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....


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... 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


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


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.


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.