order!

Friday, July 29, 2011

all this activity

It's one week in and although I've not completely kept to schedule, I'm happy with the progress of the household projects.  The kitchen wall and shelves are finished.  The living room has been cleared out, the floor scrubbed and the walls repaired.  Tomorrow will have me priming the floor and walls and then painting.

I continue to be miffed about the shoddy workmanship in this house.  When we purchased it, we were assured that the wall studs for interior walls would be actual 2x4s 16" on center.  Lies.  We were told that the floor was plywood - specifically not OSB.  Lies.  We were told the carpet had padding beneath it. Lies.  One can only imagine the other things that were done incorrectly.  We've already had to rewire two light switches.  The front door was installed incorrectly and caused floor damage that we'd never have realized until too late had we not decided to remove the carpet in the living room.  The master bathtub was installed incorrectly, causing it to crack around the drain and resulting in an unsightly fiberglass patch.  Doors either don't stay shut or stick.  The house was to be set-up for either gas or electric stove use, but only has a standard electrical outlet (and the gas supply line is incorrect - and now crimped due to substandard employees of the propane company)... we have a breaker labeled "range" that does not appear to go to any installed outlet - who knows if wires were even attached and if they were, where they terminate.

Yet even with all the troubles, I love our house.  It is too big for my taste - allowing us to accumulate clutter and close it off in seldom-used rooms.  The kitchen has an awkward layout.  The closet is small.  But it is -our- house.  A huge purchase for us - people who buy used cars second and third-hand and who tend to struggle to make the budget work - but we found a way, with a lot of help from family and some excellent timing and a workable payment schedule.  We've been here almost ten years.  We've whelped puppies, baked holiday meals, fought mouse and ant invasions by the score, vanquished palmetto bugs, recovered from illnesses and celebrated birthdays in this house.  We've cried over the loss of loved ones and been consoled.  We've cheered over exam scores - and wept over exam scores.  We've screamed in frustration and in passion.  In short, we've lived here.  And in living here, we've given a part of ourselves to the house and made it into a home. 

So I'll continue to paint and patch walls and clean and find solutions for whatever disaster threatens on the horizon, and I'll continue to plan out imaginary remodels and various deck plans and toss around the idea of just building a Japanese style bath house in the yard and eliminating our tiny bathroom all together... but I won't begrudge a moment of the time we've spent here, and I hope we have many more years to share with this house.

This week we have finished 1/3 of the kitchen - all that we can do until we can finance an entire remodel of the room - and we have cleared the clutter of two years out of our living room.  In fact, we've cleared everything out of the living room in preparation for repainting.  This is not the first time we've painted the living room.  At the moment, the walls are a color I like to call "light adobe" which is to say they are about the shade of a seriously sun-bleached clay pot.  It was nice while it lasted.  It was also one of the first rooms I painted in the house and I wasn't all that smart when it came to picking paint.  I went with a flat, rather than semi-gloss or gloss, thinking it would be more muted.  I was partly correct.  While the flat paint is not shiny, it is somewhat chalky and tends to readily show scuffs and marks.  This time around we are using a semi-gloss.  We went that route in the kitchen and it looks quite nice - not too shiny, but more durable.

We knew we wanted a bright yellow for the kitchen.  And the guest bath that opens off the living room is a bright spring green (well, it's a somewhat dull green at the moment, but it will be a bright spring green soon enough).  Every room in the house with the exception of the master bath and closet open off of the living room - so a color that will work as a transition is important.  The master bedroom is slated for a lavender shade.  Guest bedroom - marine blue.  Library - burgundy.  And we liked the adobe living room... but opted to go with a somewhat tan color.  It has a hint of the adobe, without being pink, and a hint of the yellow in the kitchen without the brightness.  I'm excited to see how it turns out.

Today we scrubbed the floor.  Not an easy task when the floor is OSB.  Especially when it is neglected OSB that has had some rough wear-and-tear.  We started with a long-handled scrub brush, using a heavy solution of floor cleaner.  Peter toweled up the puddled water and used a smaller brush on stubborn spots.  It took some time.  It took some effort.  Ok, it wiped us both out.  But we powered on.  After the scrubbing, we let the floor dry while we went to town for a new mop head - ours is currently inaccessible in the guest bathtub, blocked in by some of the things we moved out of the living room.  Plus we required a few incidental supplies for the upcoming painting.  Once back home, I patched the damaged walls.  Steel wool in the mouse holes, followed by a generous application of drywall mud.  After this, I mopped the floor.  Again, not an easy task when the mop threads want to snag on the bits of wood, but it wasn't as bad as I expected.  The floor is remaining remarkably intact through all this abuse.  The mop solution this time was roughly 2 gallons of scalding hot water with about 2 cups of bleach.  Ok, maybe 3 cups of bleach.  Let's just say that, in my opinion, if a house smells like bleach it smells clean.  I want my house to smell clean.  The mopping went well and we set up two fans to speed the drying process.  I had hoped it would be dry in time for me to prime it before bed, but it is not, so you get this blog post instead.

And now the OCD is kicking in.  Did I clean the floor enough?  Couldn't I have scrubbed it a little more?  Do I need to sand down the rough spots? Should I have gone over it with another course of clear water?  Did I use too much water? I've gone to the bedroom door no less than a dozen times, intending to just pop out and check on the floor.  I've stopped myself - not because I realize it's silly (although I do) or because I know it is as clean as I can get it (or is it? yes. no. maybe.) but because if I touch that doorknob, six chihuahuas will wake up and voice their displeasure at being restricted to the kitchen. My OCD is being policed by a pack of small dogs. I don't know whether to be thankful or to be embarrassed.  After all, I should be able to control these impulses on my own.  I should be able to tell myself that it can wait until morning. 

Then again, I should be able to go to sleep without having to meticulously clean my fingernails and wash my hands.  I should be able to go to sleep without having to brush off the sheets and shake the pillowcase.  I should be able to get up in the morning without the overwhelming necessity of immediately going to brush my teeth.  So much of my life is in disarray.  My clothes are not organized by color or even by type.  Heck, at the moment my clothes are all mixed up with Peter's on one long rod across the end of our bedroom (see, I told you the closet was too small and poorly laid out)... and although I do match my socks, they are tossed into a drawer without thought to their orientation and my underthings are not neatly folded.  And that doesn't bug me.  (Though I know some people who are probably itching to come organize my dresser right now.) It seems that every flavor of OCD is a little different.  While I might agree with a friend that little paint specks on the arms and hands require immediate scrubbing, I doubt that most of my friends would be immobilized by the sight of spare change on the floor.  If I see a stray coin, I must pick it up.  It's ok if it is on a nightstand or dresser or counter, but if it is on the floor it must be picked up.  I can't stand to have shoes placed on a table - even if they are in a box or bag. I'm convinced that once they are set on a table they will never fit correctly again.  And my house is not clean unless it smells faintly of bleach.  Other people's houses don't have to smell like bleach to be clean... but if mine smells of anything other than bleach (or a specific combination of vanilla, cinnamon and cloves) it is not clean - even if it is spotless.

So, tonight, I will leave the door to the bedroom closed and I will brush off the sheets once more.  I will clean my nails and wash my hands.  I will shake the pillow.  And I will lie down to sleep, content that the whiff of bleach means all is right with the world.