Wednesday, January 23, 2008

An unworthy goal

Last night I was plotting today's blog post. I was going to use all kinds of high-falutin' words to attempt to get my blog up to post-grad reading level (see post below). I had all kinds of funny phrases in my head. This morning I woke up and thought "why do I care what a web widget thinks of my blog? and just what is it measuring anyway?" So I am sparing you that little experiment.

A certain someone suggests that I blog about home improvement, with lots of pictures. Unfortunately I haven't been taking pictures because I thought I would share them when everything was done. I'm really annoyed with myself because I don't even have a "before" picture of my formerly weird bath/utility room. It was gigantic, but for no apparent reason. Now it is still the same size, but it has a gigantic tub which makes the room look more proportional.

It's not finished yet, but should be soon. Although having the walls painted will take a bit longer. The tile is in, and it looks gorgeous. The floor is grouted and sealed, and the tub surround isn't yet, because the contractor needs some more bullnose. Now there's a fancy word for you.

Soon the doors will be installed for the laundry space, the laundry machines will be in there and hence out of the living room (!), the tub drain will be installed (quote from the contractor: "well, you could take a bath, but it would drain into your crawl space"), and a few other odds and ends, and I really will be able to relax in my wonderful spa tub, and also get my living room back. Not that I'll be spending any time in the living room...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

People... people who are bragging...

I'm so proud.

blog readability test

Although I'm pretty sure I'm going to start using a lot more fancy words now.
Just to get up to post-grad level.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Must. Make. Self. Blog.

I've become a little random about blogging lately. Possibly because my life has been turned upside down by contractors, not that I'm complaining. And possibly I'm thinking of you, gentle readers, and not wanting to bore you, for it is true that all I think about is my new bathtub, and sometimes, for variety, I think of the tile surround on said bathtub. There should be an actual bath this week -- this week, I tell you! So if I seem exceedingly mellow in the weeks to come, you'll know why.

I decided to turn to totally trashy reading after finishing The Happiness Hypothesis and Joe College. I decided that a discombobulated life called for easy reading, so mysteries it is! Currently, some book by Philip Margolin. I think it's called The Last Innocent Man. He would do well to differentiate his titles and book covers a bit more; it can get confusing. The book cover formula is:

A (good blank)
A (bad blank)
A (heinous situation)
and what could be
The title

So, like this:

A brilliant lawyer
A mysterious nymphomaniac
A grisly arson
and what could be
Burn Marks on Satin Sheets

The title should be in HUGE RED LETTERS. Seriously, he's a good author of his type, and his novels are page turners. I just don't know which ones I've read because he's got a bit of a formula thing going on.

Somehow I can't really keep mysteries straight, which is one reason I refused to read them for years. I really should keep a list, especially for authors I like, so that I can keep up with them without rereading. Somehow rereading a trashy book seems like the greatest waste of time on earth.

Well, that's all I've got.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A miscellany

I'm sitting here with nothing to say. So naturally I thought I blogging would be a good idea.

My house is currently in a state of great disorder due to the bathroom renovation. This is not something I can really complain about, because having the bathroom re-done is fabulous and I probably need to stop bragging about it. The disorder at home, though, has me a bit discombobulated. Also, I just realized that most of the stuff that's cluttering the rest of the house is not going back into the bathroom, for it is now no longer a utility room as well. So I need to start sorting and getting rid of stuff. But it's such a mess right now, I don't know where to begin. So I might wait until (a) the tile is all done and I can start putting appropriate things in the bathroom and (b) the washer and dryer are moved out of the living room. Also the tools my god the tools! There's a tile cutter blocking the closet with the dog food in it.

I'm reading a very interesting book called The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt, who teaches here at UVa. Its major premise is that our conscious minds and our animal selves are like a trainer riding an elephant. We can't make the elephant go where it doesn't want to go. We must understand and work with the elephant in order to effect change in ourselves. He also talks about 3 routes to happiness, which he says are meditation, cognitive therapy, and prozac (by which he means all antidepressants).

I've always been a fan of the cognitive therapy process, which is basically changing the way you think about things. One of his chapters is "I'm Right, You're Biased" and he talks about how we see the world through a "rose-colored mirror." He suggests that it's a good idea to get out of your own point of view, especially in conflicts. He says that even if you are sure you are right and the other person is wrong, try to think of one way in which the person is right, or at least understandable, and one way in which you yourself contributed to the conflict. This is an exercise I'm now trying to do, and I think it will be helpful during this election year. Haidt is concerned about the divisiveness in the country right now. I am too, but I always thought it was the other side's fault -- I always thought my side was right, not to mention moral and just. So I'm trying to listen and really hear the other side, and try to remember that they're not evil, that they are doing things for reasons that make sense to them and might even be understandable to me if I could really listen to them.

It all dovetails with my thinking about forgiveness, so I feel that I'm working on things that are important to me and that will help me grow.

As I said, he recommends meditation, and since my dr has recommended this to me as well, I will probably try it. I used to meditate when I was involved with a Tibetan Buddhist group in town, but I stopped practicing when I left that group. But I think I will try it again. There's a local group that meets on Tuesdays that I might try, or I might go it alone. We'll see.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Keeper of secrets

I love my friends. Because they tell me, gently, about my weirdnesses and inconsistencies. That's not the only reason I love them, but it's the most relevant to this post.

This past weekend, I was visiting a very dear friend who lives a couple of hours away, from whom I was hiding my bathroom renovation. In all fairness, I was doing it because she loves taking baths and I wanted to surprise her with my glorious new bathtub (which really is glorious and is almost done and I will post pictures when it is) the next time she visits.

When it all came out, she mentioned that I have often kept secrets from her over the course of our friendship. I feebly attempted to defend myself, coming up with various reasons that had made sense to me at the time, but of course I had to admit she was right because, well, she was. Then she said, "and you know what's really strange? You always get upset when you feel that people are withholding information from you." This made me laugh, that kind of laugh that occurs when someone has nailed you. You're half embarrassed and half pleased to be this well-known by someone.

In talking with another dear friend about it, I hilariously told this story without revealing the particular secrets to him. When I mentioned the part about getting upset when people withhold information from me, he said "that *is* true."

No, I'm not going to tell you, the reading audience, all my secrets.

But I did realize that my outrage when people withhold things from me is simply pure projection. I'm the one keeping things from them, so I blame them for keeping things from me. As another friend said "everyone has their secrets," which was really quite wise and with which I disagreed at the time.

So in an attempt to stop projecting this problem onto people I love, I've decided to start telling my secrets. Not every secret, of course, but secrets that really don't have to be. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Home perfection, I mean improvement

I got home yesterday to find my downstairs bathroom gutted. I didn't know they would be able to do that in one day. I'm very impressed. Today the framing is supposed to be done and the tub installed, so it's just a matter of choosing tile, which I have a feeling is going to be difficult. I'm already planning to fall in love with all the expensive tile that I can't afford. But maybe I'll find a reasonably-priced tile that I can love.

The painting is also continuing. I got to look at swatches on the walls last night and am liking them, for the most part. I think the peach color for the den and the loft might be too pink for me, so it could be back to the drawing board for that. I realized this morning, when the painters were discussing all the wall repairs they planned to do, that *this* is why having painting done professionally is such a good idea. I seriously would have no patience for all the prep work. I could paint all right (but not the great room, which is why I hired painters in the first place) but the prep work would kill me.

All of this work is so exciting for me! I'll post pix when it's all done.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Today's poem

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) 'Ever to confess you're bored
means you have no

Inner Resources.' I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,

Who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

--John Berryman - Dream Song 14

I do not like to admit I'm bored, because *I* always felt it meant I have no inner resources. Today I seem to be lacking inner resources. I can't exactly say why, maybe because I am, for some reason, exhausted. Maybe because today's work tasks are so routine that I have to stifle a yawn just thinking about them.

When I am at home, I am never bored.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Turning a corner

Although I didn't leave my house for 3 days this weekend, I did get a lot of cleaning and laundry done while I was there. The cleaning was partially in response to the fact that my interior painter is going to start work today, and the contractor who is installing my new whirlpool tub is going to start work tomorrow or the next day. Fun! It will be a total house transformation. The contractor started talking about resale value and I said "Are you kidding? This is going to be my dream home when it's finished, I'm never leaving!"

It's always been my dream home but it has needed painting the whole time I've lived there, and the tub will just make my entire existence extra special, I feel.

The laundry can only be explained by one thing: I'm feeling better. I have more energy. I care about what clothing I wear, which is not something one really cares about when depressed.

Not leaving the house, however, is probably not the best. Although it is like a little cocoon in which I can be free from worldly concerns...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

It's a dog's life

Queenie is ready for supper; moments earlier, she had hurled herself to the floor and now is licking her chops:

Everybody keep your heads in your own bowls: words to live by (thanks M!)

Zoe looking exceedingly cute:

Max looking quizzical but with glowy eyes of doom:

Confidential to Shelly: yes, that is my big foot in green crocs -- but don't you agree they look somewhat dashing with the pink socks peeking through? No? Well, they are only worn around the house and to the beach.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Shoe post; men, avert your eyes

So I'm walking down the street to my car and I'm just moving along, thinking my own thoughts, when suddenly I realize that my back doesn't hurt. In fact, nothing hurts. Walking is easy, and I feel good. I look down at my feet. What shoes am I wearing? CLOGS. Dansko clogs. Which I swore in college (30! years ago) that I would never wear, because they couldn't possibly be comfortable because they had a wooden base then, and because they looked good on my friend JoAnn, who was small and cute with small feet while I was large and ungainly with big feet, so I decided they would never work.

All my shoes now are both comfortable and supportive, but evidently the Merrill mesh clog-style shoe is no longer supportive enough. I must wear clogs, which seem to put my spine in good alignment, as well as supporting my very very flat arches.

Clogs are better than sneakers, which I wore for 2 years before my knee replacement last year, in terms of looking nice. And I do like them now. And I do have several pairs in really nice colors.

But really, is this what it's come to? Sneakers or clogs? Before you know it, I'll be in orthopedic shoes.

I'm feeling old.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Letting people off the hook

I had the opportunity to practice forgiveness today, in a small way. I went to my doctor at the appointed time (and she's usually right on time), waited 35 minutes, and then left. I called and left a message saying that I had been there but she hadn't, and to please call and reschedule.

At first I was somewhat irritated, because it was a very early appointment (and I got up on time this morning, yay me!). But I wasn't sure whose "fault" it was, and I put "fault" in quotations because I'm not sure assigning fault or blame to every situation is really important. (At least, that's what a friend of mine 30 years ago said -- I had some really bad habits then!) The fact was that we were not able to meet. I regretted this, but I thought I might have made the mistake as easily as she, so my irritation was already lessening because of that.

She called later and it turned out that it was her mistake that caused the mix-up. And that was my chance for reacting angrily, or even just peevishly -- anger would be overreacting, but showing irritation was not necessarily out of the question. But instead I let her off the hook, saying that it was fine, asking to reschedule. The basic wrap-up: this kind of thing happens to all. And it can be enormously satisfying to let someone off the hook.

It helped greatly that she apologized, and I am now thinking about the role of apologies in the ability to forgive. It can be easy not to accept an apology because I'm still mad, and I need a bit of time to cool off, but usually if someone apologizes, sincerely, accepting responsibility, I settle down and am able to forgive.

I have in the past few years forgiven some people who have caused me great harm or done egregious (according to me) things -- without an apology. But man, it took a long time to get there. One of them was my mother, and she died six years ago, and I wasn't able to forgive her for a lot of things until after her death. Sometimes I still have flare-ups of anger toward her. And now I think, if one is practicing forgiveness, doesn't that look a lot like acceptance of another person, including their flaws and errors and everything? And where does self-respect enter in? If forgiveness is about acceptance, does that mean we forgive/accept everyone who treats us badly? Where do we draw the line? Do we set ourselves up for more problems if we are too accepting? Or can we sever unhealthy relationships in a forgiving way?

Stay tuned as I continue to examine this phenomenon and ask even more unanswerable questions!

Beyond belief

I saw this bumper sticker on my way to work this morning:
Take your child hunting
instead of hunting your child
I did look hard to make sure it didn't say "instead of hurting your child" which also makes no sense, but it really did say "hunting."

Is it supposed to be funny? I mean, I really don't get it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Back to normal

...for some values of normal, that is.

I was delighted to find my office clean and organized when I came in this morning. I forgot I had done that before all that time off. It's so pleasant, I hope that I'll keep it this way (she says, as if she had no hand in the matter).

I wound up making a couple more resolutions which are small things that will make me happier. One is to get up on time and the other is to eat healthily (added to working on forgiveness and doing art once a week, at least).

My new approach to getting up on time is something I've thought about trying for years, but never have. It's a wake-up service called Snoozester. You can choose a character to wake you up each morning. There are other services I can try if I don't like this one. It worked this morning, though.

Another thing I'm trying to keep track of how I'm doing with my resolutions is Don't Break the Chain. The site lets you set up each goal and gives you a calendar that's separate for each. It's very satisfying to "check" off a day and see how many days in a row you've kept to your resolutions/goals/whatever you want to track. I just started it today, so again I don't know whether or not it will work for me. It felt good to check off one of my resolutions -- getting up on time -- but the others have to wait until the end of the day for me to evaluate them.

Would love to hear other people's resolutions and how they plan to stick with them.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Some pix from last night's fireworks downtown:

As you can see, I didn't quite develop the knack for it. I suspect I would have done better with a tripod, but would I have wanted to carry it around all night?

This was the first New Year's Eve I've spent alone for quite some time. My friends were all out of town. I was just going to stay home and entertain myself, which is quite easy for me, but at the last minute I decided I would enjoy some music and some fireworks (which mercifully were at 9 this year and not at midnight as usual) and so I went to our town's First Night celebration. And I thought to myself, embracing eccentricity means doing eccentric things and not worrying about what other people think. Normally I would feel like I would really stand out and people would look at me funny. Now I don't seem to care.

I had a surprisingly fun time. For the first time in years, I could choose exactly what I wanted to do without comprising with others, especially small children. I can't tell you what a pleasure this was -- I only had to please myself. Of course, having company can be fun, but selecting entertainment that pleases me (and wouldn't have pleased my friends) was a blessing in disguise.

And nobody looked at me funny, at least not that I noticed. I sometimes read while waiting for a show to start, but mostly I people-watched, an activity that I greatly enjoy and that I usually forget to make time for.

My very best wishes for a happy new year to you all!