a day to myself

Well, almost.visitor

1382433_10153393167925251_1993199140_nSeriously.  2 pm on a Sunday, little Mr. Raccoon sauntered through the yard, not scared at all, climbing up the redwood tree to watch me curiously. 2 pm! Broad daylight! Sigh. We have a bit of a problem. Not sure what to do. Urine and cayenne have been suggested. I’ll try anything. Needless to say, Thomas’ adventures for the day were curtailed.

K. had a class to help with today so I had a day to myself. I made a big list of what I could do, ranging from the incredibly lazy (lay on the couch reading all day) to the overly-ambitious (disassemble the dining room to put down the new/old Persian rug my dad handed down to me).

I opted for something in the middle:

  • A lounge in the hot tub first thing in the chilly morning
  • A little housework (vacuum, put some stuff away)
  • A little yard work (sweep up crabapples, think about mowing the lawn, decide NOT to mow the lawn)
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector
  • Make Julia Child’s coq au vin recipe (this took most of the rest of the afternoon)
  • Do a little art
  • Watch a dumb movie (Ghostbusters… seriously)

I’m sort of carrying over some of the Halloween spirit into November. I’m finishing up a James Herbert book (Others) and we’re watching some really great classic horror/scary movies. Last night we watched The Changeling (with George C. Scott); it was actually really quite good. I was impressed. We also watch Burnt Offerings a few weeks ago: that was the complete opposite. Cheese-o-rific. Oh well.

(side note: Rick Moranis is truly hilarious in this movie. Also this is a serious case study in 80s decor and style.)

upgrades

On Christmas Eve, my computer broke. Actually it broke the night before, and then I tried to fix it, but it broke further, so I had to take it to the Apple store and thankfully they fixed it and it was only $19 which seems like some kind of Christmas miracle. So I upgraded my OS and things seem to be fine now.

The DVD player is also woefully inadequate — it is about 15 years old, and although it still works, I wanted to be able to access Amazon Prime movies and such, and right now to do that I have to hook up the (previously broken) computer plus speakers plus the TV and then the computer would freeze sometimes and it was very frustrating. So I got a new one.

First world problems, I know.

And the printer broke. Or, stopped working. Whatever.

So some upgrades are happening, which is a nice way to start the new year. The garage is freshly cleaned out, the house will be Christmassy and cozy for another week or so, and hopefully the Technology Gods will be appeased for another few years.

I hate to think of life as having ‘grades’ or one’s life needing to be upgraded, but things are definitely good. Christmas was lovely, low-key, filled with yummy food and coffee and nice gifts and movies and the kitty and the sweetie. I was perfectly happy and content. The weather outside really was frightful, and the fire (candles in the fireplace) was delightful. I had nowhere to go. No snow, but buckets of very cold rain. We all snuggled under blankets and watched The World’s Fastest Indian and Doctor Who.

I hope you all had holidays wonderful, merry, and bright — I’m home most of this week and am looking forward to neatening up the yard, continuing to get the house ready for 2013, and catching up on rest. I should do a book post this week as well — 2012 was a strange year for books for me, but there were some good ones in there that deserve a mention.

Happy Christmas, and a lovely New Year, all. Thanks for supporting me on this journey. Love to you all.

happy sunday

Happy Sunday, everyone! Thomas let me sleep in this morning (he’s been pulling this trick of trying to get me to get up at 4 am lately…) and the clocks got set back last night so I got an extra hour’s sleep and it was lovely. I turned on the electric blanket for the first time last night and read a completely over-the-top-indulgent Oprah magazine (her Favorite Things issue, which is mildly offensive — I mean, $250 for bars of soap?!?) and slept like a baby on fresh clean sheets with the kitty curled up with me.

Woke up and started a pot of red beans in the slow cooker for red-beans-and-rice. I worked really hard in the yard again yesterday so I’m sore today, but it’s a good sore (as opposed to last weekend, when I worked really hard in the garden and was bad-sore the next day), and rested and ready for beautiful day.

I realized last night that it was November 3 — exactly a year since the big breakup. It made me a little sad, but also very glad that I am, indeed, on the other side of it all. The year was very rough in many places, but I got to spend so much time all alone in the house, just resting and not-thinking and healing. It was good, it was exactly what I needed. And now I truly feel healed and ready for the rest of my life. Doesn’t happen all that often that there is a definitive turning point like this: before Nov 3, 2011, I really thought my life was pretty much over, and that all I had in front of me was work, and care, and no fun ever. Stoicism sucks. But then after Nov 3, all of a sudden everything was different. I got to see my family and friends multiple times. I got to travel overseas. I went to events in San Francisco. I went to almost every book club. My leave hours at work piled up because I wasn’t taking them off all the time for doctor’s appointments and such. I had a lot of grief and guilt to work through, and thankfully I had the presence of mind to find a good therapist right away, who has helped me immeasurably through all of this. I looked forward to when it would be better. And, as I said in my last post, it is now better.

Some random thoughts for a Sunday:

  • The Art of Fielding is really quite good so far. It’s very John-Irving-like.
  • I suck at watching movies or TV by myself. I get bored so quickly. I do like watching with someone; I don’t know why that makes it better. Friday night I tried about eight different movies before finally settling on Mermaids, but I skipped over the near-drowning part. I love Cher.
  • After cutting down about three small trees that were shading an unused area of the garden, I now have a whole new planting area. I’m trying to decide what should go back there. Maybe I’ll post pictures and the gardening types can weigh in.
  • Speaking of gardening, here’s something I learned. When buying bags of mulch, always buy about two more bags than you think you’ll need. Skimpy mulch doesn’t work so well.
  • Tammie is coming for a visit this week! I am so excited. I love playing tour guide, and I’m so excited to finally have time for a real visit with her. She arrives tomorrow night. Woohoo!

Now I’m off to read the paper and have some tea. The house smells wonderful with bay-leaf scented red beans cooking away. I’m picking up the SS (Someone Special) from the airport today and that makes me happy. Happy Sunday, all.

Post-Halloween Wrap-Up, Plus Thoughts

 

I work with some awesome gnomes — er, people.
It was a good Halloween season. Three awards at office Halloween party, two costumes, one horror theater show, five total trick-or-treaters. Not enough rain or cool weather (but I think that’s on its way — I always get so impatient right around now. It’s the Oregonian in me. By my reckoning, we are at least a month overdue for serious rain), but the garden’s all done, the leaves are turning and falling, and things are going pretty well.

I tried to read The Tommyknockers as my last RIP book, but I have to say… it’s just not getting me. I think I have to call it quits, and move on to my book club book, which is The Art of Fielding. I know nothing about it. Baseball something? I don’t know.

I haven’t been reading much. I guess that’s what happens when your life finally picks up pace a bit. I miss it, but I’ve also been having a hard time finding books that I really love. I guess it’s a combination of being busy and being in a bit of a reading slump. A year-long reading slump? What? It could happen. This has been a long, rough, but ultimately good year. You know it’s crazy when even reading doesn’t happen (or help). But now things are good. I’m coming out the other side. Things are actually far better than I ever imagined they would be for me. The last 5-6 years had been utterly draining, sucking all the life and hope out of me. I have hope again. A life. I find myself spending time thinking about things like, “Hmm. Where would I like to travel to next?” and “I really should see more theater.” Thoughts like these were utterly unimaginable even a year ago. I am almost ashamed of the frivolity of some of the things I spend time thinking about, now.

I always had this feeling that if I just worked hard enough, tried hard enough to have integrity, to do the right thing, to stick with it, to be the person I’d want someone to be for me, it would all pay off at some point. I guess it has, although not in the way I thought. I think back to just shy of a year ago, when everything shattered and I had no idea what was going to happen next. I hoped it would all be okay. I looked forward to the day when I would feel better, when I knew what was going to happen, when the direction of the next chapter of my life seemed more defined.

Now I know:

  • I kept the house, and have somehow done it all on my own. This makes me happy and proud. I love my house. I am not crazy about living way out here… but I do love my house very much.
  • I finally feel well. It took a good six months to feel normal again, and another 2-3 for my everyday emotions to thaw enough to feel spontaneously happy. I feel pretty darn good, now. I have capacity for joy again.
  • And joy has found me, again. I’m not lonely anymore.
  • Thomas is feeling better too. His panic attacks have subsided, and he’s bouncy and Tigger-y and generally a joy to be around.
  • Work is getting better too. Or, there’s hope on the horizon, anyway.

Better is better. Better is WAY better.

Amanda Palmer and stuff like that

I’m a lucky girl; I got to go see Amanda Palmer Wednesday night. I saw some old friends (and some ex-friends). Neil Gaiman was there and sang a song with Amanda. I was a giddy fan-girl. Yes, I’m old and stuff now, but come on: one of my favorite musicians up on stage with one of my favorite authors, who happens to be her husband? Makes a girl happy.

The show was great, and as per usual when I see amazing artistry, it woke up that little part of me that used to love to do theater, used to love to sing, used to love to dress up. I wasn’t very dressed up (it was after work on a Wednesday = I’m old) but I sang along with almost every song (including the hilarious versions of Don’t Stop Believing and Total Eclipse of the Heart, as performed by Ronald Reagan, Boston’s #1 80s Pop Saxophone Duo) and I held Amanda’s booted right foot as she crowdsurfed right over us (I didn’t plan this, honest, she just came our way) and I watched my ex-friend be happy with his wife and I was glad for them. And I was glad for me. I didn’t get to go to any music shows when I was a teenager; my very first concert was at age 21 or something like that (I saw David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails), so when I get to go see someone I really like, I feel like I’m 15 again, living that dream. There was a kid dancing next to me at the AFP show. He must have been maybe all of 16, possibly younger. He was out of his mind with joy. He was pogo-ing to every danceable song, singing his heart out (although he was clueless during the 80s songs… oy = old), obviously having an out-of-body experience. I loved watching him. He looked transported. He was so happy. I was so happy.

It was a good night.

Other things are good. I try not to get sucked into the dark places that open up unexpectedly around all of us every day. The desperately sad email that threatens to shatter me. The bitter taste of terrible years. I dip my toes in the dark pool, taste the acridness and pull back — the light is so much better.

It’s good to be able to stay up way too late in order to experience something wonderful.

It’s good to have enough money to have sushi beforehand and not worry about it too much.

It’s good to have lots of books, and an adorable cat, and friends and loved ones.

It’s good to have a job, with kind people and a very good friend to work with.

It’s good to have a family that loves me, and comes to visit me, and now I can have them come visit whenever I like.

I planted a winter garden with too much cauliflower. I’m afraid I’m going to end up with 12 heads of cauliflower all at once. I don’t have enough freezer space for all that. Oh well.

I found the giant hornworm that’s been eating my tomatoes. He was huge and fat and completely disgusting and I screamed the whole time I tried to pry him off the tomato vine. I flung him into the neighbor’s yard (sorry, neighbors) and shuddered for a half-hour afterwards. Gross, gross, gross, gross.

My therapist keeps asking me what percentage of “good” I’m at. I’m at a pretty strong 90-95% good. Sometimes that 5-10% of “not-good” is pretty heavy, but we’ve all got our things that weigh us down, that remind us of when things were “not-good.” And then we are, if we’re lucky and smart, thankful for the current Very Good Indeed.

homemade/grown projects

First, the garden (not the greatest photo, sorry):

That there (on the right) is my tomato patch. Six plants, all going wild. They are producing like mad (this is the harvest just from tonight):

You can see some of my peppers behind the giant bowl of tomatoes (5 varieties of regular-size tomatoes and a yellow cherry tomato that is really yummy, SunSweet I think it is). I’m also getting a fairly steady supply of zucchini and cucumbers, and my green beans did well although I didn’t really eat any, I just admired the vines (which you can see on the left of the photo). For some reason I didn’t feel like harvesting them. I still have some going, I should get a bowlful this weekend and have some while they’re still available. Potatoes are still growing; hopefully they’ll start to die back soon and I can see what’s been growing. I keep feeling around for “new” potatoes but haven’t found any, which worries, me, but the plants on top are really big and green, so… Anyway. Also doing well is the basil, and my other herbs. And I stil have some oranges.

I have to get a photo of the grapes that are coming over the fence from my neighbors. There are quite a few bunches over on my side of the fence, so I picked some, and they are quite good. The grapes that are accessible to squirrels have been totally stripped clean, which is pretty cute if you think about it. “Grapes! Yes, please!”

(especially since, for whatever reason, they leave my garden alone, so they can be cute again, not nuisances)

Other homemade projects underway:

  • Kombucha: my brother and his wife make batches of this all the time, and got my mom to make some too, and it’s really good homemade. So I decided to try it. Right now my scoby is growing and doing well. I think I’m going to let it get a little thicker before I try making a batch. I can’t wait! I think my favorite part is going to be going to the homebrew store to get flip-top bottles.
  • Plum liqueur: I made a big giant batch of plum liqueur during the Plum Crazy Days. It’s doing really well, and looks beautiful. Tastes yummy too.
  • Oranges: I still have some on the tree and I think I might make a batch of Orangecello this weekend, since I can. I feel bad that I’m not using my oranges as much as I could, although I did make almost 30 jars of marmalade, so I guess that’s something…
  • Vinegar drink: My BFF Erin turned me on to Bragg’s vinegar drink (sold in glass bottles in health food stores). It’s of course, well, vinegary, but I kind of liked it. A few weeks ago I bought another bottle and liked it even more than the first time, so I looked at the ingredients. It’s just Bragg’s vinegar, water, stevia and (in this case) ginger. So I figured it could be made at home pretty easily. Erin tried it and said it was good. I happened to have a Snapple bottle today, and it’s about the size of the Bragg’s bottle, so I thought I’d give it a try. Success! Two tablespoons Bragg’s, two little scoops of Trader Joe’s stevia, and fill it up with water and shake. Ta-da! Vinegar drink. I made one tonight to take to work tomorrow. Might have to do that regularly.
  • Painting: well, not really homemade, but I finally painted the ugly office. Now, instead of boring white with a bizarre tan stripe around the room, it is a lovely creamy light yellow (Windham Cream, from Benjamin Moore, color-matched in Valspar paint). I’ll try to get a photo of that. It took me a few days to get used to it and now I really like it, and am considering painting the third bedroom that color as well.

I think that’s it. I have really not kept up with the yard all that much — it’s doing okay, but it’s really overgrown in areas and I have a lot of work to do. I think it will be cooling down over the next few weeks so I can get some work done — it’s hard to muster up energy to cut branches and trim back trees and brush and do weeding when it’s over 100 degrees out there. That seems like autumn work anyway, right?

I’ll post updates of the kombucha — it’s almost ready for a photo (the scoby is kind of gross!). And what I decide to do with all the tomatoes.. probably at least some plain canned tomatoes and maybe a batch or two of salsa. After all, I have the peppers…

I like making stuff. It makes me happy. For the last few nights, my dinner has been a variation of Tomato Plus. Tomato Plus Hard Boiled Egg. Tomato Plus Cucumber Salad. Tomato Plus Basil and Buffalo Mozzarella. I’m still not tired of them (as opposed to the plums… oh, the plums… I still have nightmares about the plums…)

 

 

 

full circle

(this isn’t what you’re thinking it’s going to be about)

Last Thursday, I completed a life-cycle circle.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that I have many sides to my personality. There’s the reader. The gardener. The pet-lover. The tender-hearted do-gooder. The artist.

And then, there’s the girl who still kind of loves (occasionally) to rock out. She listens to Metallica while painting those owls. She devours books by Nikki Sixx. I’ve read The Heroin Diaries and The Dirt (by all the Motley Crue band members). While I would never, ever be a groupie, I definitely have a not-so-secret alter-ego who adores all that trashy stuff.

So Thursday, I decided it was time to complete the cycle.
And go see Motley Crue in concert.

Oh, the spectacle of it all.

 

Ha! I loved it.

They are on tour with KISS, who I am not really a huge fan of — they were a little before my time and I never really loved their music, but I heard that their shows were pretty fantastic, so I stayed for half of it (then left to beat the rush). I have to say…

They were pretty fantastic. Dare I say, even better showmen than Motley Crue? I only knew a couple songs, but they sounded great, and the show was really highly entertaining. Great music, amazing visuals, the costumes (and the BOOTS!) were excellent. They were full of amazing energy. I kind of loved them, too.

I stayed through Gene Simmons’ “The Demon” act, which I figured was the very essence of a KISS show. Blood-spitting complete, I got out of there, totally pleased with my entire experience.

Big thanks to my friend Steve, devout metal-head and the guy who convinced that it would be totally worth my time. He was totally right! He is now recruiting me to convince his wife that she would enjoy a KISS show… I think that might be a hard sell. Although I’d highly recommend it!

Ahhhh. Now my metal-loving 1987-self is finally at peace. I’ve seen the ultimate bad boys of rock (although really, there are so many to choose from), survived, thoroughly enjoyed it, and now if one of them dies from heart failure from years of drug abuse, then I can at least say I saw them when they still put on a pretty good show.

Rock on, Motley Crue and KISS. Rock on.

And now, back to petting the cat, gardening, and reading while sipping my homemade lemon verbena tea.

 

 

 

 

 

Wedding Weekend

Oh what a fun weekend last weekend was. My beloved brother (best brother ever!) got married to a wonderful woman, and we had so much fun. So very very tired now but it was totally worth it.

By the way, here’s that owl painting I mentioned. Wedding gift for Alison and Matt. We went to the Enchanted Forest with Alison’s niece and nephew (and her mom, dad, brother and sister-in-law). The littles needed something fun to get out some energy, and frankly, Matt and I LOVE this place. At one point Alison said, “Thanks for coming with us” and we said, “No, thank YOU for coming with US — because we were going to go no matter what!” We had so much fun. I think we had the most fun there of anyone (in the entire park) that day. Dorks. (click on any of these photos for a larger version)

Then it was back to work, making flower arrangements, going to rehearsal dinner, steaming dresses, checking into the hotel, etc. etc. Very busy but so much fun.

Flowers (500 dahlias plus filler… so pretty!)

Old West rehearsal dinner:

Most of the close family and friends stayed at the hotel (the beautiful Balch Hotel) which was really fun. It was like Wedding Camp: we all popped into each other’s rooms, had breakfast together, etc. It was a great way to get to know everyone, too.

And the beautiful couple (so happy it made me cry):

My family, plus a new sister:

My mom, her three sisters, and my grandmother:

Me and BFF Erin:

So much joy, beauty, and happiness last weekend.

The next day we all relaxed by going on a white-water rafting trip. Woohoo!

There was a moment at the reception, when Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” was playing (say what you will about her, she’s got great party songs). I was suddenly overcome by the absolute joy around me: the beautiful party decorations, the happy couple, the life-long friends and family all dancing, all smiling, all jumping and dancing and singing along, faces lit with complete, selfless joy. It was a really beautiful moment: this is what it’s all about.

lately

Oh, July. Wow, it is flying by in a huge rush. I will be leaving again soon for my brother’s wedding, and so there’s been a mild flurry of last-minute activity on that front. It’s been very fun to get to help with invitation and wedding stationery needs (menu, program, etc.) Sometimes that graphic design degree comes in handy… And I’m working on a Super Sekrit project that I MUST get done this weekend.

Thomas recovered from his adventure, only to go on another adventure to the vet on Monday. Time for vaccines and to get microchipped. He is always such a good kitty at the vet (although the car ride completely stresses him out). Unfortunately the vaccines made him extremely lethargic, so for the past two days I’ve been worrying over him. Thankfully, today when I came home I first noticed that all of his food was gone (which hasn’t been the case for quite a few days) and then he came sauntering out, not exactly frisky, but certainly looking more like himself. Which is good on many counts, particularly because he needs to be healthy while I’m gone!

On the book front, I’ve been reading all of the L. Frank Baum “Oz” books on my Kindle. I read most of these when I was a kid — our library had a terrific collection of them, all very old, with big thick covers and wonderful illustrations. I haven’t read them since, but all of the amazing characters are coming right back to me. I think these books are brilliant and my brother and I both absolutely adore them. They’re free on the Kindle and I thought since I finally finished all the March sister books (Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys) I’d move on to these. They really don’t make children’s novels like this anymore — the crazy imagination, both innocent and yet fraught with real danger. The lovely language and careful attention to description. I just love them.

I’m also reading The Family Fang for bookclub — it’s pretty terrific so far. I can’t wait to talk about it. My reading this year has been really bad, but part of that is because for the first 2-3 months of it, I was half paralyzed and could hardly read anything. Oh well.

Life’s pretty good. I’ve been having a hard time sleeping lately — not sure what is up with that. Spending time with friends as I can — I still have no friends out here, but I’ve managed to wheedle some friends out here for visits. Enjoying gardening, trying to stay present in the moment as much as I can. The T. stuff still comes up and trips me sometimes — I’m getting lots better at deflecting the guilt and responsible feelings, but they still get me. Thankfully I have some wonderful friends and guides to help me when I lose perspective.

I’ve come so far from that cold and bleak November last year. I’m actually often actively happy now! My stress level has diminished dramatically. I still find myself wondering what to do with myself half the time, but that’s okay. I’m doing what I feel like doing, when I feel like doing it, and really not trying to push any further than that. I’ve sort of decided to give myself a year (give or take) to get over the physical and emotional stress of everything, before deciding What’s Next for myself. There are some awfully nice possibilities, but for now I’m trying to just keep my goals small:

  • keep the yard somewhat under control.
  • keep the house clean (ish).
  • feed myself well.
  • keep myself and the kitty healthy.
  • do what I want to do, and don’t do what I don’t want to do.
  • make small improvements as I see them (to self and property).
  • don’t worry.

That last one takes some getting used to, but I’m working on it. Actually that’s a pretty good list for anytime.

It’s not perfect, but overall things are really good, with some genuinely wonderful parts. I’m so grateful that I get to experience those again. It’s pretty much a miracle that I get to have this second chance at life. I hate to characterize the last few years as anything other than “just doing what needed to be done, and with love” which it certainly was, but it was also pretty hard on this here girl. I can take care of myself now, and that’s really good.

time machine

Oh, 20th Reunion Weekend… it continues. And after all my grumbling, it seems to be a success, and everyone is having a wonderful time (me included).

So much silliness. Friday night was meet-and-greet at a local bar. All I can say is that there were splits involved, and a shirtless guy, and then later that night, a bonfire, inappropriate jokes, midnight pedicures. Time machine. We were all around 18 for a night.

Yesterday was a local wine-tasting tour, ending up at a classmate’s charming winery (below). We had a lovely time, more silliness, and then it was off to set up the big dinner.

Charming and wonderful and everyone brought beautiful spouses and filled out my trivia contest and hugged and laughed and looked at yearbooks. It was everything you’d wish a 20th reunion would be. No stress, just fun. (thank you to my classmate Hedie who saved the day by hosting the event at her lovely home!)

A dear long lost friend showed up and surprised me, which is exactly why reunions are wonderful and why people keep doing them. These relationships are important. They remind you of who you were, and who you are, and whom you love.

And some people keep you honest daily (best friend Erin, whom I’ve known, literally, my entire life)

Today we meet up at a local park with kids and families and lawn games for a relaxed picnic day. I have no duties other than to attend. I’m a bit tired but it’s been so much fun, that everyone is asking if we can do a 25-year. I’m thinking… yes. Sometimes small, requiring almost no effort on my part, no ‘ticket’, just fun.

Small towns are good for some things, it seems. Close classmates is one of them.

This also renews my desire for community. I’d like to be involved in something that requires knowing lots of people, being involved in something bigger than myself, being known. I have been tucked away for far too long.