Tag Archives: general

The Long, Hot, Summer of the Soul

There are times when you just have to step back, you know? Take a break, reassess, get grounded, or (insert your favorite catch phrase here)whatever, and hope that when you get back to the grind, something will have clicked into place, and life will progress more or less smoothly, and generally in a “forward” direction. Sometimes, there’s no noticeable click, but you realize you have to drag yourself back into the Twilight Zone (some prefer to call it reality), whether you’re comfortable there, or not.

And then there are times when you go walkabout and just get lost…

Or I could spin this past year as a sabbatical, and that I was doing serious research… yeah, maybe not.

What started off last summer as a break to “get off the planet” as it were, and immerse myself in rereading all the books in the Foreigner Series, by C.J. Cherryh, turned into one delay after another in getting back to work on my writing, and all the other stuff I put on this blog. But, oh, well, these things happen. Instead of boring you with all the details in one long blurt, I’ll just proceed like I’ve only been gone a week, instead of a year. That okay with everybody?

The biggest change to the Crazybasenji household is the addition of a non-basenji canine. I know. What a shock. She qualifies as completely crazy, though, so that should count for something. Darby is a Spinone Italiano, an Italian Pointer (or Setter, depending on how loosely you translate). She’s a big, shaggy thing, and goofy as hell. And if there’s one thing I do love, it’s a goofy dog.

Darby belonged to a man who was going through chemo and radiation therapy and just didn’t have the energy to care for her and his other big dogs any more. She came to live with me on a trial basis at first. I wasn’t sure if Ramses would warm up to her. He’d been getting peculiar around strange dogs on our walks, and I was hoping that constant exposure to a very different dog would be good for him. Turned out I was right – at least as far as Darby is concerned. She’s so mellow, that even when he’d snarl at her in the beginning, she’d just stand still – very non-threatening – until he chilled.

Now they’re fine together, and the different energy levels keep things interesting.Image

So I can get back to doing more writing, and painting, and spend less time enabling a spoiled rotten only-dog. Maybe…

Confessions of a chocaholic…

I will be the first to admit I have some bad habits. Okay, a lot of bad habits. And many of them would fall into the “not-good-for-me” category. But I have made some improvements. It has taken me more than fifty years, but that just proves that it’s never too late. And I still have a long way to go, so I’d better live another forty or so, at least.

For starters, there’s the chocolate thing. Now (NOW they tell us) a little bit of chocolate is not a bad thing, at least not as bad as it used to be. And at least not as long as it’s dark chocolate. Nice for me, I love dark chocolate. But there are some chocolates that I have always been prone to overdo. Like Oreos. M&Ms. Kisses. And I got away with it for a long time, with only some extra poundage to show for it. Then, not long ago, those little binges started making me feel absolutely awful. Stomach pain, pounding head, other symptoms I won’t describe. Ugh. Had to stop. Fortunately darker chocolate in smaller doses will make me feel the chocolate happy without the chocolate sick. Small victory. (And I lost some weight.)

Grocery shopping. I hate it with a purple passion. I do all the grocery shopping for the household. It is my personal hell on earth. I hate having to go to a new store, or one on another side of town. I need to go where I know where everything is so I can make my list and zoom through and get it the frak over with as fast as possible. And I have to make that list — and I have to be a little hungry when I go, so I’ll actually throw enough food in the cart to last more than a few days. Because the last thing I want to do is have to turn around and go grocery shopping again tomorrow.

Obviously with such deviant grocery shopping habits, I also have deviant eating habits. I like convenience foods and comfort foods, and convenient comfort foods best of all. And I don’t like to cook. But my recent bout of prolonged joblessness forced me to get more creative with meal components, because they were cheaper than buying all the pre-packaged stuff I normally came home with. For instance, real potatoes can be mashed or baked or cut up and roasted or pan fried or a bunch of other things. Not that I didn’t know that; I just never wanted to do the work involved until I was forced to. Well, it was more than that, really. Working in the kitchen makes my back hurt. Or it used to. A lot.

Chronic pain isn’t that conducive to forming good habits. It tends to make a person cranky and depressed. And then the cranky depression becomes another bad habit and it all seems so overwhelming and way too much to climb out from under. I estimate it has taken me close to fifteen years. Even after back surgery ten years ago to save me from disc damage and nerve damage that could have put me in a wheelchair, I continued to have back and leg pain that I thought would never completely go  away. By accident I discovered that taking an antihistamine for a fire ant bite also helped my back pain. Then I read something about B-vitamins and nerve health and I started taking supplements, which also helped. Then I read that doing five minutes of bicycle crunches every day is a great way to get and stay in shape. Ha. Ha. I decided to try that. I lasted about twenty seconds.

But I decided that twenty seconds a day could eventually turn into five minutes, so I kept at it. I’m not trying to time myself any more, because I do my crunches after I get in bed at night. So much easier on my back than the hard floor. So I started doing just ten at a time (that’s ten right-left repetitions), and now I’m up to forty. And I can do two sets of those forty. And most of the time I have no pain. That’s huge. And that’s why I think there’s some hope for me to improve on some of my other bad habits — and why I don’t ever intend to try to make myself give up chocolate completely. Because a good dog deserves a treat.

Custard the dragon and comets as long as my pinkie

As usual when I’ve been away for a while, the first thing I had to do to this blog was add the WordPress update. It will be interesting to see in what ways it will mess with my mind this time.

Crazybasenji is coming up on its first birthday. It has taken a direction completely different from what I originally planned, but in retrospect, I can’t say it’s a bad thing. I had planned to write more about the wildlife collection where I have spent so much time since I came back to Texas. But my efforts to find a real job prevented me from spending as much time there in 2009. That, and I was making an effort to find my own creative/artistic outlet — or at least settle on fewer than five.

I did a lot of flailing about over the past year, going from feeling positive and enthusiastic about some job or other that I felt sure I’d get, to thinking I needed to find a way to support myself with my art, to being sure I was going to end up living on the street with three hungry dogs and all my possessions loaded onto my Radio Flyer wagon. But don’t want to dwell on that. I finally found a job and went to work last week. It’s only part time, but I can pay my bills, and still have time to make things. And post pictures of them here!

 

Four comets on a collision course

I’m still making tiny planets and stars, and now I’ve added comets. These are not much longer than my pinkie finger, and they all have pin backs so they’re wearable. A few days ago I was reading Havi Brooks blog where she was talking about dealing with tax time and using metaphors and such, and she said,

It’s a cave!

A Secret Money Cave where it is safe — and desirable — for me to be with my treasures and be present with what I have.

And I thought of a dragon in a cave lying on top of a pile of treasure, and I got the idea to make Custard.

Custard the Dragon

His name, of course, comes from The Tale of Custard the Dragon, by my favorite poet, Ogden Nash. You can find more of his silliness here. I put a thimble in the photo with him for scale. If you’re familiar with thimbles, you know that means Custard is pretty tiny, so his little sister, Thimbellina, is even tinier. And she’s pink!

 

 

Custard and Thimbellina

Custard and Thimbellina

 

Lost treasure, hard times, and small miracles

In the face of all the rotten things that are going on in the world right now — the earthquake in Haiti, the drunken staggering economy, the fact that I can’t find a job and have no money and may have no water or electricity, or a home, next month — I came across something the other day while my brother and I were cleaning out an old storage unit that the owners plan to demolish to make way for “mini-warehouses.” It was a poem I wrote a geologic age ago, printed on a yellowing page with a dot-matrix printer (yeah, that old). I had forgotten I wrote it. Normally I don’t do poetry — writing or reading. Maybe after you read it you’ll see why. But I kind of like it. Here it is.

Fantasy Lost

In the faraway land of Mallenorn
Where enchanted creatures go,
There dwelt a lovely unicorn —
The last of her kind, you know.

Her mane was white as the driven snow.
Her eyes were darkest brown.
Her horn did shine with a golden glow,
and her tail was like silvery down.

On the other side of that isle of green
there lived a dragon bold.
And in the forest called Genzereen,
flew a griffon, all yellow and gold.

The phoenix lived on the highest peak,
and soared every day through the sky.
With fiery wings and a gilded beak,
he sailed to the clouds on high.

But none of the creatures could leave that place
to travel the paths of old.
For changing times, and the human race
had cast them out in the cold.

So they found a forgotten, enchanted land
to live in forevermore,
Except for when chance, and a poet’s hand,
can bring them to life once more.

 

At this point in the game, I sure wish I could join them. I’ve spent a lot of my life living inside my own head, where all the wild creatures are gentle and a bit sleepy, people are never mean or petty, and no one expects me to be something I’m not. But at this moment in history, I can’t escape the harsh reality of the present situation. Teetering on the brink of possibly losing everything I own and hold dear — like a heated building to live in and food to eat — is scaring the stuffing out of me. But it might not happen. My fortunes could change overnight. Somehow I always keep thinking they will.

In the meantime, comparing what I have at the moment to what the people in Haiti have, I’m aware of how immensely better off I am. As long as I can keep scraping together enough money to pay something on the electric bill and the water bill and buy another bag of dog food for the Puppy, some bread and peanut butter for me, I’ll get through.

And I have to say how glad I am that I’m not married anymore. I can only imagine how much stress it would add if I was still married to either of my former spouses, both of whom thought that their money was theirs to spend, and my money was also theirs to spend. It was always left up to me to figure out how to pay for groceries and utilities with what was left after they finished playing.

What has been remarkable in all this is how well my brother and I have been getting along. I guess the “blood thicker than water” proverb has some teeth to it. I’m very sensitive to negative energy, to use a New Age term, and if he was hating on me for not being able to find a job, I would know it. But he’s not, and that actually surprised me. When we were growing up he seemed to be hating on me over every little thing, like my very existence. Being older and wiser definitely has its perks.

Drinking hot (ish) coffee this morning

I have gone through phases in my adult life with and without caffeine. I’ve come to the conclusion that some caffeine is required, since I’m basically a morning person but am frequently a groggy morning person. And I like coffee. I even like the decaf kind. With a caveat… I like it to taste like ice cream. And I usually like it ice cold.

I started keeping my coffee in the refrigerator earlier this summer when I would sit at my computer on a typical, muggy, central Texas summer morning (even the A/C didn’t prevent all perception of mugginess), drinking my freshly dripped coffee, and I would start sweating buckets. Seriously. Buckets. Because hot weather plus hot coffee equals hot flash equals buckets of sweat. Buckets. What am I — stupid? I thought. Put the frakking coffee over some frakking ice. Then I came up with the brilliant idea that I could make my own coffee, separately from my brother’s normal coffee, and I could have flavors! like caramel truffle and chocolate velvet. My brother doesn’t like his coffee to taste like ice cream, so he isn’t interested in sharing my flavored coffee. So I make my own pot of coffee and pour it into a bottle to keep in the fridge. Then every morning I can pour some in a tumbler and add some sweetener and half and half, and have a nice, cold pick-me-up to start my day with.

Only this morning it was chilly. So I put my cold coffee in a mug and microwaved it hot. But adding the half and half cooled it off to almost room temperature. I’m running the furnace, after all. It’s not like it’s 53 degrees in here. And I’m not fond of hot beverages unless I actually need to drink something hot to get warm.

I’m about to make a point with this. Wait for it…

I was reading Havi Brooks’s recent post over at The Fluent Self blog about being your own, authentic self, dammit, and not apologizing to anyone about it. And I thought about my cold coffee habit and my flavored, ice-cream-tasting coffee habit, and how my brother always sneers at flavored coffee (and the people who drink it, I fear), and I thought, you know, this is me, dammit. Yeah, maybe I have a few screws loose, but they are not in the area of coffee drinking. Ever since I started drinking my coffee cold in the mornings, I have fewer hot flashes all day. So there. Dammit.

"Top Gear" and Dream Cars

For those of you who may not know, I’m something of a “gear head.” Oh, not so much to sit around discussing technical specs and that stuff, but I like cool cars. I took one of those silly Facebook quizzes to see “What Car Fits You Best,” and my result was Bugatti Veyron. Yeah, uh,huh, that’s what I’m talking about. Can’t exactly see myself running to Kroger in it, and don’t think even one of my dog crates would fit in the back, but-oh-well. I suppose if I could afford a Veyron, I could probably keep a Honda Fit around for the grocery store errands and the like.

And I’m a fan of “Top Gear” on BBC America. They just started their new season last night with a showdown of three different cars — one for each of the three hosts. Jeremy drove an Aston Martin, Richard a BMW, and James a Porsche. At the end of the show they all pretty much agreed that the Porsche (a 911) was the fastest, the BMW was the most powerful, but hideously difficult to “program,” and the Aston was, well, I forget. Anyway, I wondered aloud what kind of gas mileage the Porsche got. My brother said if you can afford to buy one, you probably don’t need to worry about saving money on gas. Hello. Not talking about saving money. Talking about not using so much gasoline. And I’m thinking that if they can build them to go 200 miles an hour, they should be able to build them to go 1000 miles on a tank of gas.

When they can build a car like that, then I’ll think it’s worth 65 thousand pounds (or the dollar equivalent) — not that I’d be able to afford it anyway. I’m just saying.

How I Handle Hot Weather (and Hot Flashes)

  1. Stay inside in the air conditioning. And you might be surprised how cool 78 – 80 degrees feels when it’s 105 outside.
  2. Keep plenty of popsicles on hand. I believe I’ve mentioned this before. If you can find one of those little gadgets that you can fill with your own juice or whatever, make your own popsicles in any flavor you want.
  3. Paper plates — or suitable substitute. Keep some handy for fanning wherever you go.
  4. Keep a damp washrag in a sandwich bag on the top shelf of the fridge. OMG does this feel good on the face after walking the dogs in the scorching sun! Hold it against your throat where you can feel your pulse, and you can cool off the blood going to your brain. Get a fresh washrag daily — really, people, I shouldn’t have to tell you this.
  5. Drink plenty of cold fluids. Beer is okay only up to a point. Same for cola and anything else with caffeine or alcohol, which are both diuretics. When you are already sweating your ass off, you don’t need to be losing more water out the kidneys.
  6. Cool showers. In fact, I think I’m going to go take one now.

“Professional” blogging experts all say that lists make great content. Just thought I’d try it.

Job Hunting Hell

If I had a dollar for every hour I’ve spent sweating my ass off over this computer filling out on-line job applications, tweaking and re-tweaking my resume, and writing brilliant cover letters, I could afford to take a vacation someplace where there are cool breezes and tall, icy drinks decorated with paper umbrellas….

Okay, maybe I could rent a paddle boat on a lake somewhere.

I’ve finally developed a high tech solution to the job application nightmare. I have a spreadsheet with all the little detailed job duties, “knowlege, skills and abilities” grouped together on one sheet; addresses on another sheet; references on another sheet. Then all I have to do is remember to open the damn thing when I’m on line, and copy-paste, copy-paste, copy-paste, etc, etc, etc. I actually think someone should hire me to develop a universal job application information dump where all human resource departments would have to go to post their jobs, and all job applicants could fill out one form one time for all jobs they want to apply for in a given time frame, and just edit as necessary as they change jobs.

Now, wouldn’t that be sensible, and efficient, and time-saving? And never likely to happen.

Got the lowdown update blues

I have dragged my feet all week about writing a blog entry. I started a couple, then balked. Why? you ask. Well, because all week I’ve had this “update now” prompt at the top of the page every time I log in to the blog. Bleah. Another update, about a week after the last one, which was about two weeks after the one before that (the one that went all twitchy on me and a lot of other people). I gotta wonder what went south this time and on whose computer. Maybe it was folks who use Chrome, or Safari. I use Firefox, and although I also sometimes use Safari, I’ve got all my bookmarks and my toolbar set up the way I want them on Firefox. It would be like rearranging all the furniture in my house — and I always lose stuff when I do that. At least with the “automatic” update feature I have, I get these prompts to back up and download my files and my database so I can’t lose them . Of course folders are like boxes — they mostly look alike, so not always easy to remember which one to look in for something.

And another thing… I needed to recharge my iPod this morning, and, of course, when iTunes fired up there was a message that the newest version was available. So I clicked the “download” button and went about my morning chores. When I came back later I of course got the message that I had to restart my computer to finish installing the updates. Fine. I just ejected my partially recharged Nano and shut the computer off. And went to the store. It’s always frakking something.

The Importance of Popsicles

Computer use causes hot flashes. I’m sure a properly conducted scientific study would turn up a direct correlation between amount of time spent in front of a computer and number of hot flashes experienced in a given time frame by women of a certain age (of which I am one). So. I always have a paper plate handy — for fanning — and a stock of popsicles in the freezer for an instant cool-down.

This is has been particularly necessary this summer with the scorching heat we’ve been experiencing in this area. I have actually had to bring my heat-loving dogs inside for several air-conditioning breaks every day or I honestly think the Old Guy would melt. And he loves being outside more than food. So it’s saying a lot that he tries to force his way out the gate and runs for the door as soon as I get his leash attached.

What I’m saying is that I may post updates a little less frequently. And they’ll be short.