Monday, December 31, 2007

Well, we *are* pretty close...

From My Therapist's Dog, by Diana Wells:

Women could once be condemned as witches for having too close a friendship with black dogs, which were associated with the devil....

Ruh-roh.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Just cut it out!

I'm going to have a little rant here; forewarned is forearmed.

I just finished reading Anna Quindlen's novel Rise and Shine. I like her writing, I liked the story, but for the love of all that's holy, why do so many books end with everyone happily coupled, and having children? I'm not ruining anything: this is true of a lot of books written by women and for women. Oh, in this book, everyone also has meaningful work. That's what is meant by "having it all."

Not all of us have it all, or even want it all. There are other paths to happiness and fulfillment. And I'm really pretty satisfied with my life when books like this are not making me feel like a freak and a weirdo.

What is it about the status quo that makes it need such constant bolstering?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Watching eleventy-seven versions of "Pride and Prejudice"

I think every woman in the world agrees that the best "Pride and Prejudice" movie is the BBC series with Colin Firth. Once we saw C. Firth as Mr Darcy, we couldn't get behind anyone else. So I have to wonder why people continue to adapt it. But I suppose classics must be re-adapted from time to time. Each generation seems to need its own version.

The other night, I saw the newest version featuring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth and Matthew McFadyen as Mr Darcy. I did enjoy it and thought that all the actors did a good job interpreting their characters. A 2-hour movie can't do the book justice, but I was surprised by some of the things that were changed. This example may seem small to some, but I assure you it is not: when Mr Darcy is fidgeting around just before proposing to Elizabeth, one expects his first words to be "In vain have I struggled." This is a direct quote from the book. In the newest version, Mr Darcy says "I have struggled in vain." So pedestrian. And when you're expecting a famous line, changing it is not a good idea.

I also found it difficult to tell Kitty and Lydia apart, which annoyed me because I thought I recognized the actress who played Kitty, but the camera never stayed on her face long enough for me to tell. It was in fact the same actress who played Ada Clare in the recent Bleak House done by Masterpiece Theater, but I only knew that by looking on imdb. There was a lot of rushing around in the movie, and that was pretty distracting.

The script also made Elizabeth pretty mouthy. At one point she says something to her mother that was pretty unforgivable, and that no Elizabeth true to the book would have said.

The other thing I didn't like too much was that, while cutting the story ruthlessly, the movie showed long, and I do mean long, contemplative moments and landscapes. It was too much and I was sorry to have them instead of more dialogue -- and I actually do appreciate contemplative moments.

All that being said, the major speeches were all there, and the actors were good. I even liked Mr Darcy. He had the right amount of smoldering good looks and a face that lit up when he finally smiled. One of my favorite scenes, though, was one I acted out for drama class in high school: the scene between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth. Judi Dench was amazing -- the scene was, I think, even better than in the BBC version. And that's saying something.

Naturally, when doing the scene in drama class, I played Lady Catherine. It had a major effect on my personality of course, and to this day I remain haughty, disdainful, presumptuous, and self-important.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Back at work

Somehow I find it comforting to be back at work... but I also found it comforting to be at home. I feel that with Christmas over, the new year has already begun. I know that's not technically true, but I'm taking this new year energy and using it to get organized again. Organization and concentration are two of the first things to go for me when I'm depressed (and anemic, evidently) and now that I'm back to normal, or as normal as I get, I have the means to get organized again.

Nothing makes me feel more organized than a clean desk and all my tasks set in my Palm. So I'm taking time to do that today.

I had a lovely Christmas, very laid back, with Chinese take out with friends on the day itself, followed by an evening of playing carnival games on their Wii. Who knew I would enjoy shooting ducks so much?? In some ways it felt wrong for a vegetarian, but in other ways it felt oh so right.

I took the tree down yesterday, swearing I would never put it up again. It's true that I swear this every year, because it's a pain for one person to wrangle the tree. There was a lot of very profane language and I had to reassure the dogs mightily when it was all over. I think I really might not put up a tree again. I like having my living room back to normal.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

I know, I'm a week early, but I'm minimizing Christmas (other than a wonderful celebration with M and her family on the day itself) and maximizing the new year. Some years I don't make resolutions but this year I decided to make one to improve myself and another to make myself more happy (which would also be improving myself, but it's not as hard).

The self-improvement one has something to do with forgiveness. I'm still trying to hammer out what that means, how to reconcile the decision to forgive with one's irrational feelings, etc etc. Meanwhile, I'm practicing on road rage. Instead of cursing or calling people (from within my car, I don't yell it out the window or anything) "stupid," I'm trying to think of them as simply making a mistake, or having some reason for driving so slowly at rush hour with 87 cars behind them, or needing to get to the hospital as they speed by me on the interstate. I'm working on it. For one thing, I don't think it's right to judge people as stupid or not stupid. Yes, I know that intelligence exists at higher levels in some than others. I just don't think someone not being as smart as someone else is a good reason to be dismissive of them, and I want to stop doing it (although I really only do it in the context of driving).

Whew. Now for the fun resolution, which is to do something creative every week. I've decided to exclude blog posts, even though they are creative (or can be), in order to get myself to do something more visual. I have decided to share my efforts on the blog, at least partially to show people that you don't have to be good to be creative and to get a great deal of pleasure out of creating. I think too many people have the creativity beaten out of them in their school years. I sure did. But as an adult I've learned how to play more with art supplies, and what fun it is to do so. I often don't carve out the time to do it, though, thus the resolution.

And here is today's excursion in watercolors:



Two extreme close-ups:



PS Yes, I'm feeling better. Yesterday was a sad day because of a funeral. But I was sad, not depressed. I had an iron infusion on Friday. Evidently the restless legs (no, it's not a joke diagnosis) was mucking with my sleep enough to exhaust me. Plus the new meds have possibly kicked in.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A sad day

Today is the anniversary of my mother's sudden death six years ago. Although of course with time the pain has eased, the anniversary never passes by unnoticed. The date is especially memorable given its proximity to Christmas.

I'm afraid I marked the day this year with excessive irritation at everything around me. It wasn't until the evening that I realized I was being so intolerant and impatient. Of course, this mostly involved muttering to myself and no real harm was done to anyone else, but it's an interesting reaction to sadness. It's hard to feel real sadness during the work day, when one is out and about in the world. So I guess it gets transmuted into anger or frustration.

And with that, I'm off to bed. Tomorrow will be better.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

But the most amazing thing to me is...

...I get paid for doin' this (with apologies to Steve Martin). It's actually one of those "I went to college for this???" days, which I think occur in most jobs.

Today I have typed dictated letters, printed out holiday cards, folded holiday cards, stuffed holiday cards into envelopes... evidently, being a design goddess wasn't enough -- you design it, you fold, stuff, and mail it! That's ok, though, this time of year is so hectic that it was nice to sit down and do some mindless work while listening to one of my Pandora radio stations, "Insensitive." It's not truly insensitive -- with Pandora, you start with one song and then the station builds from there, and I chose "Insensitive" by Jann Arden. The biggest problem with the station is weeding out the whiny boys. Somehow the whiny girls don't bother me (and of course not all the boys are whiny).

Last night I was thinking about forgiveness -- I think something or someone reminded me of it, because I suddenly thought "what if I just forgave everybody for everything?" I have been thinking on and off of what that would mean and how I would go about it. I think I've tried so hard in my life to understand behavior, to figure out what motivates everyone, that sometimes I get stuck on behavior that I can't understand, or I make the fundamental attribution error and conclude that it has something to do with me, that it's personal, when it probably usually isn't. I mean, I don't know. These are preliminary thoughts.

Also, it's impossible for me to think about forgiveness with getting Don Henley's song, The Heart of the Matter, stuck in my head.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Monday report

Couldn't get out of bed this morning, missed dr's appointment because I haven't been checking my calendar, other than that doing pretty well.

Organizational skills are one of the first things to go when I'm depressed. Then when it's all over it takes me weeks to catch up on housecleaning, laundry, etc etc. Plus I usually have a lot of weight to lose, because I overeat when I'm depressed. Argh.

This weekend, I went out one day and ran around like a madwoman, finishing up gift-getting and mailing my package to NY. Had lunch with a friend at 3 pm that day -- at least we were both hungry! The other days I stayed at home. Finished Mansfield Park and began Emma. Watched "Love Actually" 3 times in 3 days, followed by "Four Weddings and a Funeral" last night (yes, I do like Hugh Grant, why do you ask?). Played with dogs. I brought home 4 toys for 3 dogs and within an hour, Zoe had all of them. Eventually she let the other dogs play with them again, but for a while she just had to have them all.

So that's it. I've had a fun job at work already today -- designing holiday cards for the division chief to send out. I lurve design work.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snoozing on a rainy Sunday

Queenie and Zoe on the sofa:


Max on the chair:


This arrangement reconfigures regularly.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ok, you alarm clock-hunting people

For the many, many people who get to this blog by searching Google for the best alarm clock ever, only to find out that my post by that name referred to having a new roof put on my house, here are my actual candidates for the best alarm clock ever, which I have not tried, but am seriously considering:




I have a slight preference for the flying one, as I think I might smash Clocky to smithereens on first catching it, and I like to think of my cat Rosalie chasing after the little flying doodad.

Did I...

...drive you all nuts yesterday with my choice of favorite xmas song? Would it help to know that I frequently sing it around the house, quite melodramatically, substituting the names of my dogs and cat for the word "baby"?

No? M'kay then.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

For your amusement

I have to say, I find this blog, The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks, very funny. If you like to mock unnecessary quotation marks as much as I do, this blog's for you.

I've always secretly felt that I could have a career as an itinerant proofreader.

Ah, nature

I have discovered that the two enormous oak trees right outside my building are ideal for squirrel watching. And you know how I love squirrels. So I stopped today after lunch because I saw three squirrels playing fairly low in one of the trees. Except instead of playing, two of the squirrels turned out to be, um, mating. In front of the other squirrel. Those are some kinky habits they have. I yelled out "Get a treetop!" and kept going.

No, I didn't take any pictures, you perverts.

I realized how odd it is that in all my years of squirrel-watching, I have never seen this before. And not to be prudish, but I'm kind of hoping I don't see it again. Although I'm certainly glad they're procreating, why can't they do it in the privacy of their own nests? Where are their manners??



Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Growth

Today at work I grew a tree. Not just an ordinary tree: this was a MAGIC tree. The package in which it came stated that it would take six hours. I got started right away. Please join me on my magical journey.

Hour 1: Not much happening, although there are a few crystals growing at the bottom of the tree.


Hour 2: Definitely something happening.


Hour 3: Things are starting to get really exciting!


Hour 4: Hmmm, shouldn't it be further along by now?


Hour 5: Starting to feel a mite panicky.


Hour 6: The final outcome. Is it not magical?


Absolutely, positively final tree, complete with decorations. Do not blame me for the necklace, I mean garland. It simply would not stay on. The star, though, is rather stunning and I really liked throwing glitter around in my office. It was festive!


Truth in advertising:


I found during this process that I was worrying obsessively about whether the tree was turning out well. At one point a doctor came in with some work for me, and I said "watch out for my tree!" and he remarked that it was a lovely item.

Even at the time, I realized that worrying about the growth of your somewhat freaky crystal tree is really a waste of obsessive resources.

I actually had a productive day, despite stopping to take a picture every hour.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My new house

It's the same house, just painted. Here's the before picture:


And two after pictures, one a bit more close up than the other:



I do not want to hear that you like the original better.

Monday, December 10, 2007

An encouraging sign

I woke up this morning just before the alarm went off. That hasn't happened in weeks. And I don't feel exhausted. And I got to eat breakfast at home. These are good things. Now, if my concentration could return, I would be ever so thankful.

Had a lovely visit with a friend yesterday, over a gingerbread latte at Starbuck's. Mmmmm, gingerbread latte. And it was great fun to see my friend. We discussed blogging and Sense and Sensibility -- I always wind up as Elinor Dashwood on those "Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You?" tests, but then thought how strange it is that I have a blog in which I'm disclosing many personal details about my life. Still wondering if this is a good idea.

Last night I finished reading Pride and Prejudice and then watched a not-so-good movie, The Nanny Diaries. The movie had great actors, but it's a fairly "light" movie.

Pride and Prejudice, on the other hand, was great as always. I look forward to watching all the different movie/tv versions of it. Now it's on to Mansfield Park.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Anhedonia

One of the worst symptoms of depression for me is anhedonia, the lack of interest in things that normally bring you joy. I don't often get this symptom, because I have what is known as "atypical depression," misleadingly named because it is not really atypical: about 40% of people with major depression have this subtype. We are the people who overeat and oversleep, rather than those other people who can't eat or sleep. Another feature of atypicals is that we can usually be cheered up by happy events. I still have some of that these days -- I'm still laughing at times -- but I've been struck with what I would say is moderate anhedonia.

I knew it had hit when I went to the book fair on Friday. I did enjoy the drive and looked forward to the book fair, and to be honest I thought it was a positive sign that I even *wanted* to go, after the lethargy of last week, but when I got there it just wasn't that much fun. Millions of books and I really wasn't that interested, which is, to say the least, not at all like me. I did manage to find some things I knew I wanted -- and this is a weird thing, I think it's a form of self-objectification, it was as if I were buying a gift for someone else: "oh so-and-so would like that." I remembered that I liked these writers or that topic, and bought some books based on that. But I haven't even taken them out of the bag to "play" with them as I normally do.

I had better success yesterday, shopping with a friend who makes me laugh, and buying gifts for other people. Because then it's appropriate to think "oh so-and-so would like that" and I was able to get a lot of my holiday gift-buying done. But whenever I was on my own the sadness would creep back in.

I've been tempted to take a hiatus from blogging just because blogging about depression seems so, uh, depressing. But this blog is about my life and depression is a part of that. At some point it will lift and I can go back to being my usual fascinating self.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Working for the weekend

This is the last day of my work week, which is exciting partially because I can sleep in tomorrow and eat breakfast at home. Lately I've been waking up too late and having to dash out the door in order to get here in time, stopping for coffee and breakfast at the cafeteria and eating it in my office. It's demoralizing to eat most of one's meals in one's office. Must find better way.

Hopefully the new med will kick in, the depression will lift, and I'll be able to get up in the morning again. This "getting up early" thing has been an ongoing struggle in my life, with me on the losing end a lot of the time. I wish I could just kick it, but it's a symptom of illness and when the illness is active...

Meanwhile I feel boring and self-absorbed. I'm finding it hard to think of things to write about and talk about. Another symptom.

The weekend should be good, though. Tomorrow I'm going to the Green Valley Book Fair, a tremendously fun place full of deeply discounted books. Then on Saturday, my friend and I will go flying (if weather permits), followed by holiday shopping at Short Pump. I always lean heavily on Crate and Barrel for excellent presents.

And, if I have enough energy, I can finish decorating the tree! Yes, it has taken me all week.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

It's snowing!

The snow looks very beautiful. I wish I were at home watching the dogs go crazy playing in it. However, I'm enjoying being able to look out my two large office windows (!) at it.

I've begun reading Pride and Prejudice. It's such a familiar story, but all the little details in the book are just a joy to read. I've decided to do movie tie-ins with the Austen books, and of course Pride and Prejudice has been filmed many times. I plan to watch all 5 editions that I can get through Blockbuster. Already winging their way to me are the two versions of Sense and Sensibility that I could find. I love the one with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, but am not familiar with the other one, so it should be fun to see. I just never tire of these stories.

At work: finished a grant yesterday (yay!) and am working on a spreadsheet for holiday party r.s.v.p.'s today (I told you the holiday party was more complicated than it would seem). It's also my belief that I have editing to do here somewhere... must root through piles...

Enjoy the snow!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Something I forgot in my last post

Here's a link to a timely article by John Grohol, regarding depression. It's informative, especially for those who haven't experienced depression. It also contains a link to a short screening test, so you can see where you fall on the depression scale.

Self-acceptance

Me: I think I'm becoming more of a hermit.

Dr: And is that ok with you? Do you mind being eccentric?

I've never had a doctor agree with me that I'm eccentric before. It's a new experience. On the one hand, I think it's good that she's honest. On the other hand, I kind of wish I weren't eccentric.

It seems that the problems I've been having lately have to do with having a depressive episode. Thus, the current chemistry experiment, which has not yet paid off and in which I don't have a lot of confidence. But supposedly I have to be at a higher dose for it to work.

The doctor advised that I try not to judge my symptoms. Feeling sad and alone, thinking about death a lot -- these are symptoms of depression. And I know this to be true, and I am flunking depression screening tests. Sometimes it's hard to know what are actual issues with which one has to grapple, and when they are symptoms of this illness. But I've agreed to be patient and see how I feel in a month or so (as I go up on the new med).

Sometimes I feel funny disclosing so much of this on here. But then I think it might help someone, and for some reason it helps me, so I continue.

Eccentrics unite! Or, um, don't. Do what you want to! You're eccentric!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Retreat to the 19th century

(I was going to tell you how crappy this morning has been so far, through no fault of my own, except for not getting up on time, but I decided to skip all that and write about this instead.)

Sometimes I hole up in my house for days on end. Maybe I'll walk the dogs, maybe I'll get the mail, but almost nothing else. This was one such weekend, with the exception of dinner and a movie on Saturday night. At home, I played with the tree, played with the computer, played with the dogs, but mostly I read and read and read. After finishing Anna Maxted's latest book (AM = better than most chicklit authors), I decided I needed some winter, holiday, feel-good reading.

Which for me means what I call comfort books. These are the books you return to again and again, when you're feeling bad or life is dreary or just to feel, well, comforted. Mine are almost all from the 19th century, including several Dickens novels (Bleak House, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Nicholas Nickleby), two Charlotte Bronte novels (Villette, which in my 30s I thought explained me to a "T," and Jane Eyre), Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, and, of course, Jane Austen. All of Jane Austen. And that's who I turned to this weekend. I have a decent hardcover edition containing all her published novels, in the order in which they were published, so I began with Sense and Sensibility. It never loses its charm for me and I was really transported by it on the especially dreary Sunday we had.

And I think this is the way I will get through my annual holiday blues. I hate to be obnoxious about the holidays, because I think it is a fault in myself and not very pleasant for others, but I really don't enjoy them. There's too much rushing around and lots of social obligations. I do like giving gifts, not to mention getting them. And my feeling about the holidays didn't improve when my mother died the week before Christmas, six years ago.

So I need to keep things as sane and stable as I can, and to that end I'll be kicking back with my favorite 19th century books, in another time and place altogether.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Your friend the otter

Otters are fun. Here is one, in a rare calm moment (at the Nature Center in Asheville, NC).



Not much going on this weekend. I wrangled the tree -- did you hear the swearing? It's a holiday tradition! I'll post a picture once the ornaments are on.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Do I not bleed?

I ran into an acquaintance at lunch today, and she told me she had a hard time talking to people. Since we had been talking for 10 minutes by that time, I must have had a skeptical expression on my face, and she quickly said "oh, not you..."

I think she meant I was easy to talk to, rather than the alternative explanation that I am not actually a person, so I'll take the compliment.

I knew what she meant. I have a hard time talking to people too.

Except for you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What I'm working on

1. The holiday party invitation for my workplace. This takes an inordinately long time each year, as multiple phone calls, emails, and approvals are required. But I love designing the invitation itself.

2. Compiling faculty publications for the December retreat, which involves a lot of copying and pasting from individual CVs to the aggregate document.

3. Copy editing an Editor's Page for a journal.

4. Copy editing a grant.

5. At home, reading Steve Martin's autobiography, which is excellent.

6. Attempting to get in some extra exercise in the form of dog walking.

7. Deciding whether the little tabletop tree is enough this year or whether I should put up the big tree, the idea of which exhausts me. (Not the decision; putting up the big tree.)

8. There must be more, but I can't think of anything else right now.

It's not that much. I was just reminded, because of a kind comment on an earlier post, of my first full-time job, which was working with institutionalized kids. We had fun every day but we also had difficult, sometimes terrible, times every day. My life now is calmer and much less stressful, which is necessary for my health. And I do feel that the work I do now is worthwhile, and I also feel I should go do more of it!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Books, jobs, and blogging brevity

Here I am, back at work after 6 days off, so I must necessarily keep this short.

I finished "The Darling" yesterday and I recommend it. At times it was a bit hard to get through, I think because the main character, who is narrating her own story, is sometimes either detached or not sympathetic. The story was interesting though -- Hannah is a 60's protester, underground, and emigrates to Liberia, where she marries, has children, and starts a chimpanzee sanctuary. The horrors of Liberia during that time period were also hard to read about, which imo is not a good reason not to read it... I thought it was a good book. If you're a Russell Banks fan, it's a must-read. If you're not a Russell Banks fan, become one. I recommend starting with either "The Sweet Hereafter" or "Affliction" although a lot of people would probably recommend "Rule of the Bone."

Now I'm reading Steve Martin's autobiography, "Born Standing Up." I just started it last night, so I can't really tell you much except that I have laughed already, even though it is not primarily comedy, but about practicing stand up comedy, and also about some of S. Martin's history. He's a fascinating guy; I expect to love this book. Which is why I ordered it as soon as it became available.

Not much else to report. Lots of work to do, so let me get back to it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

An interesting passage

Just read the following in Russell Banks' "The Darling":
I'm talking here about the difference between empathy and sympathy, between feeling for the other and feeling with the other. The distinction came to matter to me. It still does. When you abandon and betray those with whom you empathize, you're not abandoning or betraying anyone or anything that's as real as yourself. Taken to its extreme, perhaps even pathological, form, empathy is narcissism.
Ouch. That hits a little close to home for me, and I'm not sure what I think about it. I've always thought of myself as an empathetic person, most of the time. It suddenly came to me, after abandoning my novel, that this is one way in which my imagination runs -- in trying to understand and empathize with the feelings of other people. I've always been interested in human behavior, trying to understand the people around me. And I've also always been interested in the extremes of human behavior -- I want to know what turns someone into a serial killer, how people can form suicide pacts, why people join cults, etc. Part of this fascination, I suppose, is that I can't actually imagine any of this behavior myself. But I'm digressing from my main point.

I used to, before my depression was properly treated, genuinely feel the emotions that others were having. Even at the time, I knew that this was not helpful, because if someone is in the depths of despair, it doesn't help if you're there with them -- then they have to comfort you, in addition to needing comfort of their own. I still can be a bit of a mood sponge, or sometimes a mood reflector, in that others' anxieties sometime make me anxious and others' anger also makes me anxious. But mostly I now have what we like to call "boundaries" and I suppose, according to the passage above, that means that I sympathize now rather than empathizing. But I've always thought of empathy as feeling with the other, and I've always thought it was a good thing.

The comment about narcissism scares the crap out of me. I've been involved in different roles with several narcissists in my life, and they don't seem to feel any empathy at all for others. I've often thought that what separates me from them, and what draws them to me, in that "opposites attract" kind of way, is that I am extremely empathetic.

I'd be very interested in hearing other opinions on this -- not on me, but on the quotation and distinctions between empathy and sympathy.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

An excerpt from my abandoned novel

Do not laugh too much; I actually like this but I am probably nuts to post it in its raw form:

[Julia's car was towed, and she paid an exorbitant amount to redeem it.]

“It’s sad though,” Julia thought, as she drove toward the ferry, “how little leeway people give each other. When I was young, somehow people always believed me when I said I didn’t know something or didn’t mean to do something. I always got off with warning tickets, and it wasn’t because of my good looks. It was because of my youth and earnestness” (and indeed, she had had more good looks than she gave herself credit for). “And I’m still earnest, but now no more to be trusted than the next person. Oh I know, rules are meant for everybody, but I miss being believed, being trusted. I am, after all, even more trustworthy now than I was when I was young. But somehow age taints us, and we seem like we’re trying to escape justice even when we’re just trying to be honest and get a fair shake.”

Marta, misinterpreting Julia’s silence, apologized for criticizing her handling of the situation. “Are you mad?” she asked.

“Of course not,” replied Julia. “No, I was just thinking, do you ever miss, well, not being young exactly, and I don’t really mean this the way it sounds, but getting away with things? Being let off the hook? Now it seems we’re always on the hook, no matter what happens.”

“I do know what you mean,” Marta said. “I never got a traffic ticket until I was 40. When I did get one, it made me feel so old. So, I don’t know, irrelevant? Like the policeman was looking at me and seeing an old lady, someone you wouldn’t look at twice.”

“I actually like not being looked at,” Julia said. “I like the cloak of invisibility that’s around me now.” She had never been comfortable with constantly being evaluated by men when out in public. Catcalls and teasing had both been hard on her sensitive nature. But now she wondered, sadly, why the choice had to be between objectification and invisibility? Couldn’t there be something in the middle? It seemed natural that people were always sizing each other up, but why not a more holistic approach, and the realization that everyone had something to offer, even if it wasn’t sex or even love? But she supposed this kind of thinking was an effect of age itself. When she was young, she too was constantly evaluating men as to their suitability as partners. The difference was that she hadn’t based that evaluation on looks at all, or on money or ambition, not that she hadn’t been drawn to some attractive men. But attraction for her seemed to mean something entirely different than was meant by the rest of the world, and she found it hard to be so different, to feel so incomprehensible even to those to whom she was closest.

Your friend the lizard

Taken on Ocracoke Island a couple of years ago.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

A novel decision

I'm trying this decision on for size -- if it doesn't fit, I'll amend.

Perhaps I seem wishy-washy to you. I often seem that way. It usually happens when I'm warring between what I want to do and what I think I should do.

After all, one "should" stick with the commitments one makes, right? But what if one has made a commitment that turns out to be inappropriate for them?

I have decided to stop work on my novel. I've enjoyed the process of writing, to a large extent, and I loved the whole "write a novel in a month" concept. But I was sitting here this morning, reading Russell Banks' The Darling, and knowing that writing will probably never be as important to me as reading, and knowing that I could never write a book as good as that one.

Of course, R. Banks has been writing for years, and I can hardly be said to have practiced my craft. But the thing is, writing novels isn't my craft. Writing blog posts is fun for me. And when I did write intensively in the past, I wrote poetry.

I haven't written any poetry since being on antidepressants, which I sometimes think is sad, and sometimes think is a reasonable trade-off for not being miserable all the time.

Right now, I'm going through some holiday blahs, which are largely short-winter-day blahs, have started on a new med -- yes, another chemistry experiment -- and do not want to spend my remaining three day weekend working on a novel. I want to be free to read and putter around and be creative in other ways, when I choose to, and spend time with the dogs and maybe even, oh I don't know, take them for a walk.

So that's it, I'm done, unless I change my mind after posting this. Sometimes when a decision is difficult, it's best to just choose one option and sit with it for a while.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A novel crisis

First, I'm up to 18,772 words.

Second, it has just occurred to me that I don't want to spend my entire next four days off writing in order to meet the 50,000 word count.

Third, I can't decide if the second item is what we call a "revelation" or what we call a "wimp-out."

Fourth, evidently rearranging one's living room furniture is not an effective way to make the decision implied in the third item.

18,008 words

Up from 16,444 just a little while ago.

This is one disjointed novel, I can tell you that. It is tres stream of consciousness. Then I get bored with my consciousness and stop mid-paragraph and change what I'm writing about. But the idea is to get a lot of ideas down, and then maybe after this crazy mania of writing is over, there will be something salvageable.

It's funny, just writing what I'm thinking about. It doesn't seem like work, more like talking someone's ear off. And yet no one is suffering!

16,444 words

Up from, oh, whatever I said in my last post. Progress!

We will continue to have updates throughout the day as the story develops. (Ha!)

A novel idea

Well, Thanksgiving is over so now I can go back to being cranky. No, seriously, now it's time to focus intensively on my novel, and you're going to help me! How, you ask? Oh, just by not being annoyed by brief posts throughout the next four days alerting you to my ever increasing word count. See, I'm way behind, as is my wont, and the novel's supposed to be done by the end of the month, so now I have to apply myself intensively to hit the deadline, as is also my wont. Why I ever thought I would write the required number of words each day is beyond me. I simply don't function that way. I do my best work when the deadline looms, as it is now doing.

Right now, my word count is 14,863, which is a lot, but nowhere near the required 50,000. So watch for frequent updates and feel free to send encouragement or even just root for me in your head -- I'm sure the good vibes will reach me somehow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Time to give thanks

I find that on Thanksgiving itself, there's a lot of running around and busyness, and I often don't manage to take time to feel give thanks for all that is good in my life. So I've decided to think about gratitude the day before Thanksgiving. Since I recently did a birthday gratitude spiel, I won't list everything again.

I do have some thoughts on gratitude, however. I'm sensitive to those who don't feel that they have much to be grateful for on the holiday. I've had some years when I felt the same way. Sometimes I would recognize the good in my life, but the bad would seem to outweigh it enough that I couldn't manage any feeling of gratitude.

At one point in my life, a friend and I took a course through the Unity Church (yes, I have been involved with every known religion, why do you ask?) which studied Louise Hay's book "You Can Heal Your Life." As you might guess from the title, this is a very new agey book and, in retrospect, it had serious flaws. At the time, though, I learned a lot from it. One thing I learned was the power of positive affirmations, and I used these to good effect in healing a lot of my negative thinking. But one thing that always stuck with me was what Hay said about gratitude: if you can't muster anything, then go all the way down to the basics -- if you have indoor plumbing, be grateful for that. It sounds silly, but think about it seriously. I'm extremely grateful for indoor plumbing -- and so can you (yes, I'm reading Stephen Colbert's book, another thing for which I'm grateful).

Take it down to basics, and most people have a lot to be grateful for. I'm glad I'm alive, which is the most basic thing of all.

And for those who are struggling during this holiday season, I do understand. I struggle with the holidays myself. My thoughts are with you. Sometimes all we can manage is to grit our teeth and endure, and if you can manage that, give yourself a pat on the back -- you're doing a good job.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's hard to have a midlife crisis...

...when you are eating cake. Free cake. As I always say, I don't have to pay for it, bwahahahaha.

My birthday celebration was lovely and actually went from Friday through last night. Friday night my friends took me to see Marvin Hamlisch, on whom I had a crush when I was a teenager. At that time, he had just written the music for Chorus Line and was a much-loved regular on the talk show circuit. As a kid, my mom and brother and I would all watch the after-school talk shows, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, and Dinah Shore. Since I told you all my age yesterday, I'm not too worried about dating myself today. M. Hamlisch was always very polite and charming, and played the piano brilliantly. I had delusions of grandeur about my piano playing, so I was especially interested in a pianist who had struck it big.

I didn't know what to expect from the show on Friday, but it was excellent. He played the piano, he told funny stories, he complimented Charlottesville a lot, and he had a vocalist with him (his own singing voice is passable, but doesn't do justice to his melodies). He was very personable and the show was great.

Saturday a friend took me out to dinner, and then last night we had cake and ice cream. So it was a birthday weekend instead of just one day, and it was a really nice celebration.

Today life is back to normal, and normal is pretty damn good, although there's no doubt that I haven't seen the last of the midlife crisis. Plus and also, it is absolutely gorgeous outside. I almost didn't come back from lunch. But like a good employee, I did return, and now like a good employee, I shall get back to work.

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's my birthday...

...and I'll have a midlife crisis if I want to.

I like to have my crises the year before the big "decade" birthdays (yes, "like" is a strong word). This year I'm 49. Somehow I really feel like I'm not young anymore. And yet most days I feel like I'm around 12 and just impersonating an adult.

The crisis is just about feeling old and being scared of, well, dying. Which hopefully isn't going to happen anytime soon, but I would like to find a way of grappling with this fear and coming to some kind of healthy acceptance of death, if that's at all possible. And it's hard to find evidence that it is, outside of religion.

As far as my life goes, I'm pretty happy. I love my home, animals, friends, and family. I love my job and, although I'm not a very ambitious person, I'm happy with where I am in my career.

I have some health issues that I deal with, but everything is under control right now.

So the midlife crisis is a lot more about fear of the future than regret for the past or present. Maybe I just need to reassure myself that I always handle whatever comes my way, and I'll continue to be able to do that in the future. And then just let it go... always the tricky part!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

My new office

I did manage to take some pictures of my new office last week. There's no way to get the whole office into one picture because it is so vast -- no, actually, because of the way it's shaped. Here is a shot of my computer desk. I really didn't realize how crowded I had already made it until I saw this picture.


In contrast, this is my editing desk -- when only editing on paper will do. Which is most of the time; it's my preferred way of working. I hope you are noticing the two enormous windows I now have. This is the largest, most private office I've ever had.


The editing desk has to be neat, almost spare. I always "clear the decks" before editing. I was thinking of taking the second desk out of my office and putting a seating area there, where I could work as I do at home, lounging around on overstuffed furniture. This could still happen.

And now, a picture from home, since it's kind of weird to be posting about one's new office on the weekend (hey, think of it as my little way of getting revved up for the week ahead). This is my shadow box, which I noticed this morning was even more shadowy than usual. Don't look too closely or you will see that, like everything else in my house right now, it needs dusting.



Friday, November 16, 2007

Squirrelicious

I do love squirrels. Here are some pix. The first one is a Jamestown squirrel, but the rest are local, I believe.



What is better than when they scurry down trees, head first? Can you imagine doing such a thing? They are amazing athletes!



This little squirrel should be writing her novel. But instead she is inventing silly blog posts.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Even geniuses aren't always geniuses

I found Joel Achenbach's blog post today, on genius, rather inspirational. It gives me hope to think that even though my novel is an abomination, I might still have some words in my head that wouldn't be...
The problem with "genius" is that it doesn't give the great talents their due for working hard and plodding through difficult problems and taking chances and knowing which ideas to dump and which to deliver. Geniuses create the same way total ding-dongs create. Geniuses still have to put on their paint one stroke at a time.

Read the entire article.

PS No, I'm not having delusions of grandeur. I'm having delusions of time-wasting, which is why I found the article hopeful.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jamestown: Birds

Yesterday I went to Jamestown with a friend. I've been wanting to go there sometime during this 400th anniversary year. I was waiting for a good weekend in the fall, but it was either too hot or I was busy with something else. But yesterday it was time.

I visited there once years ago, when I was a child, but the place has been completely re-done since then. And I only remember the re-creation part, not the actual island itself where the US Park Service site is located. It was impressive to be standing on the actual ground where the fort and then the town existed.

I took pictures for the first time in a week, and it felt really good. I had been feeling lopsided with all the writing and editing, and feeling like generally I was becoming all wordy and less visual. So it was a pleasure to have a chance to take some photos, and there was a lot of wildlife on the island. I have a few pictures of the site itself, but I'll save those for another time.

First, your friend the woodpecker. I'm not sure what kind he or she is (I should know, but I don't):


We were driving from the NPS site to the re-created village site when I spotted this guy, and begged my friend to pull the car over. I believe this to be a great blue heron.


And this guy was perching on some rocks just past where the Jamestown ships are located. I think he's some kind of heron with a short neck:


I call this one "Geese in Ruins." For some reason, this cracks me up. These geese were on Jamestown island, among the ruins of, I believe, the plantation that was there after the town folded.



Saturday, November 10, 2007

Something you should probably know about me


I love squirrels. I love everything about them, especially the fact that they are ubiquitous.

I especially like it when they sit up on their hind legs.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Freedom Friday

What better way to celebrate being off from work than to publish a blog post gloating about it??? So far, I have slept late, had a leisurely breakfast, and met with my painter while still in my bathrobe. Then I felt the urge to type.

I watched the remainder of the last season of Six Feet Under last night, which was great, of course. I thought I would be sad when it was over, but I had become so totally enthralled by it that it's something of a relief to be a free woman again. I'm sure I'll get hooked on something else soon enough, but I really don't have any shows in mind at this time, so for a while I will not be a slave to those disks appearing in my mailbox. I'll still watch them, but at my convenience -- I won't feel compelled to watch them the second they arrive!

I am a couple of days behind on my novel at this point. The 10 hour work days do make it hard to come home and write, although I managed it on Monday and Tuesday. I hope to catch up on my word counts over the -- did I mention -- LONG WEEKEND. And to that end, I must bid you all adieu for now.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Progress on a much-disliked project

Yesterday I devoted myself to a project at work that I intensely dislike, updating the directory. There are a few reasons that I hate it, but the biggest one is probably that it's never done, never ever perfect and complete. The second I update it, someone quits, or moves, or is hired, or gets a new phone number or email alias... well, you get the idea. It's ghastly. Of course I make it a much bigger deal in my mind than it actually is, and I put off doing it so that it's hanging over my head for a while, which makes me hate it more... well, you get that idea too. I used a few anti-procrastination tricks to get myself to finally do it, although it was probably the "motivating factor" of being able to change offices when I was finished that finally got me going.

Naturally, I did nothing else all day, including blogging or working on my novel. I love to say "working on my novel" though, so I'm pretty sure I'll get back to it tonight. Events were conspiring against me yesterday, for on top of a day o' drudgery, a Six Feet Under disk was waiting in my mailbox -- so I had to watch all 3 episodes immediately, because we are rocketing toward the conclusion and I can hardly stand the waiting time to get new disks at this point.

Tomorrow is the reward for my first week of working 4 10-hour days -- Friday off! Somehow 3 day weekends are so much more satisfying than 2 day weekends!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

New schedule

So I'm working 4 10-hour days a week now. The benefit of this is that I will have 3 days off each week. The drawback is that my schedule now is somewhat dull, especially on top of writing a novel this month.

Basically, on work days, I get up early (so far so good!), feed the animals, get ready for work, work for 10.5 long hours (there is no free lunch in our "right to work" state), return home, feed the animals, write my 1667 words for the day, and go to bed. That's it, Monday through Thursday.

I'll still try to regale you with clever posts but nothing is happening to me. My house is still being transformed, though, and soon there will be pictures -- so you can look forward to that. And I can look forward to that! it means that I will take a picture, which I haven't done in a week or so. And my house will look brand new!

I'm not complaining about the work week -- I love the 4 days on, 3 days off concept DEEPLY. But when am I going to think up fascinating blog posts? That is the question.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Just a quick post

I only have a few minutes, but I thought I'd write a Monday post just to say that I'm alive. The novel writing is really taking up a fair amount of time! Plus and also, my work schedule is changing and I've been very busy.

Re: novel writing: I realize the biggest block I need to get past is my fear of being boring. (I may have mentioned that before. Sorry if I'm boring you.) So I usually begin my writing sessions writing some real drivel, not that I mean to, just that I can't seem to help it. By the end of each session, I've been writing something I wanted to, telling a story or showing a scene that I like. I am not rereading anything until the month is over, so each day is a new beginning, as they say. I am hoping that after a few more days of writing I can get over my need to be prosaic in my prose. I have to just write *through* the boredom. Argh.

Yesterday I went and had my eyebrows ripped off at the Hair Cuttery. Well, not the entire eyebrows, of course, but it felt like that. Every time I go, I question my preference for waxing over plucking, and I think it's just that waxing is quick and -- this is the most important part -- someone else does it. Because the HC is in the same shopping center as the supermarket, I can always be seen skulking around in there afterward, embarrassed by my bright puffy red brows. But by the next day I look mahvelous dahlink.

You can see I really didn't have any good ideas for posting today!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Ah, the creative life

Don't worry, I'm not going to go all "creative genius" on you. Especially since the first night of writing (for National Novel Writing Month) made it absolutely clear that I'm not one. I had fun, though, and the time passed without my realizing it. I made several false starts, which I left in, as we're not supposed to edit until the month is over. I kept finding that despite my best intentions, I returned to writing about myself, albeit an idealized version of myself. Or maybe "idealized" is the wrong word. Anyway, the main character seems to have a lot of me in her. I'm hoping I can fix that, as I really want to just make things up, just create characters and situations and conversations and thoughts that simply weren't there before. Is that so wrongh?

This week, I had to make a big decision about my work schedule, and I was having a lot of trouble with it because I was essentially forcing myself to be "realistic" which meant making a different choice than the one I wanted to make. I was told that I could choose to have a four-day work week and work 10-hour days. But I have had an enormous amount of trouble getting here early in the morning (I have flex hours now) and I would have to get here early to make the 4-day week work. So I kept getting "confused" about the decision because I wasn't allowing myself to choose what I really want: seriously, 4 days on, 3 days off? It's a no-brainer. Today I realized that all I had to do was figure out the schedule and stick to it, and I can do that if I choose to. If I find that it's just not working for some reason, I can go back to my boss and propose another change.

What do the two paragraphs above have to do with each other? I think when we open ourselves up creatively, it can seep into lots of different corners of our lives. (Ew, seeping...) I realized that I was imposing a lot of limitations on myself and the work decision, which I think were lifted when I allowed myself to look at things in a different way. Or something like that. Hey, I said I wasn't going to go all "creative genius" on you!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

It's November!

Can you believe it's November already? I am personally in shock. I think the fall heat wave threw me off, and now it's winter.

Last night was, of course, Halloween and the dogs and I had fun handing out candy -- but as usual I purchased much more than I needed (to my coworkers' benefit). We often have a lot more kids than we had last night. The dogs love Halloween -- small people come to the door! Groups of them! Although I think there was some dysfunctional behavior, in that their hysterical barking as kids walked by was probably daunting to some...

Tonight I begin my novel. Hmmm, there's a sentence I've never said before. Last night I dreamed I had laryngitis -- how transparent of me. I don't really need to "find my voice" to write this month, I just need to keep it fun and interesting. I've been waffling between writing about my life, or maybe a fantasy version of my life, or just completely making things up and I really, really want to just make stuff up -- somewhat realistic stuff, though, I'm not writing science fiction and you can't make me.

Come on, it's not too late to decide that this novel-writing month o' fun is for you! Just start your novel tonight, like I am.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Tuesday report

Yesterday the power washing of my house commenced. The house smells faintly of chlorine, which is (I think) what gets the mold off of the siding. The parts that are done so far look much worse than they did before the washing, but that's how it works -- everything gets cleaned up and then the new stain goes on. I'm very excited.

I could hardly sleep last night for thinking about my November novel. I finally settled down and almost fell asleep when my eyes suddenly popped open because I remembered I'm getting a new office and I just picked it out yesterday. Thinking about the novel had subsumed all other thoughts, but I'm also pretty psyched about getting an office with a door that closes and with two very large windows. And with an old-fashioned, gorgeous wooden desk. I've been editing in a cube for a year. I'll be in a different building, which will add some extra exercise to my life -- one of my friends said "it's not just work, it's a workout!"

That's all for now. Are you sure you don't want to write a novel in November???

Monday, October 29, 2007

Let's write a novel!

Oh, come on, it'll be fun! November is National Novel Writing Month, in which large numbers of people write 50,000 words in 30 days et voila! a novel! Or a lot of blather, or some combination of both.

I've never done it before, but this year it seems like just the ticket! Something creative to occupy me during the month of my birth. Perhaps it will delay my midlife crisis for 30 days or so...

You don't have to be good. You don't even have to think about whether or not you're good. You don't have to have an idea. You don't need a plot. You just write, a lot, for 30 days and at the end you see what you've come up with. You win if you just finish!

Here's the website to sign up:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Peecture Sunday

Thought I'd share a few pictures today, while waiting for my organizer to come help me, uh, get organized.

I carry my camera with me everywhere; my purse is actually a camera bag cleverly disguised to look like a messenger bag.

This little guy was singing his heart out one windy morning near the hospital:


A week or two ago, there was a really beautiful sunset as I was leaving work. The first of these two pix has some strange artifacts in it -- I don't know what all those moon-like circles are. They are creeping me out a bit, and I realize that I am probably one crazy picture away from becoming a spiritualist...


This one shows the perfect little crescent moon:


Here is my little goofy dog, Max. It's unfortunate that he doesn't know how to chill out and relax:



Saturday, October 27, 2007

Poll results: Favorite colors

A third of respondents picked blue, a third picked red, and a third picked other. I wonder what "other" is -- the little poll doodad won't let me have a fill-in answer, alas.

And when I say "a third" I mean one out of three, as in three people responded. Where's the love, people???

Friday, October 26, 2007

Simple pleasures and complicated feelings

I began the day feeling pretty upbeat. I was singing at the top of my lungs to the soundtrack of "Hairspray" and when I got to my parking spot, I bundled up and took out my umbrella. My umbrella is one of the best purchases I have ever made. I never had a really good one before -- two jobs ago, I worked in a place with an excess of cheapo, left-behind umbrellas so I used those, and then my last job had parking right outside the building, so I went on using a cheapo umbrella when needed.

I can't park near my current job, and I realized that if I was going to handle rainy days well at all, I was going to need a large umbrella, and being me, I was hoping to find a large AND pretty umbrella. I found just what I wanted at Studio Art in Charlottesville:


Isn't it purty, and cheery? This picture is actually of the compact version -- mine is hunormous, with a wooden structure/handle. It covers me completely, protecting my clothing and it can usually be held in the "Morton Salt Girl" position, unless the rain is going sideways or something:


So I was walking along this morning with my giant, cheery umbrella and enjoying the rain.

Once I was here, I saw a health news story that has me reeling. It's about serious mental illness shaving 25 years off one's life expectancy. 25 years! Most of the problem is the increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The only link I have is to Medline which requires registration. It's worth registering there, in my opinion, to get up-to-date health information, but you can probably subvert them with bugmenot.

Anyway, since I already have high cholesterol keeping my depression company, I sent this link to my doctor in the hope that we start treating that aggressively, with medication. But with my 49th birthday looming, I am gloomily feeling that I may not have much more time here, and that scares me a lot! So that's where I am, heading into the weekend, which will probably be a combination of meditative rumination and running around appreciating every good and beautiful thing I see...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A leaky roof and another chemistry experiment

Yesterday I mentioned that the rain would be a good test for my new roof. The roof flunked. I got home to find a small amount of water on the floor. I didn't really panic per se, but I put a bowl under the leak and listened to the plunk, plunk of the water drops in a kind of vague stupor. Of course I called the roofer, and he said he would come out this evening. But instead he was there first thing in the morning (how am I going to get up in the morning when the workers have left???), saying that he couldn't sleep last night, it just didn't sit well with him, his roofs don't have leaks. He was really very sweet and conscientious. The leak was in an area that had plagued the owners before me -- and when he saw where it was, he said he knew what it was and went up and fixed it. It's still raining, so I'll see if it has stopped leaking when I get home.

My rheumatologist convinced me to try another NSAID, even though I had a severe allergic reaction to the last one I tried. She said that it was unlikely I would be allergic to all the different classes of NSAIDs, but I have to say I am scared. There are a lot of articles on the internet saying that if you've had a severe reaction to one, you shouldn't take any, but you know how the internet is. I myself sort of feel "better safe than sorry" but the dr wants to find something that will help with my chronic pain and I have to say that I felt great on the last NSAID right up to the point that I broke out in hives. So we'll see how this one goes.

I think we all have a natural fear of taking too many drugs and of being chemistry experiments... the dr had good reasons for prescribing this one and I hope she's right. I'll be pretty worried about it for the next week or so, though. I really don't think those "erythema multiforme" posts would make a good ongoing serial!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm not complaining!

Remember when I promised not to complain if it began raining when it came time to paint my house? I just want my props now because I am NOT complaining. We need the rain and the house can wait. The new roof is on -- it's a good test!

The painting contractor stopped by this morning so that we could sign the contract and I could pay him half the money in advance. With all the work going on, I'm getting very used to writing extremely large checks to virtual strangers. So if you want to stop by, you might be able to convince me to give you one.

Wednesday is Queenie's daycare day -- I love dropping her off and seeing her play with the other dogs. This morning she and a Golden Retriever were playbowing endlessly at each other and it was way cute.

That's all for now. I'm feeling shallow lately. I'll try to work up some deep thoughts for a later post.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A dreary day

How I wish the weather didn't affect me so much! But I found it hard to get out of bed this morning, hard to get motivated at work, hard to walk what with the aches and pains, plus I wish I could have stayed at home today enjoying MY NEW ROOF. I'm not posting pictures yet, because there's not *that* much difference between an old roof and a new roof, although there's no moss on this one and it will last until I'm 78 and it features the famed "architectural shingles" which I think is a hilarious term. Aren't most shingles architectural in nature? Why can't we just call these "especially nice looking shingles, featuring variations in color and texture"? Ok, that's a long phrase, but "architectural" just doesn't seem right. Despite their gorgeousness, no one gets to see the house until it is completely done.

The best part of living with animals (yes, another brilliant segue) is that no matter what kind of mood you are in when you wake up, you *will* laugh before breakfast. There was nothing too unusual this morning -- Rosalie almost hurled herself off the bed in an attempt to get me to pet her belly and soon Max will be jumping as high as my head while waiting for his meals -- but they're just fun and entertaining all the time.

Last night I finished "An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England" and I highly recommend it, especially for those who read a lot or have studied literature. It was really funny and, while absurd, never descended into the incomprehensibly absurd as some writers tend to do. Warning: as a result of reading this book, you will feel that you are a bumbler. But do not be afraid, for it is the human condition.

Just started "Away" by Amy Bloom this morning and have enjoyed the first few pages and look forward to an evening of reading tonight. My current lunch-time book -- I keep an e-book on my Palm at all times -- is "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time" and I can't believe I put off reading it until now. Somehow the reviews never made it sound as appealing as it actually is -- the main character is extremely appealing. And I keep laughing out loud in the cafeteria.

Well, I'm blogging myself right into a much better mood. I wonder why that happens... and whether it is at all connected to the delicious apple dumpling I had for dessert today.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The best alarm clock ever!

Nothing says "hey, it's time to get up and start the day" like people climbing on your roof and tearing off the shingles. The crew arrived at 7 am, making my actual alarm clock entirely superfluous. So that's all it takes, a crew of men tearing my house apart. I wonder if these guys can stop by every morning?

Not only did I get up at a reasonable hour, but I'm also having fun saying "calm down, it's not like the roof is falling!... oh yeah, it *is* falling!"

At last, the pressure is off

Reuters Health reports that "emotions do not affect cancer survival." Cancer patients can now feel free to experience their emotions, including depression, without feeling that they may somehow be making themselves worse. I'm happy to see this particular "mind over matter" myth debunked; we're humans and humans get sick and die. People can't think themselves well when stricken with a terrible disease, and it's a disservice to sick people to pretend that they can.

Friday, October 19, 2007

And last, but not least...

...Rosalie the cat! Aka "the Roser" and "Roosevelt." Here is a glamour shot, in which you can see how exceedingly pretty she is.

Rosalie lived the first three years of her life at Piedmont Virginia Community College, where she had a litter of kittens who I imagine were the cutest little things on earth. Rosalie eventually trusted the person from Animal Connections who was feeding her enough to jump into the person's car on a rainy night, whereupon she was taken to a fabulous foster home. I visited that home to find a cat after my dear Madeline died. I loved all the cats there and it would have been hard for me to decide, except that when I approached Rosie, she chirped at me. The foster care provider said "that's funny, she never talks to me!" I took her home, where she hid under the bed a lot of the time, as she wasn't quite tame. She was, in the way of cats, extremely curious though, so I lured her out with toys.

Here she is in vicious killer mode:

I have no doubt she could get a real mouse -- I'm sure she has, many times.

I had to go very slow with Rosalie and not get discouraged when she didn't warm up to me right away. I do have a lot of patience, though, and I understood why she was scared. She would let me scritch her ears a bit and pet her a bit, but it was months before she would sit in my lap and months after that when she let me pick her up. Now she is the sweetest, most loving, snuggliest cat in the world.

She still loves to play, and the chirp she gave me when we first met has been repeated zillions of times now. She'll chirp before coming to see me, and if I chirp she will trot over to see me. I really feel like she picked me, and I'm so glad she did.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The joys of being single

No, seriously. I woke up in a great mood this morning, despite more than usual morning achiness, the bad day of yesterday shaken off. And I experienced one of the great joys of being single this morning -- the ability to make decisions about one's living environment all by oneself. No consulting with others! No arguments! It's just between me and the Lake Monticello Environmental Control Committee. Oh yes, it sounds like it would be concerned about, you know, the environment around the lake but it is actually concerned with exterior home improvements around the lake.

I'm having my house painted! And a new roof installed! Despite the cost, which initially caused more dread than excitement, I am now happy to be making these changes. And despite the sarcasm about the LM ECC in the above paragraph, they like the colors I've chosen and I like the community aesthetic, so we get along pretty well.

The work starts on Monday, weather permitting -- the drought is permitting a lot of building and home improvement, but I *promise* not to be irritated if it ends just in time for my home project -- first the old shingles come off, and the entire outside of the house will be power-washed. I will post before and after pictures (I know what you're thinking, "at last, something to look forward to!") and possibly "during" pictures if they are interesting.

Anyway, I love having everything about my house, both inside and out, being just what I choose.

Poll results: Animals in the house

First off, we seem to have a little trouble with terminology. We are animals, people. Only 60% of you said that you had humans in the house. You're a human! Did I *say* "other humans"?? Ok, enough chiding.

80% of you said that you have one or more dogs, and 60% have one or more cats. 20% said they had one or more other non-human-canine-feline animals (I wonder what they are?). How lovely! For me, sharing my house with animals is what really makes it a home, even if some days I think:

1) I'm outnumbered!
2) Who let the dogs IN?
3) And there are days I go upstairs to hang with the cat, saying "please don't make me go out there with the dogs again!" This feeling always passes.

Yes, I was a cat person for many years before I got my first dog. Sometimes the dog rowdiness can overwhelm me, but not very often -- normally, I love it! But cats are quieter.

Thank you for responding to the poll. Don't forget to check out the new poll, whatever it may turn out to be.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bad dreams

When I have a bad dream at night, it seems to follow me around all day. I always try to think about it when I wake up, and analyze it, hoping that will neutralize it enough for me to proceed as usual. That often works. But last night I had a dream that was so vivid, and that touched upon such deep fears of mine, that I found myself unable to let go of it. I'll spare you the details, mostly because the dream took a rather disgusting graphic turn, so we'll just skip to the analysis, and it was really a dream about not feeling good enough. That fear that I haven't earned my place at the table, my place in the world. It also hinged upon a real-life dream, which I'm also not going to share, except to say that I ought to have given up on it a long time ago, because it's not going to happen, and that's been clear to everyone except me.

Realizing that a real-life dream is not going to happen and that your subconscious still thinks it's your own fault is a lot of weight to put on a typical day, and this day didn't really hold up under the strain. I just felt kind of blue and am glad to be at home, with the dogs and cat, and not out there in the world. I expect I'll feel better tomorrow, and be able to face the day more effectively and productively.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Animal week, now in its second week

It's not that I have *so* many animals; it's just that I only managed to post about two of them last week. Today I will introduce Max. All the animals have a million nicknames, but Max's are especially silly. Most often I call him Mooshla or Smooshla. Do not ask me why.

Max is a cute little Pomeranian who was found wandering somewhere in southwest Virginia, and then sent to my favorite local animal rescue group, Animal Connections. I had been joking around that, since I had a medium and a large black dog, I now needed a tiny one (as I refuse to go in the other direction and get a Newfoundland). And then I was checking the AC site and the dear mooshla popped up. I went to meet him at his foster home and this is what happened: I sat down in a chair, and he jumped onto my lap and immediately rolled over for belly rubs, gazing into my eyes. How could I fail to be charmed?

The above picture shows him in a rare, contemplative mood. Usually he is playing or performing the traditional dances of Pomerania. Here he is with his girlfriend, Queenie, in the middle of an intense bout of playing:


You can see that he gets quite vicious and eeevil at these times, and some have referred to him as Batdog. Here they are when all the excitement is over:

Max has really made our household complete. He walked in the door and immediately got along with everyone. He is very polite but also full of fun. He will play anytime anyone wants him to. He likes to fetch, which I discovered rather late in our acquaintance, since neither of the other dogs like to. My little friend Jules came to the house one day and threw a ball, which Z & Q ignored, but Max leapt after it and trotted right back with it. Now we try to play fetch every day, since he likes it so much.

Max grins all the time and to look at him is to laugh. Now that the weather is getting cool again, he has taken to sitting on my lap, and snuggling up if I'm lying on the sofa. For some reason his fur smells delightful and when we snuggle up, I feel sure it's good for my heart.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Creative women and authority

Someone posted this NY Times article on a newsgroup of which I'm fond (hint: it has to do with dogs!). It's a little sad to me that young women are still feeling this way, although I certainly empathize:

Midway through lunch one day a young woman asked me if I noticed a difference between the writing of men and the writing of women. The answer is no, but it’s a good question. A writer’s fundamental problem, once her prose is under control, is shaping and understanding her own authority. I’ve often noticed a habit of polite self-negation among my female students, a self-deprecatory way of talking that is meant, I suppose, to help create a sense of shared space, a shared social connection. It sounds like the language of constant apology, and the form I often hear is the sentence that begins, “My problem is ...”

Even though this way of talking is conventional, and perhaps socially placating, it has a way of defining a young writer — a young woman — in negative terms, as if she were basically incapable and always giving offense. You simply cannot pretend that the words you use about yourself have no meaning. Why not, I asked, be as smart and perceptive as you really are? Why not accept what you’re capable of? Why not believe that what you notice matters?

It was inspiring, though, as well -- because it made me want to move forward in life with more confidence and to believe that my vision matters. And so does yours!