Don't mind me

So ... one last box to Afghanistan. The soldier bought herself a toothbrush sanitizer and wanted it before the trip home. In June. She's coming home in June.

And I started to exchange pleasantries with the post office lady. Like usual. Everything like usual. I told her that there was a toothbrush sanitizer in there. Did I want return to sender if they can't find her? Yes. I think there's time between now and June to deliver it, but yes.

Even though,
I don't care if a toothbrush sanitizer comes home.

I just want my soldier back.

Eyes and throat do not care where I am. It's too easy to cry.

(I barely made it to the car, and I haven't stopped since. I do. I just want my soldier back.)


Oh. And one more thing.

Okay, so I know I'll be fifty this year. You know it. But AARP does not read my blog. So ... how does AARP know it?

And who the hell can afford to "retire" at fifty anyway?

And what kind of nerve is that? Sending me notices about my impending half-century, three months before its coming??? Hmmm??? How rude!

(This is what comes of finally going through the mail on the dining room table, now that I have a Saturday to do it. NB: habit seems to be forming. The Great Husband and I are doing more things together these days. Walks after dinner. Saturday clean-up. Reading in the evenings, watching Neko Case and Jesse Winchester on Elvis Costello's Spectacle for the hundredth time (crying every time). ... Interesting second half of life we're building here ...)

And AARP can just wait a minute. Geeeeez!

Out of a cannon

(The picture is from a good post about the best time of the year for a resolution. Worth a read.)

If you've been shot out of a cannon ... well, I figure the only thing left to do is enjoy the trip. Reach for the next star. Maybe vocalize a bit. You know the sort of thing. Something like, "Wheeeeeeeeee!" (Or, "aaaaaaaaah!" - it depends on the panic level.)

All month long, it's been one thing after another.

  • Unexpected work hours.
  • Being called to be available to testify in court for a morning that turned into two days. (Which is nerve-wracking to everyone in the universe, with the possible exception of a few lawyers ... and perhaps all judges ... which is a segment of the population I hold in much lower esteem than previously ... harrumph!)
  • Writing classes as the bread around a one-weekend Interpersonal Neurobiology of Depression sandwich. (And a very tasty sandwich it was! I've been replicating it ever since. Did you know that writers walk because what "works" is in the brain? The two hemispheres talk to each other because of bilateral movement. Wait. What? I already told you that? Oh. I need to go for a walk.)
  • New work opportunity.
  • New people coming into our "family" in several ways.
  • Same old PLA work to finish ... but I should be entirely done this summer, with a full 45 credits to transfer to my transcript at last! Yay!
  • Same old mess in my house, taunting me and telling me all the successes mean nothing because I can't even keep my house clean.
  • Brand new thinking about same old mess.

And so it goes ...

During the weekend of Interpersonal Neurobiology, I was talking to another student while we were on a break, and we were discussing the merits of the Creative Nonfiction class. The other guy has already taken it. He said it was a class he could take once a year, every year. That's how I feel about it. I've already sent off one of my pieces to a small press journal ... and now I'm working on an actual book-length set of essays, themed around the work that the class has generated. Yes, really. I really am finally saying aloud, "I'm working on a book." For real.

Before next week, I have a speech to write. Before tonight, I have a house to clean. Before next month I have a lot of pages of course work to turn in. There's really only one thing to do in this circumstance.



Chia days

Last Thursday, I went to my writing class. Writing class puts me into a kind of parallel universe, and ideas begin to sprout from my brain as if my skull contains a well-spread chia pet. Chia brain. Like this one. Oh, the ideas!

On Friday evening and all day Saturday, I attended the in-class portion of The Interpersonal Neurobiology of Depression. Oh. My. Word. The ideas the ideas the ideas. So much amazing information. So much research being done.

If you have any interest at all in what's going on in the link between our emotions and our thoughts, a good place to start is with the PBS series This Emotional Life. And when they get to the part about what antidepressants do for the rebuilding of brain cells, here's an addendum you might want to know about. Exercise has been proven to have the same effect!!

And you know what else? I found out the reason so many writers talk about walking being good for writing. The left-right-left-right motion of the body integrates the two hemispheres of the brain! Walking, and other bilateral movement unifies the emotional and cognitive, the global and specific, the feeling and thinking. Memories join together with the reactions, and ideas surface with words sticking to them instead of just free form (and scary - or useless - or whatever).

And Sunday - yesterday - was a day I need to write about in my journal because in a few years, someone will say, "When did that happen?" and I will want to look it up. Some of it I wrote about at Thank You, Miss Percival. Some of it needs time to hatch. And some of it just needs to kept and pondered.

For these, and for reasons I cannot yet talk about, here is what I want to say. Gretchen Rubin is right. "The days are long, but the years are short."


Shackles off ... and now it's harder to breathe

Unexpected. Honestly, how old does a person have to get before the lesson is learned? The imagined future, especially the imagined future following a big surrender or victory or bravery, that future is never what was expected. Ever. The new reality is always unexpected, and that has to be okay with me because the alternative is to stay here. Stuck. Wondering if. Wondering when. Wondering, imagining, making a more and more unrealistic future to look for.

So I'm moving. I've sent off a short piece to Brevity (short pieces are the only kind they take) and I'll send out another piece when another one is done. I'm going to send out everything I do for my creative nonfiction course because if I stop now, the hole will fill back up again, and I'll have to pick and chisel another way through the blockage. Instead, I figure I'll keep the channel open by dumping things through it.

What's so hard about that? Right? What's so danged hard about sending out writing I've already done and I know perfectly well is good writing?

And for that matter, what's so hard about attending the course every week? Why does my chest contract and my breath come more shallow and quick? Why do I avoid my other coursework when I want this degree so badly? Why do I put off the things that give me the most joy? Why do I refuse to dance?

You can't dance with shackles on. In Martha Beck's surprising follow-up to the surprisingly practical Finding Your Own North Star, Steering by Starlight, which, as I said, I was very prepared to poo-poo, there is a concept of "shackles on" and "shackles off." (Click on the words to see the exercises. Martha has made the exercises from the book available online.) This concept is a way to tell yourself quite plainly how you deeply respond to a situation or course of action. It's a way to tell yourself the truth. (Note: this is not "spiritual direction" in the classical sense. This is just human psyche stuff, and it's universally helpful. Thank you, Martha.)

Now, I know perfectly well that school and writing (and yes, even efficient house keeping and (dare I admit this?) physical exercise) feel like shackles off. Definitely off. My life is a dancing life when I face these things and do them. I love them. Dancing is happy making. And yet, I put them off as if being sent to the firing squad.

Right now, today, I would rather do anything - anything! - than get ready to leave the house and go to class today. Writing class. Writing class that's going really, really well. This is the third session. The first time, I showed up with no paper (to a writing class!), and the second time with no pens. Yes, really.

Today I will have packed for a three-day stint away from home, because Friday and Saturday are my course days for Interpersonal Neurobiology, and that makes everything worse. I do know what will happen this weekend. I've been reading the book. I will get "unstuck" and I will have more shackles taken off - I'm sure that in the course of the course, I will take shackles off for myself. And I'll be free. Free to dance more. Free to write and move through all the places of stuck-ness. And the thought makes me panic.

See how I talk all around the edges of the thing? See how I don't just come out and say it - or better, start doing it? I want to write and sell what I write. I want a pretty house, all organized and organically happy, attached to its past, ready for its future. Metaphorically and corporeally, I want these things. Instead, with the clock ticking away the morning, and an essay to revise, I sit here and talk about it. And panic.


Grown Up Pop Tart

If you asked a Poptart what it wanted to be when it grew up, it would tell you that it could never do better than to be smitten kitchen's "easy jam tart."

And if you asked any devotee of fresh ingredients how he or she feels right now about the last bit of the year before the new stuff comes in, that person would tell you that smitten kitchen said it already. "What she said." That's what the longers for harvest and eaters of produce would tell you. Rather unusually good asparagus this year notwithstanding,
I am small and petty and the Greenmarket is so devoid of anything but root vegetables — and also vegetables that grow in the ground and would you like some potatoes? We have crates and crates.
— I’m incapable of being happy for you.


There's nobody else quite like Jesse Winchester

If you can watch this without tearing up ... well, don't tell me. This is a clip from our new favorite episode of Elvis Costello's Spectacle on the Sundance Channel.


"Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas Edison

You know what else it usually looks like for me? An "opportunity" (groan ...) to face an old and deeply embedded fear. A paranoia. The kind of thing that carries the learning of prior experiences, and they're all bad. The kind of thing like driving. Driving. Oh, man. This is probably my last chance to get over this, but I break out in a wild combination of hot flash and cold sweat just thinking about it. I have to start imagining myself as joyfully successful and wildly competent to make the palpitations stop. I don't even drive cars other than the one I drive all the time, and now there is this "opportunity" for a whole lot of work at overcoming my issues, learning to drive the Bookmobile! The library's Bookmobile!
Our district is huge, but this bookmobile is only used here, in Skamania and Klickitat counties. That's all. Just here, in the Columbia River Gorge, where every street is either up or down a hill, the ice and the snow and the rain make driving anything at all into an "opportunity" to do something spectacularly horrible, and the winding roads that cling to the sides of the rock faces are perfectly wonderful ... for a fearless motorcyclist or some other daredevil.

(Just a minute. I need a hyperventilation break.)

(That's me ... in the size of paper bag I need for breathing into ...)

Okay. Okay. Okay ... "soft belly" breathing technique ... change the channel ... get off the "Disasters on the Road" video loop ... move to the mental image of Bookmobile happiness. Turn away from the pedestrian on the freeway who ran into my car about 20 years ago (yes, really - yes, she ran into me), and mute the sound of shattering windows and suddenly crushing metal as I spun in the road when the prom princess plowed into my Volvo with her boyfriend's huge, black pickup truck about 5 years ago (yes, really). Remember that my glasses make depth perception possible, even though I'm near-sighted in one eye and far-sighted in the other (yes, dammit! really!).

Envision Bookmobile success. Remember the reality of two important facts: first, I love working on the Bookmobile, once the thing is parked and the sat link is up, and the kids are in there; and second, I am only being asked to train as a substitute, and at a level of subbing which includes story hours, and story hours are a much more likely scenario than Bookmobile anything. Think about those kids, and the delicious stuff overheard every time the Bookmobile is full of them. Realize that the addition of this training makes a resume look better and better for the day permanent part time comes available again. Focus ... breathe ... wake up to the opportunity.



Third Lobby

I just found out about these people. Because they make me happy ... goofy happy ... Here y' go!

I Am A Stone from Third Lobby on Vimeo.


How many stories?

I saw a snippet (God bless TiVo! No more watching the boring bits of things!) of Sewing With Nancy last weekend, and she had a quilting guest who explained her Hobo Quilt, which was made of blocks portraying symbols such as these: What could be more intriguing? The stories behind such symbols, left in chalk or charcoal, marked on fenceposts and power poles ... I thought of the men who traveled on trains, looking for water, or food, or alcohol to numb their lives ... looking for kindness.

I thought about that scene of widest generosity and compassion in Fried Green Tomatoes - you know the one, right? When Miss Idgie take Smokey Lonesome out into the back yard so she can give him some booze ... because his hands shake too much for him to get his soup to his mouth without spilling ... and he's so ashamed. So deeply ashamed. Never one to wallow in sentimentality, Miss Idgie breaks the tension by telling him Buddy's tall tale about the geese that flew off with the frozen pond. It doesn't talk about it in the movie, but in the book they find the body of this man ... and the only thing he's got in his pocket is a picture of Ruth, the woman he loved all his life. Idgie took care of Smokey at least in part because they both loved Ruth.

Every time I see or read Fried Green Tomatoes, I think about The Journey of Natty Gann (and wonder how much of that haunting movie got into the blood of my tough and tender daughter). Men looking for work. Men headed into the woods here, where I live now. Desperate men who only wanted to keep body and soul together for their kids, at least. (And now I see that John Cusack was the other star of that movie, and I'd completely forgotten that! Man alive, that guy's had an incredible career!)
So, anyway, I looked at that quilt on Saturday, and I thought about the stories. Today I put the book into my Interlibrary Loan queue, and when I looked it up, I clicked on the link to look inside. This is more than a quilt book. A lot more. Go to Amazon. Check inside. Turn the pages. See that family?

How many stories?

Armored coping skill

From this morning's post at Write to Done:

5) Perfectionism Isn’t a Personality Trait
Seriously. It’s not. Perfectionism is a coping mechanism for unpredictability. It introduces all kind of comforting control. You are not changing yourself by renouncing perfectionism, you’re taking the first step to discovering who you are without armor.



If it's Holy Week,

and it's also the first week of the spring academic quarter,

and you're also scheduled to work as a sub at the library on a couple of days (which means your schedule never settles down to a rhythm for which days are work days),

and you grind your coffee fresh every morning ...

well, it's just a bad idea to reverse where the coffee maker and the coffee grinder sit on the counter. (And while coffee makers have water reservoirs that can be dumped out, the water that comes with the errant coffee beans is not as easily removed from the coffee grinder.)

Just so you know.