Thinking with asterisks

William Zinsser says, “To write well about your life you only have to be true to yourself.”

I knew that.  It doesn’t make it easier to choose to delve into something I don’t feel like delving into, however, and I recognize all the signs of avoidance — like grabbing my broom to rid the stairs of the dust bunnies that have taken up residence since we got rid of the carpet.

They’re huge, shadowy puffs that seemingly morph from one corner to another, gathering cat hair and our life’s dentritus with each pair of passing feet.

I see them as I trudge up and down to refill my coffee cup or half-heartedly perform some chore and marvel that they appear so quickly.  They’re fascinating until they become a larger mass, swept to the bottom of the stairs waiting to be scooped into a dust pan and into the trash along with my determination.

* * *

I’m tired of thinking about food, about writing about food.  Tired of organizing my life around the planning and shopping, organizing and preparing of food.  If I needed just one scapegoat for my lack of productivity, it would be that, and yet the amount of time it takes contradicts any lack of productivity.

I’m tired of thinking about food.  Tired.  But that will most likely change at lunchtime.

* * *

I’ve been trying to decide whether it’s better to classify myself as a procrastinator, or dreamer.  Drifty is more like it.  Drifting like those dust bunnies from one point to another with little or no substance or anchor.  Well, not quite that dramatic, but puffing along from one whim to the next and incapable of moving of its own volition.  Lacking initiative.

Meh.

* * *

It was foggy outside this morning when I woke up and the residual dampness has given the air a smell that comes only when raindrops first hit the asphalt.  I stand on the patio in the slight chill, my not so willing to be outside this early in the morning toes curling against the flagstones, and I breathe deeply.  The trees rustle with the slight breeze and I’m surprised to hear a bird’s call I don’t recognize, wondering where it’s coming from and why I haven’t noticed it before.  Happy thing.

* * *

I just finished Blessings by Anna Quindlan.  It’s about identity and the effect family can have on it — or not. It’s about quite a bit more than that, but when I talk about a book I’ve read I somehow find myself feeling like I’m completing a book report and have to supress the urge to run screaming from the room.   I’ll find myself later picking this one up to read parts of again because Quindlan’s writing has that effect on me, most likely because I can wallow in long passages of description and deep delving into a character’s thoughts to a level not unlike that of my dust ball analysis.   Unfortunately, I read just before I go to sleep each night and not many pages at that these days.  Any influence her words have on me is lost in the jumble that has been my dreams recently, and since I still can’t quite give myself permission to read during the day, my thinking is lost and with it any inspiration to write.

Why a person needs to give herself permission to read during the day is fairly stupid.

* * *

You’re wondering about the silly asterisks right?  Me, too.  But it’s the only way that I could actually sit down and write something today.  Anything.

And so I did.  I’d call that being true to myself.

Or avoiding being true to myself, which is probably more the case.

Rainy Days and Mondays

I love the rain.  It’s hard not to go out and enjoy it even if venturing out is only in my tiny slice of Paradise.

Everything is fresh and the air clear.

I have no “Rainy Days and Mondays” doldrums like others who have taken the time to write songs about it all and I wonder if they’re just inclined to be blue, missing what’s easily missed if one doesn’t look closely enough.

The wonder of beauty in small details is always relaxing to me, forcing me out of myself and into the simplicity of what’s right in front of me if I take the time to look.

When’s the last time you took a look?

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Loving my Valentine

I don’t expect that on Valentine’s Day anyone will be spanking me with dog or goat-skin whips in order to increase my fertility this year, because although some may find that entertaining, I wouldn’t.  I’m thinking that the MoH wouldn’t like it much either, since he’s my Valentine, and I his.

We’re more about simple things and goofiness like emails that come as soon as I sit down in front of my Mac because he’s figured out nearly exactly when that happens each day.  Some people think that after two people have been Valentines for 25 years that there might not be too many more surprises, but I’d say they’re wrong because I’ve been surprised four times this week and it’s not even Valentine’s Day yet.

The first email said…

On the first day of Valentine’s your true love gave to yooooouuuuuuuu….

Something sweet under a pillow very near by.

Chuao Chocolates

He knows I love Chuao chocolate.  Love.  It.

On the next morning, just as I was wondering if there would be a second day of Valentines’ and whether I qualified for it the second email came…

On the second day of Valentine’s your trule love gave to yooouuuuuuu….

Your true love gave to yooooouuuuuu

Something stinky that thought it was going to watch TV but ended up in a dark cave.

Let me know if you can’t figure that out.

Now, I don’t know about you, but since I’m sort of stuck in all things food on most days, I thought of a very nice piece of cheese.  I know.  But the MoH knows me and clearly he was enjoying himself with all of this Valentine’s Day revelry, so I went with my first instinct and checked the cheese drawer in our fridge.  It’s pretty dark in there these days since I haven’t changed the light bulbs that have long been burned out, and I supposed you could consider it a cave since…well, okay, maybe not so much, but still.

Regardless, there was no package in the cheese drawer, so I went down to the laundry room where it is actually quite chilly and is stinky, too, since that’s where the cat box is.  But no present.  And then the garage where the second fridge is, but nothing was there that I didn’t recognize, so upstairs to his closet to see if I’d neglected to do his laundry.  But no.

So he sent me a second clue…

Stinky generally means it means bad, but maybe it just has a strong fragrance.

See clue 1 and then you were close with d) the garage fridge.  And you will have to open up something to find it.  And no it’s not in the trash cans.

I ventured back to the garage fridge and opened the butter box and found a bag of peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets with a $1.00 tag on them thinking, “He must have forgotten that he was going to do this riddle scavenger hut thing and ran into 7/11 on the way home…Or wants to get rid of me feeding me tainted peanut butter snack products.” Hell.  When it comes right down to it, peanut butter isn’t high on my list of special things unless it’s in the form of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that’s been in the freezer for a while.

So I sent him this… Nuggies

And then he sent me this…

So hmmm, I said you were close but that is too close.

What used to have a TV in it, is now in the garage and has a cavernous opening that you can close that sits next to the trash cans.

It starts with an A and ends with an R

Poor things, sitting waiting for someone to find them.

: )

And so I venture back to the garage and open our old armoire to find these thinking that this is all so much fun.  Yes, the presents are nice, but I love this goofy, romantic man I’m married to who has taken the time to do all of this for me and in between meetings is keeping up with it all when I still haven’t decided whether I’ll change my clothes or not.  Or combed my hair.
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This morning, I hadn’t yet opened my email because I was focused on other things.  But no sooner had I opened my email and the MoH’s latest arrived…

Are you sitting at your computer waiting?

Sweets,

Have you already rifled thru the house wondering what treasure your sweet husband has left for you??

So here we go.

On the third day of Valentines your true love gave to yooooouuuuu.

A piece of plastic and a folded piece of paper.

But before I tell you where it is, it looks like you have a headache and need an aspirin.

Now I had already emailed him about what I was preoccupied with — our son, the RTR, who is somewhat absent-minded on most days.  The night before, he’d been talking about spending the weekend with his cousin, and we have a routine where my sister-in-law and I meet half way to their house and drop off whichever boy is doing the visiting.  I was worried that the plans weren’t in stone and that he needed to talk to the carpool driver about not picking him up after school today, or whether he’d packed a bag for the weekend.  I  needed to figure out Plan B and realized that the MoH and I could go out tonight and maybe see a movie or something.

With a barely recognizable rendition of The 12 Days of Christmas oddly coming from my pursed lips, I opened the MoH’s most recent email …

There’s no need to fear — Underdad is here.

I reminded him to tell M that he wouldn’t need a ride
I asked him about the bag and he said there would be time to come home
and pack it after school (then why do you need to cancel the ride?)
3pm at the halfway point is correct
See my last e-mail regarding your last question.

This makes me smile since my fat butt was still in bed sleeping this morning when all of this was going on.  The MoH was the Mom of this family for many years while I was working, so he’s good at organizing details about who should be where and when.

Today’s riddle was very easy since I knew where the aspirin was even though I rarely have headaches.  This is what I found… More Presents A gift certificate to shop in a favorite store and dinner at my favorite Greek restaurant.  Guess I’ll have no excuse to wear sweats.

With Valentine’s Day still not quite here, I’ve collected quite a few Valentines from my Valentine.

And because I’m a sap, the best part has been all the fun.

He makes my heart go flippety-flop.

And so I begin again.

 

In the last many days, I’ve had time to think about this space in my life and its accumulation of nearly two years of what passes for me these days — me in writing, that is.  Whenever I run through the archives and skim the content,  so many thoughts come to mind about when the piece was written — the season, the weather on a given day, what I was preoccupied with or annoyed about.  It’s been more and more difficult to write here and so the frequency has decreased and I’ve found myself adjusting to that, but not particularly enjoying it.  I’ve taken the time on my occasional walks to make mental plans where I’d whip myself into writerly shape working on one project at this point in the day and another later on, somehow fitting it all in.

The implementation lasted one day.

One.

I’d decided to do some admin work related to my sites and busied myself in all that it entails, which is a lot when one might consider that I currently qualify for the old dog aspect of the whole can’t teach new tricks classification.  Bound and determined to prove it wrong, I spent ridiculous amounts of time reading codex and phoning and thinking and whining to get everything moved and it just never worked.

With every piece I had nearly worked out, another arose and on a computer screen it looks like two window open with several tabs to access in each one.  My head spun with angst over root directories and files, php and FTPs, domains and DNS.  Having much experience in the area of reading research, I can tell you that when content is dense, even proficient readers default to subvocalizing in order to digest and comprehend new information.  It helps — but only if one is also willing to repeat the process over and over with little or no distraction.

Ahem.

I Twittered much.  I wallowed in Bubble Bazinganess.  I bonded with Facebook finally, and satisfied my creative spirit cooking, shooting photos of what I’d cooked, editing those photos, and then finally writing about what I’d cooked.  *insert note regarding food obsession here* It only fills the hours, but it never quite fills the spot that this space fills and the longer it was unavailable to me, the more I realized that although I could live without it, I just didn’t want to.

I thought about people who have lost posessions in a fire, or who have had property vandalized.  I morbidly recalled my trauma induced by the loss of my hard drive on my beloved MacBook and all the glorious photos of our trip to the UK and several years of my son’s boyhood.   I conjured up all the images of loss I could to add to my incessant mulling over of not having this space because I may have been careless.  And if I had, nothing could be done other than start again, because that’s what I do.  I’m good at it.

So that’s what I was ready to do this morning when I sat down.  Start again.

And metaphorically, that’s what I’ve decided to say I’ve done, because clearly my archives are in order and everything is up and running.  But I have perspective I didn’t have a week or so ago and need to put it to good use.

It seemed appropriate to make a few visual changes to celebrate moving on with new purpose.

Ahhh……

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Be satisfied with what you have.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Dude, make it a double.  That was a close call.

Food Stamp Soap Box

It’s been nearly two weeks since the Inauguration of Barack Obama, and I’ve listened.  I’ve listened and I’ve watched, and I’ve held my tongue, at times turning off the television or changing the station when the talking heads begin their endless hair-splitting.  It’s not because I’m a total Pollyanna, but more that I’d like just a small amount of time to let everything sink in.

I’m not talking about all the pomp and circumstance, or the history, or nauseating Booyah going on about which side won and which didn’t, or why, and what if.   It’s more about watching how the new president goes about beginning to dig our way out of the disaster we find ourselves in after nearly a decade.  Everyone agrees that it’s a daunting task.

Daunting.  What an understatement.

I find myself wanting to rage about Rush Limbaugh’s desperate groveling to secure himself a position for the next many years by being an even bigger ass than he already is.  But I don’t.  I want to smack the faces of the talking heads on television who just have to sustain talk to earn their paychecks, and I can’t help but sling a few comments at the television, but nothing that would singe anyone’s eyebrows.  I read a blog here, and a blog there, beginning to comment, and find that I don’t want to make the effort to express myself, knowing that at this point, only those who truly understand politics or  bottom dwelling are filling comment boxes right now.  I have no desire to be a deer in the head lights on any of it.

No, I’m a big chicken.  A big deer chicken in the headlights.  Or an ostrich.

But when I saw Blog:  Living on Food Stamps by Sean Callebs on CNN.com/US, I had to say something.  I had to acknowledge my  reaction to the reporter’s decision to live on $6.28 a day, equivalent to what a single person would be given by the government if he or she qualified for food stamps, or what is currently known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Sean.  You know you can’t, and you’re not supposed to because it’s a supplement, but you already know that, too.

If you’ve happened by today thinking, “Oh my.  Kelly’s written twice in three days!” and you’re still reading, wondering where this is going, I  know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong.  I’m not going to wax about how horrible it is that anyone could be expected to live off of that amount of money because they do in other countries all over the world every single day with money earned making products sold in this country.  I’m not going to sling aspersions at the reporter who found a good angle for his story — and one I’m now planning on following.  No, instead I’m going to sort through my feelings about it all and wonder why it makes me so angry.

Evidently, as part of the Economic Stimulus Package (clearly different than those Dubyah created by padding our wallets with some bucks that our family summarily spent in Italy last summer….) those qualifying for the SNAP program are to get a 13% raise which is sure to send many opposed to the new administration howling over the injustice of it all.

I don’t completely disagree with them, because I’ve had the opportunity to work in places where I can see just how assistance is spent.  It’s been many, many years, and I’d yet to have a family of my own to feed, but when I was a cashier at a local grocery store where many of our customers used food stamps and saw just what went in their carts, even the naive young woman that I was knew something was not quite right.

Most of my attitude about this comes from my mother.  She had very little growing up and her mother even less. When it came to grocery shopping, my mother went twice a month, and so we had to learn to ration.  If we were pigs and ate our portions — risking all kinds of wrath from my stepfather — then we were done until the next trip to the grocery store.  There was no such thing as extra food.  We ate everything on our plates, period.  And no, there was no cola in the fridge, or expensive treats.  We ate simple food but our meals were well balanced.  Okay, except the nights we had waffles for dinner — but I guess that would be another off shoot of this problem, right?  If you want veggies and well-balanced meals, then you do have to have more money.  Or a great garden in your yard.  Erm — apartment?  Yah, right.

I know.  I’m preaching at this point, but if I don’t just let it rip, then I’ll stop and the next thing I’ll do is hit the delete button — which happens quite a bit now.  But the tone comes from quite a bit of conflict.  How did I experience a growing up with very little, at times with a single mother, or as part of family with one meager income, and not only make ends meet without assistance, but not realize we were poor?

How?

I have no tragic story to tell about doing without because I didn’t know we didn’t have what others had as far as food went.  But you don’t get any press when you don’t have a tragic story to tell that has given you angst in life.  That wouldn’t happen in our family because we’re all from the same mold:  SUCK IT UP.  You may have to do something you don’t enjoy to earn money, or get training to learn a new skill, or give up a few of the things you’ve enjoyed for years, but too damn bad.

Now, it’s completely not politically correct for me to be spewing about this, because what I’m saying with far too many words is that just giving people money doesn’t work.  It doesn’t help, it hinders.  When you get something for nothing, there’s no intrinsic feeling of accomplishment or motivation to continue to strive to improve.  There’s just an outstretched hand and then bitterness and accusation if the hand isn’t filled.  There’s animosity for those who have money with no regard for the fact that the money was earned with hard work, and skill that was learned over time with persistence.

Yes, I understand generational poverty. Trust me.  Professionally I saw it day in and day out in the children who came to my classroom each day.  But I’ll never forget the huge baskets of food in the grocery store, loaded with products our cupboards had never seen and then have to watch the customer pay with food stamps, and worse — assist her to a Cadillac or Lincoln to load them in the trunk.

I’m old enough to know that in those cases, fraud was most likely the reason, but I’ve never forgotten them.  And it helps me think about all of this business of “bailing out,” or increasing support to those who are needy.

I could keep raging about this, but won’t.

My cracked wheat bread is done with its second rise and I need to put it in the oven.

Hmmm…I wonder what the difference is between the cost of a homemade loaf of bread and one that has absolutely no nutritional value and is wrapped in plastic?

Definitely a very big soap box today.