Friday, December 31, 2010

Simple living really is not always all that simple

At least in the big picture aspect.  Doing something more simply, making, baking, taking care of a creature that will be used for food, gardening and preserving.  All noble and, given the state of the world, most likely to be useful and necessary skills at some point.

Consider the garden.  If you are able-bodied, preparing and nurturing a food garden, harvesting and preserving of stuff, well, all of that is much easier than when you are less able-bodied.  When walking is difficult, bending a caution and kneeling or squatting impossible, gardening can be the most miserable and unproductive thing you do all day.  Putting in raised beds, finding and purchasing tools and equipment is blazingly expensive.  Locating such assists second-hand is impossible. Well, maybe not impossible, but I am more likely to have the money faerie drop a whole blankety-blank-load of cash on me than I am to find an ergonomic hoe that I can afford.  However, I did find a portable bench that is weatherproof, but I am not getting it until I solve the issues here regarding permissions to put in a garden space, an entirely separate issue.

Preserving your harvest, or foods that you have located in a locavore kind of way, is wonderful, but only if you are successful at it.  One failed batch can completely wipe out any potential savings offered by the successful batches.  Raising food animals is even more fraught with issues.

So, you go along, making economies where possible, giving up some favorite things, making do and getting by.  Small things matter, like making soap, cooking from scratch and baking.  Even the failures here can often be reclaimed in some way or composted. 

Hand and home crafts are probably the best.  Making things for self and others, especially when I am re-purposing materials, is satisfying at a nearly cellular level. 

Developing these skills, learning them, experimenting with what aligns with my abilities, practicing and producing, has come to be more important to me now than when I dabbled in all of this as a young, energetic and hopeful wife.

The list of things that can be done to rely less on what other people produce for me to buy is endless.  It is complicated by the responsibilities that have taken on and over in my modern life.  Every single day brings choices that I never would have imagined facing.

Holding dear, or ideal, the days when all of these tasks and activities were commonplace is a pointless exercise.  More intellectually interesting than useful.  I was reading a bit from a book sent to me by a dear friend (one of those intimate on-line relationships).  It described how women created fabric, from raising and tending the sheep, to shearing and preparing the wool for spinning and weaving.  The final step was called, maybe still is, waulking.  It was a difficult and long process and the women had ritualized it, creating a ceremonial enrobing for what they needed to do.  There were songs and chants during the waulking, and the end found them standing the roll of woven tweed on end, turning it in relation to the movement of the sun and asking blessings for whomever wore the garments made from it.

There is no place in my modern life where that is possible.  The old days or olden times seem idyllic to me sometimes.  No traffic, no bills to pay, no deadlines defined by someone else, all of it.  But, to live in those times meant being subject to the seasons, the weather, pests and predators, not all of them non-human.  It meant long days of back-breaking work and hoping that what you did, made, provided, would be enough to make it through to the next harvest, the next hunting trip, the next acquiring and creating of what was needed.

The best for which I can hope are small gatherings of my family and friends where we shower love and support on one another.  Well, we do that to the best of our abilities and inclinations, we are, after all, only humans.  Or the rituals of baby showers and wedding showers and funerals. 

Beginnings and, not death, but the passage from the now to a new beginning.  That endless cycle of what it means to be human.  And, all of the in-between that makes a life.  Just doing the best I can, when I can and how I can, and releasing my attachment and responsibility for the things that I cannot.

None of it, not one moment, is all that simple.  Not scheduling and timing the baking and cooking and preserving.  Not the soap making or sewing or mending.  Not all of the trying to protect the few garden foods that I have.  Not even when I am sitting in the yard, knitting, watching the sky, luxuriating in the breezes from the little pond and enjoying the birds, bunnies and other small creatures that wander by, although those crystalline moments are probably the closest.

Maybe it is all about the process, the sacrificing time for the pleasure of doing and providing for myself.  Just trying to get it right, or close, or comfortable, or something.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

The sweetest things

I just walked past my bedroom and through the open door I saw Charlie sleeping on my bed.  I am guessing that Lili is in there somewhere, too.  I rarely allow the cats in my bedroom because their dander and saliva and hair (which is a carrier for both) gets all over the place in short order.

But, they are such sweet babies, that I let them in, pretty much whenever they like.  I think that my door has been continuously open to them for the past several weeks.  It is nice for them, although I must confess that having them there, all snugly and warm and fuzzy is a way for me to improve my own moods lately.  We must have reached critical mass in the dander/saliva/hair realm some time ago.  They should be out.  They should stay out.  Then, I see them there, curled up in the little cozy spaces they have made in the bedclothes and I just cannot deny them, and myself, the pleasure of their company and the quiet rest they find there during the day.

The love of these, two, sweet creatures gives me hope in a kind and loving Universe, the place where I believe that I live.  It is difficult to hold onto that belief some days, which is one of the reasons that I avoid newspapers and the news on radio.  Just too much damn sadness about which I can do nothing. 

Those guys, the furry babies have a small life.  Their universe is this house and the occasional visit to the vet.  Their food is nutritious, but not very varied because of their health issues.  They have toys and people to amuse them.  They have plenty of bird feeders situated near comfy window seats.

Their world in tiny, like really small.  And, they are O.K. with that.  I mean, what choice do they have?  It is all they have known, except for part of their kitten-hood on the streets.  I wonder, sometimes, what they think about what they have.  If they have needs I am not meeting.  Wants, with no way to express them.

No way to know for sure, so I do my best.  So, the bed.

AKA Puddin' Boy

Lilith

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Remembering

So, anyway, I am sitting here tonight, watching a DVD and noodling around on the computer.  My daughter and her wonderful husband and brilliant sons are on their way to Outer Middle-of-Nowhere where his parents live.  They go every year for Christmas and stay for the better part of two weeks.  We celebrated Yule on Monday and it was wonderful.

Tonight's fillum was Prince of Persia.  Not too bad, but there was an aspect of being able to...oh, if you have not yet seen this and want to, stop reading, or I will ruin something for you.  Seriously.  So, anyway, this aspect is about doing something that everyone has wished that they could do.  Go back in time, even if for a minute, and re-do something, or avoid doing something or stop something from happening.

And, once that plot device was introduced, I am not sure how much of the rest of the movie I watched.  I could not help but think about that.  About the things that could be changed, should such a thing be possible.

I have always felt, and said, that if it were possible to go back in time and change something, that I absolutely would not do it.  That I believe that every experience I have had is/was essential to becoming the person I am now.  I would keep them all, even the ones that were horrible, miserable or just generally fucked up.  Not even the couple of times that I nearly died.  Nothing little, nothing huge and nothing in between.

I meant it all of the times I said or thought it and I mean it now.

Except, now I know about another person who had a childhood and adulthood, built on abuse, similar to mine.  I can intellectualize about this with the best...done it.  But, I know her, and that makes it different somehow.  Up to this time, practically this moment, I have never met anyone who was either seriously abused or willing to share it.  It makes a difference, this knowing.  Please do not misunderstand.  I am not quantifying abuse or neglect or anything of the sort.  There is no comparing.  Each person's experience is just as terrible for them as another's experience was/is for him or her.  It is not even apples and oranges, because you simply cannot compare or measure suffering.  It is too specific to the person, too individual.

So, I spent a lot of years in therapy.  I spent a few, cumulatively speaking, mood altering with wine.  A childhood of experience in that realm formed and informed me about not going down or settling onto that path, but I dabbled every once in a while.  When I needed to.  When the pain was too great.  When I had no other resources.  I never got stuck there, not even for a few months, but I did have the occasional few days, maybe a week here and there, that were significantly more wet than dry.

I read.  I used to watch television.  I know that legions of children suffered much the way that I and my siblings did.  I know all of that.  But, now someone else is sharing a significant milestone in her journey to healing from her childhood.  She lives too far away for us to talk, but I am trying to let her know that there is survival to be found.

So, I am sitting here, movie over, very early in the morning and thinking.  No one gets out of here alive.  But, some people manage to go through their life without more than the ordinary, stream-of-life bumps.

Not everyone is tortured as a child.
Not everyone wallows in alcoholism or other substance abuse.
Not everyone suffers from the lack of basic resources.
Not everyone has significant or chronic health issues.

Yeah.  I get that.

And, I get that there is not one, single thing that any child ever did to deserve any difficulty or obstacle or challenge that his or her life presents.

We are all innocent until something takes that away.  If we are lucky, we find a way to reclaim that.

Like I did.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wondering

I have been home a few hours now.  Tonight was the evening version of Saturday Morning Coffee with the Chickies.  My friends.  My pilgrimage buddies and then coffee friends and then hang-on-for-dear-life friends.   We do this each year near Christmas.  It is great and some of us give presents and some of do not and no one ever seems to notice who is giving or not, much less care about it.

It is a nearly perfect of manifestation of what true giving and gifts are about.  No expectations to be dashed, no weirdness about what is received or given or anything.  It is as pure and unselfish an experience as any of us have and one would hope that all such exchanges could be.  It is a pretty fucking amazing thing.  Just amazing.  One friend gave me three...count 'em...Anna Lee mice.  Two kind of Christmasy, and one Halloween little mouse witch with a sweet, tiny broom.  Another friend gave sweet little things and a gift card for a book store.  I gave my ornaments and chocolate gelt, which I adore, not only for the chocolate, but for the whole historical aspect and have been doing so for, gosh, this old babe has been giving gelt for nearly forty years and not a single one of them spent as anything other than the pagan girl that I am, and Christian that I was.  Maybe I was a Hasmonean-wanna-be in a former life.   

Last weekend, or the weekend before that, I simply cannot keep any of this straight anymore, just four of us got together for dinner at the apartment of one of the sisters.  I met both of them, the sisters, on a pilgrimage to Ireland.  One of them, the apartment one, had been warned about me by one of the other travelers, that I was a witch.  I may very well be a witch of the rude, nasty and despicable kind, but she did not understand that the other person was telling her about my spiritual path.  She, the apartment Chickie, much later, told me that it was near the half-way point in the trip that she realized what she had been told and found, much to her surprise, by the way, that she liked me as a person.  Cool.  Groovy.

Anyway, back here in the States, she was part of the original coffee women and over the years, other people have come; some stayed, others left, not finding us to their particular liking, which is fine, truly, because that is the process by which we find the people who are essential parts of our lives.

I have become particularly close the the apartment Chickie.  I like her sister a lot, too.  In fact, we were friends first.  Anyway, the apartment Chickie does not drive, never has, does not want to, and, frankly, she is unsuited to being behind the wheel of several tons of metal and other assorted parts and bits and pieces.  We often go on to do something else with the day after the coffee group breaks up and wanders off to do whatever it is that they do.

So, anyway, at the whenever-weekend dinner, it was, hell, I will just use their initials.  Sheesh.  There we are, at M's apartment, with her sister D and her husband and our other friend S and her husband.  S's husband is recovering from a stunningly serious heart problem, which nearly took his life a couple of months ago.  He is not recovering well, but that is for later.  D is our friend who is dying of ovarian cancer.  She had had a big transfusion on that weekend and was able to stay for a nice, long time and when she left, the rest of us left, too, because it was just so sad to know that that night was likely to be the last time that we would all be together.

D and her husband did not attend this evenings lovely thing with all of us friends because she is too ill to leave her house.  Her sister, M, does not talk about D very much.  She gives the occasional update, but her heart really is not in it, you know?  I worry about both of them, but M does not talk about any of this with anyone and whilst it is her journey and I would never interfere, beyond what I have done to make sure that she knows that I am available to her 'round the clock, it is her journey and she gets to travel it in exactly the way she prefers.  I truly do my best to not worry about this, but it just does not seem like a good plan on her part.  Truly.  Sometimes it is so difficult to keep my thoughts about this to myself.  Seriously.

Anyway, it is time to write how I feel and say my goodbyes, whilst I still can.  Even if I do not make this happen in time, D already knows how much I love her and that all of us will be here for her husband.  A kind of goofy, but altogether lovely man he is, who lost both of his closest relatives in the past year, his mother and his only auntie.  He is the kind of husband that all of us would love to have.  Interesting in a not too painful way, a person with wide and varied interests, and, most importantly, a man who pulled up his big boy panties and was there for his wife in every single way that truly matters.  

And, then we have S's husband (the one with the miserable heart issues), who is not behaving well.  He has always been a joking and intellectually lively person, but two weeks ago found him taking a serious fall in his driveway, from which he is still sporting a black eye.  Tonight it was the worse that I have seen.  He kept repeating himself, over and over and some of it was inappropriate for general conversation and we all tried to make light of it, but it was so disturbing.  S talked about it when he left the room, and one of us is a nurse, the big-hot-shot kind and the two of them discussed what S needs to discuss at this week's visit with her husband's neurologist and cardiologist.

Things here, at the old homestead, are going from bad to more bad and I simply cannot muster any energy to deal with any of it because, in the scheme of things, like in life in general and the issues with which the people around me are struggling, my crap barely registers on any level of importance that anyone could devise.  My stuff is lacking in significance in the face of everything else and I am not able to cope with any of it.

There is great suffering in my town, many people who do not have the means to take care of the basics, much less anything extra.  I see them in my work and whilst I am working my ass off to help where I can and to find additional resources and connect people with them, it is just endless and I wonder how much good I am doing or if it is possible to do good at all.

I still cannot be holiday anything, and this evening's thing is the exception (the one and only, single thing I have done for months), because to not go and do and eat and share would have brought too much attention to myself, the feeling and being apart from everything that everyone else holds dear right now.  Pretending that I am cheerful and happy to be around people is so exhausting.  I am doing lots of volunteering, zoning in on something besides myself and it does fill the time.  I guess that it does do some good in town and I am, gosh, just so grateful that I have the resources to help, but I need this fallow time, some time to try to heal and maybe come back to who I was or who I want to be, yeah, who I want to be.  I am not empty, in any sense, but I am weary and exhausted to the bones, the ones that bedevil me and for which there is not adequate pain relief.

I cannot be the only person who feels adrift in all of this holiday stuff.  It is difficult to hold my tongue when I hear or read about how someone is stressed about not giving the exactly perfect gift or receiving some longed-for ideal present.  Or is distressed because other people do not have the same beliefs about how they feel holidays should be celebrated.  I weary of listening to the sadness someone feels because not everyone else, Christians or not, prefer to wish one another a happy holiday instead of merry Christmas.  I mean, seriously, Christmas is ruined because everyone else is not Christian or refuses to lock-step with their personal beliefs?  And, I just keep struggling with my own judgments about how others judge all those other people.  It is a vicious and pointless exercise and I just feel nauseated about it.  I do not want to be perfect or any such damn thing, but I would so love to not give a crap about how miserably some people are treated or judged.  Just pointless.

Frankly, if I hear or read about one more person bemoaning the commercialization or the Americanization or the Disney-izaion of the holiday I am going to scream or hurt myself.  I swear.  I really do.  If you are doing exactly what you want to do in your life, whether or not is it a holiday, then why do you give a rat's ass about what someone, anyone, else is doing?  If you have that much time in your life, to waste it worrying and fretting and judging other people, there is a possibility that you are not actively doing enough for other people or your neighborhood or your community or working to make your little part of the world a better place for everyone, every group, every creature, every issue.

I think that I must no longer be fit for being around other people.  If I start talking about any of this with other people, it might not even be a personal choice, as those other people might be very happy to kick my sorry ass right out of polite society, which, in itself, is kind of an oxymoron these days.  Crap, there I go judging again.  I am hopeless and best find a cave in which to live.  Posthaste. I am not fit company.

O.K., I thought that I was finished, but I am not.  One thoughtful, tender and well-intentioned thought stream.

Do your own thing.  I will do my own thing.  Leave my thing alone and I will offer and extend the same courtesy to you.  If you do not like my thing, please keep your opinions (to which you are entirely entitled to hold) to yourself.  Please, I am begging you, do not concern yourself or fuss about how I shop, what is in my grocery basket or shopping cart, how, or if, I cook, how many convenience products I use, what cleaning products I use, how I do the laundry, what I drive or do not drive, how I dress, whether or not I make all my own personal crap, how I garden or do not garden, how I educate my children, where I work or how I spend my money.  Please do not worry your pretty, little head about what I read, where I go, how I vacation, how organic my food supply or lifestyle is,  where I live or how many utilities and services I use, what my belief system or spiritual path might be, or how I manifest, or do not, what those beliefs may be.  If I have forgotten anything, please add it to the list of things about me which should not have to bother you.

I will do exactly those things, and more, for you. 

Oh, one more thing.  I have, for as long as I can remember, said Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.  I did this even when I was a serious and dedicated and faithful Christian, because I always recognized that my religion, spiritual practice and faith community was not the only one in the world, and because I did not want to marginalize anyone with whom I came into contact should they have beliefs different from my own.   It always seemed like, plain, simple and ordinary courtesy.  Just saying. 

Besides, the winter holiday season is chock-full of some of the most interesting practices, both spiritual and secular.  Many of them are fun, but all of them are informative to anyone who desires to be a well-rounded, educated and interesting person.  Open your heart and be a part of some of them. 

The more you learn about other people, how they live, what they practice, the less fearful you will be about those who seem to be different than you.  Educate yourself, inform yourself, move beyond only what you have been taught or experienced.  Yeah, just open your heart...if you are brave enough.  Courage, baby.

Monday, December 13, 2010

K's tote bag

I sort of forgot about making this, but did a little preliminary choosing of the parts and sewed the bottom closed and added the flap last night.  Today I finished it.  I had a nice mattress ticking fabric, in pastels, but I am still under the spell of the Hello Kitty flannel fabric and it worked brilliantly.  Much better than the cotton ticking.

I will drop it off when I get home from upnort' tomorrow night, as she is leaving to go home sometime on Wednesday.

I wish that she would stay here,
Where her friends hold her dear,
But the heart wants and knows,
What the heart wants and knows,
So back across the big water to her honey she goes.

Then denim is from that sack of jeans and overalls, most of it used now.  This is from a jeans leg and the trim is some old upholstery tape I have. I had planned on hand-sewing the lining onto the body of the bag, because it is kind of bucket shaped, wider at the top than at the bottom.  But, the lining came out like magic and fit perfectly.  How did that even happen?  There is a double pocket on the front and three pockets inside, the largest of which divides the depth of the bag.

She wanted one similar to the one I made earlier this year from her father's tweed sport coat.  She refuses to use it for every day, even though I made it very durable, so this one is the daily-use one she requested.  They are her bags, so I guess I have to just let go of any attachment I have to them.  Yep.


This is the bag from the sport coat.  I kept the front, the pocket and the vent in the back and lined it with the jacket lining; even though it was quite old, it still worked fine.  I used part of a sleeve and buttons for the strap, trying to keep it looking like, well, whatever it looks like.  Those are her beautiful, artist's hands.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

S's eyeglass pouch

She wanted a thing in which to stow her eyeglasses and she wanted it to be Hello Kitty.  I could not wait to give it to her, but she will have to wait for the other purse accessories.  Practically everything she has it this Sanrio character, but she loves it, so we all give it to her.

Eyeglass pouch, vintage button, craft shop charm and beads

     
Hello Kitty fabric, soft and fuzzy flannel
I think the baby sleepers and maybe a blanket or three still need to be made from this fabric.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The ornaments are mostly finished

Hankie quarter, beaded and made into a tree

Lace hankie quarter with green glass center

Shell center

Shell cluster center with blue rose bead

Stoneware beads center

Wooden bead with goldstones

One of the hankie quarters, beaded

Ribbon layered over red lamé

A whole bunch of fluffy wreaths

Fluffy turquoise wreath with tiny jingle bells
1.5 inch diameter beaded wreaths
I also made some tiny, purple felt purse shaped ones.  They had dangley beads at the bottom and ribbons scraps and rhinestones at the middle.  Made them on Friday and gave them all away on Saturday.  I will be making some more tomorrow when I sit at the gallery.

I also want to finish up the beads that I am using for the teeny wreaths, and will take those supplies along, too.  They were a pharmacy purchase because a friend gave me a gift card to the pharmacy for my birthday.  Yeah, I know, but she does stuff like that and my guess is that she thought I could buy one of my favorite chocolates there.  I went to spend it just a week ago and found some cool beads for making bracelets in the toy aisle.  I knew immediately what I wanted to do with them and bought three packages.

I have more of the fluffy yarn wreaths to make and have/had another ornament idea, but I cannot remember what it is.

Anyway, today is the first day in weeks and weeks and even more weeks when I have felt more hopeful about things.  Nothing has really changed, but I just feel better.  Even better is that I was able to walk today with less pain, and much less medication.  That may account for some of my good and groovy feelings, but there must be more to it.

Whatever it is, I want to hold on to it for a long time.  It just feels so wonderful to not be all sad and weepy and sad for a change.

Days of bliss I fear to be lost
And, not knowing why is the cost
Of doing the business of a life.

Brighter moments break the thrall
Of being lost and sad, and all
Those aspects that come with strife.

Holding dear the blessings of hope
I beg, will help me to cope
When the darkness returns with its knife.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Simple thoughts

Today was too busy and too full of complicated issues for a simpleton like me.

I had a despair hangover from last evening at the gallery.  Just because you are creative, and we invite you to exhibit with us, well, that does not give you free rein to be a cranky bitch.  But, you cannot tell someone where they can put their artistic temperament and still run a business that deals exclusively with artsy fartsy types.

I went to a craft fair after this morning's coffee get-together.  It is probably the last nice one before the holidays and whilst I rarely buy anything, preferring to make my own crap, they are great fun.  Seeing how other people, especially old babes like me, manifest their creativity is a glorious and wondrous experience.  I simply cannot get enough of it.  One of my never-to-be-manifested-dreams is to provide a safe and supportive place for all of these women to sell their stuff all year round.  The talent out there is stunning, and they are some of the nicest people on the whole damn planet.  Blessings to them all.

Because my sweet and wonderful daughter and her equally adorable husband left within ten minutes of my arrival at her house today, and then I left a mere five minutes after they arrived back home, there were no adults there to witness and then complain because I do not do everything exactly like the resident adults do things.  It is the first visit in a long time where I did not get in trouble for not being a clone, which probably would not have the capability of doing everything exactly like, well...oh, never mind.

The day ended with a small dinner of four of us coffee chickies and two husbands.  One of us is fully into her third year of treatment for cancer.  She is receiving some kind of hospice care and doing quite well.  Tonight she did exceptionally well because she had a big blood transfusion this afternoon.  Even so, she pooped out shortly after dinner and had to go home. 

But, it was so wonderful seeing her out and about and eating well and having a good time.  She even had a nice bowl of ice cream for dessert.  It is all so bittersweet.  I love seeing her, but it is such a struggle to avoid talking about her health, as she chooses to not have it be a part of our conversations or time together.  Her journey, her choices, her rules.  It is enough.

No one believes that I am really taking a break from life for a while.  You know, I am sorry that this retirement from just about everything is taking place during these fall and winter holidays, but this is the appropriate time to do this.  It feels very surreal.  Everyone thinks that I will be attending all of the parties, open-houses and actual holidays.  Even my lovely daughter's lovely husband asked me this afternoon when we would be getting together for Yule.  My simple reply was that I am taking a break from holidays for a while.  Whilst no one wants to actually discuss this with me, they keep believing that I am kidding or something.  

This is not an avoidance or some kind of rebellion or taking a stand or anything like that.  It is simply me taking a break in order to avoid completely breaking.

Nothing is simple.  What a shame.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tuesday

So, where was I?  Right, the aftermath of the vet clinic visit.

Today the cats went back for teeth cleaning and possible mouth surgery.  Yesterday's visit included a whole bunch of blood work, both as a pre-whatever for the anesthesia, but also because both of them have significant trouble with their teeth and gums.

Today's visit took the entire day, as they had difficulty recovering from the anesthesia, always a possibility with cats, sad to say.  I have never lost a cat to anesthesia drugs, but it is worth the risk because they simply cannot have mouths that hurt all the time and the additional risk that poor dental health causes to some internal organs, including their little hearts.

So, under they went and several hours later I received a telephone call that they were doing well, but not waking up very well.  They were supposed to come home at 2 p.m., then 3, then 4:30, and I was finally able to fetch them at 6.  They have lots of antibiotics and pain medicine, syringes for today and two more days.  Because I used to tech, I can call them on Friday and come in for more, need be.

They, the clinic, expressed some of the the blood drawn yesterday to one of the state labs so that they would get results sometime today.  It seems that someone there suspected that there was more going on than just bad dental hygiene.  They have feline stomatitis.  They are allergic to the plaque that forms on their teeth between cleanings.  How both of them can have this is beyond me.  During the past forty-plus years that I have had cats and dogs, we have experienced lots of physical issues, mostly because we adopt animals that are health compromised in some way.  We know to expect problems and that is fine.  But, this!  It is beyond my ability to understand.  Worrying is that both FIV and FeLV are often present with this other immune issue, but the tests indicate that neither is there.  Small favors.  I get to be frightened about this for at least a week.

L had four extractions, two of which needed jaw surgery.  C had one, and no one expected to have to do more than simply clean his teeth.  We, the docs and me, are going to get together and figure out a way to monitor this and maybe have me do regular treatments and cleaning at home.

So, the good news is that we are going to be as proactive about this as possible.  L is seven years old and C is just a bit over eleven and I am going to do everything possible to keep them around as long as possible.

The best news about all of this is that I had a lot of money saved for my next trip.  Two days at the clinic and the bill is nearly $1400.00.

Yeah.

Today

So, the kitties are better.  Not that they were manifesting any behaviors regarding the sad state of their teeth, but that is the way of cats, they suffer in silence, and I think that that aspect is what is causing me such distress.

Yeah, I am still nearly incapacitated by the vet bill, but I cannot stop obsessing about the pain that L must have been in with those lesions on her teeth.  Today is their last day of pain medication and I am thrilled because swooping them up and shooting this stuff into their mouths twice a day is doing nothing to improve their wariness of me or to help lessen my guilt about all of this.

The doc has assured me that there is not anything that can be done about this disease they have, but I am worried about either of them suffering again.  I am also worried about how to pay for more treatments and surgeries.  The mister was well prepared.  He had everything in writing before we went ahead with this week's tests and procedures.  I made certain of that.  Another fear is that this is going to be like every other time that he approves something (although never before at this great amount) and then changes his mind after the fact, particularly when the bill rolls in.  I am ready for this time, though.  I have taken the full amount out of my savings for my trip and when he goes all insane on my ass about the costs, I will have the cash to hand to him.  I probably should do that now, but I am holding back just in case he does not start yelling about the whole mess.

I am not sorry that I, we, agreed to do this, but L is seven years old and C is eleven and they have lots of teeth left, with lots of potential surgeries.  I am so conflicted.  I brought them into my life with the commitment to do whatever it took to give them a good life.  They are mine and I am a faithful person.  Hell, more than four decades of marriage proves that.

Just going to have to wait and see what happens.  What is that thing about worry?  Something like worry is payment on a debt you do not yet have, or something like that.  I just looked it up, was only kind of close:  Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.  ~William Ralph Inge

Here are a few more that helped me to feel a little better.
You can't wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.  ~Pat Schroeder

Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.  ~Glenn Turner

If things go wrong, don't go with them.  ~Roger Babson

Worry is rust upon the blade.  ~Henry Ward Hughes

Somehow our devils are never quite what we expect when we meet them face to face.  ~Nelson DeMille
Well, that one is just plain wrong...they are always worse.

Oh.  This is all about love.  Simple and plain, love.  I do not think that I can put a limit on that.  So much the worse for this situation, but loving is worth whatever it takes.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hardly anything in a simple-focal life is simple

It just is not.

Long and boring story about my cats.  Nope.  Just the results.  Yep.

So, anyway, I noticed that C is walking less comfortably and that his arthritis is not being kind to him.  L had really bad breath.  Strange as it seems, both of those issues are connected to the fact that someone who is not me feeds them those tiny cans of wet cat food all day long.  As a bonus, both are gaining weight.

So, off to the vet clinic we go yesterday for a check up and some pre-surgical blood work.  C has great teeth and was scheduled for a cleaning today.  L has horrible, really crappy teeth and even brushing them with this nice tasting liquid and gauze does not really help much, so she was scheduled for surgery as well, as it looked like she needed a tooth extracted.

They went in today and the surgeries went well...one extraction for C, totally unexpected by all of us...four extractions for L, two of which required jaw surgery as well.   Well.

Someone there suspected that more than poor dental hygiene was a factor for L, and expressed some of the blood that was drawn yesterday to one of the state labs, so that we would have results today.

I am still stunned all of these hours later, but both of them seem to have feline stomatitis, an autoimmune disease.  I mean, that does not even seem possible, that both of them have it.  FS is usually accompanied by FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) and FeLV (feline leukemia virus), neither of which either of them have.  I mean, stunned really, hardly expresses what I am feeling.

So, in the next week or so we will be discussing some new methods of keeping their mouths cleaner, but, honestly, I am so not looking forward to that.  Having to perform regular, like weekly, dental cleanings on them is not going to improve the quality of our relationships.  Simply pilling a cat every day messes up your relationship to a certain extent.  I am going to have to hold each of them down and do some serious rubbing around in their mouths.  I feel sick about it and we have not actually decided to do anything.  Heaven forbid that I should waste worrying on certainty. 

So, I was supposed to fetch them at 2 p.m., then 3, then 4:30 and finally brought them home at 6.  They were having difficulty recovering from the anesthesia, which is always a possibility with kitties.  They are, however, just fine and only a little groggy, three hours later.  At least they are home.  We have antibiotics for ten days and pain meds, syringes, until Friday.  If they are still uncomfortable then, I can get more.

The good news is that all is well for now.  The other good news is that I had already saved some money for my next trip and the $1400.00 in costs for all of the services is easy to pay.

I was thinking a bit earlier that getting a very, very part-time job might not be such a bad idea.  I was offered several for the holiday season, so it would not be difficult to do and since I am taking a break from all of my family for a while, well, I have the time.  Maybe when I am helping clients tomorrow I can take a few minutes to make a call and help myself, although I have to be honest and say that I am not looking forward to working in the belly of the beast again.  Translated, that means the mall.

All is well that ends well.
And, you can never tell
If working in a store will
Be the final pill
That pushes you over the edge.

I cannot know until I try.
Eventually, however, wondering why
I thought it would be fine
To take a bit of time
To earn some vet clinic fees cash.

Close enough.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Babe Time

Gallery sat today.  Took along my ornaments for this swap thing, for something else and for one other thing.  If I find some time and energy, I will make some for my friends, too, but that has little chance of happening.

So, anyway, only one person actually came into the gallery today and it was a friend.  Several town people walked by and waved, but kept on going.

I got lots of hand sewing done in those six hours.  Sweet and icy nice.

On the way home I decided that I simply could not eat curry one more day.  I cannot remember exactly when I made it, but it was at least six lunches and dinners ago.  It is yummy, but I knew that the last three portions were going into the freezer.  So, that means stopping at the market for food and, gosh, I did hardly anything physical today and was just plain exhausted.

The way home, just a few miles before I leave town, passes a Chinese restaurant that I especially like.  Forty minutes later I was on my way again, with enough food for taking me right through to Monday dinner.  Yum.

Whilst waiting for my food, there was a steady stream of people coming in and going out, as well as the delivery driver.  Someday I will write about that very weird, although probably just as interesting as it is weird, situation.    Really, just plain weird.

A woman came in, and it was clear that this was an unexpected stop for her as well, because she had to pick up a menu in order to order her take-out stuff.  In the middle of ordering her order, she forgot what her husband told her to get for him and was going to leave to get her telephone from the car to ask him.

I offered her my phone and she took it, asking a couple of times if it was really fine with me.  I told her that as long as she was not calling Tunisia, that we would be fine.  Really.

When she finished her call and the order, she sat down across from me and we talked.

Now, I have to share that I love talking.  Hell, I will talk to just about anyone, despite being a painfully shy person.  There is something about people, in person, that makes me able to have conversations with strangers, which I guess are always people, except when it is a stray cat or crows or something, so I wonder what it is that allows me to do this random, easy talking to people that I do not know, but keeps me from going to to-dos at the homes of friends just because there will be people there that I do not know.

I am really digressing here, but a couple of weeks ago we hosted a traveling poet and a local poet at the gallery.  We have, host and offer public events all the time and I go to and often facilitate the daytime ones, but if it is in the evening, I just quail and end up staying home.  Sometimes I feel compelled to promise that I will show up for one of these things, but I almost always break those promises.  I know that I will do that when I make the promise and those who know me know that I will most likely break the promise, but they keep asking me to make them and I keep breaking them and it really is embarrassing and pointless.

But, I actually went out, in the dark, to this poetry thing.  It was nice, wonderful really, and I enjoyed myself.  The traveling poet is very much in the reality story-telling process, much like Billy Collins, whom I adore because he is the first poet of that discipline that I ever experienced and also because it is the kind of poetry that I have always written, except for the times when someone forced me to rhyme.  Bastards.

So, there I am at the poetry thing and all is going well and I am not panicking or anything outwardly visible, but I know that I have reached my limits, had endured entirely enough of late-night, O.K., early evening, sheesh, grown-up fun and I know that I should just pick up my stuff and leave before anyone notices.

But, nooooo, I have to be a big girl and stay and do grown-up stuff with the grown ups.  It did not take more than ten minutes for me to manifest how truly socially inept I am.  Man.  Even now, this moment, I can feel myself flushing and blushing and I am right back there, feeling that desperate need to just get the hell out of there.  Seriously, what is that all about?  Especially at my age.  I am already old enough that I will likely not ever, as in never, be able to figure out this sort of thing. 

And, then, there I am, sitting in the take-out chair, talking to another take-out chair sitter.  And, having a really nice conversation, and I am not feeling the teeniest bit shy or retiring.  Same thing happens when I teach or give workshops.  Maybe it is the total stranger part that makes this easy.  Maybe less threatening.  I do not think that I could do that with a man.  Too many cultural barriers.  Besides, despite how much I love men, and even though I have some wonderful men friends in my life, that direction is where most of the pain in my life has come.  You know, sometimes I really hope and wish that there is reincarnation and that I will have a chance to develop good, safe, wholesome and loving relationships with the men in my life.  A father who, well, that is not important to these musings.  But, a husband who could love me even a little bit for who I am, oh, that would be so nice.  I would really love that.  Next time in the flesh I hope I have that.

Whatever the dynamic, it was nice hanging out for that bit of time, talking to another woman and just, I do not know, being able to trust in the process.

Babe time.  It was really great, and I had a wonderful dinner that I did not have to cook.  Even better is that tomorrow is Saturday Coffee.  Life is so good.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Too early

I am a night owl.  Always have been. 

Living a simple life seems to carry a lot of emotionally embarrassing baggage.  It is my experience that those who truly live a simple life seem to be so judgmental about the daily habits of what that entails.  And, I can never decide if sharing my thoughts about such aspects of how a life is going along is simple observation or judgment in itself.  I mean, how does one separate the two, or is it even possible to do so?  I just do not know about that aspect, but I do know that I can never figure that out.  Maybe it has something to do with those who husband animals and large-ish crops and have so much responsibility every day.

Anyway, I offered extra time to a client yesterday and we are meeting at the Library at nine o'clock this morning.  I could have slept in for another hour or so, but us night owls need lots of preparation time for early in the day stuff.  I have been up for more than an hour and am finally able to do more than sit and try to stay awake.

A nap later in the day would help, but that is another embarrassing thing to do, much less admit to doing, although I will likely partake of that guilty pleasure anyway, even though I have tons of unfinished stuff around here.  I have not even reached that part of today and am already manifesting my inner slacker.  And, feeling guilty about it, too boot.

I have always wanted to be a morning person.  On the few occasions when I am up early enough to see the day begin, sunrise and all that jazz, I love it.  In the moment, I love it, but I guess not enough to make it a regular enough practice so that it seems more natural to me.

I have always been intrigued with circadian rhythm experiments and thought that I would like to participate in one.  I wish that I had a life that allowed me to find my own rhythms, on my own.  I kind of worry that I would discover that I am a true child of the night, that my nature is to sleep all day long and arise only near dusk.  Maybe I would have to live a life more alone than the one I now have.  Maybe my only human contact would be other owls when I go out for provisions from the 24-hour gas station convenience stores, silently wandering the two or three aisles of cereals, canned soups, snack foods and motor oil and those dangle-y, evergreen-tree-shaped auto air fresheners.

Maybe I need to find other children of the night.  I wonder where they hang out.  I cannot even think of any all-night places, so maybe they just congregate in the park or the parking lot at the mall or the cemeteries.  Or, where?

Or, maybe I live in the wrong latitude and should have been born (or move to) another hemisphere.  Maybe I am the classic lost zygote.

I am either not living according to my natural needs or I am emotionally or intellectually fighting against my own best interests in my struggles to avoid the dawn.  I guess that after more than six decades of messing around with this that I should have come to some, oh, I do not know, perhaps some kind of uneasy, but doable, peace about this.

Well, I had better finish my breakfast, and get ready for the day.  Lordy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Simple Thoughts


Being a simpleton, I have simple thoughts.  I like to think of my self as complicated, but most of the time I am as complex as a box of rocks, and that is on a good day.

But, that does not stop me from having random ideas, notions and crackpot musings.  If nothing else, it keeps it interesting on this end.

So, anyway, one day last weekend was particularly challenging in the whole self-esteem departments.  My daughter is having a challenging time of her own and is using me as her safe place to let off steam.  No problem, because that is what mother's are designed to be for their children, the ultimate safe place.  Unfortunately, this has been going on for a considerable while now and I think that it has become more habit than genuine release for her.  I think that I might be at the end of my endurance for this.  Like seriously not able to continue to hold up my end of the dynamic.  It has gotten to the point where I am reluctant to visit her or talk on the telephone.  How fucking sad is that?

Which brings up another thing...I am trying to stop cursing.  I came to profanity late in life, as in only fifteen years ago, or so.  Factor in that I really, really and truly like swearing and I now have another serious dilemma.  I never curse in front of  family members, but my friends and my writing are fair game.  Add in the continuing drama in my personal environment, and by Saturday evening I was at the end of something, maybe my rope or my thread or something tenuous like that, hard to hold on to and, well, like that.

It is difficult to have any reasonable life if you think that you are letting down everyone around you and I was feeling worse than I have in a very long time.  Seriously worse.

Then I decided that as long as I was feeling so depressed that I might as well work on my budget, such as it is.  Turns out that I am not in as sad a financial shape as I thought.  Because I am old now and have accumulated a lot of crap stuff, I rarely have to buy anything.  Lye and oils for disastrous soap experiments, groceries and gasoline for the car that I use are my major expenses and do not have to be included in the not-buying crap stuff  issue. I am managing to put a little away each month for future traveling, as well.  I am keeping up with my medical costs and can continue to do that as long as I stop getting so sick.  I can still afford to have Saturday Morning Coffee with my friends.  I can still afford to volunteer instead of trying to find a real job that pays real money.  Makes me shudder just considering that possible task.

And, when I added it all up, I can manage very well, am managing very well indeed.  Who woulda thunk it.  Not me, and the simple act of doing that budget work made me feel better.  A lot better. 

I also took a look at my other relationships and I am doing outstanding in that area.  Yay for me.  Work is great and so is my other volunteering jobs.  Double-yay.  I have been asked to curate an exhibit early next year and the yay-for-mes add up nicely.

I guess I have to remember that even though I will never be able to fix some things in my life, I can still do the best of which I am capable, in each moment and just move on.    I have to remember that being dangerously depressed is not so much fun, but it is temporary, despite how unyielding it may seem in the moments that it holds dear.  There is always tomorrow and new opportunities.  It is enough.

One more thing.  I am not spell-checking this writing here.  Let the errors fall where they may.

Stupid "location" will not work, so I am in the moment.

Tired

Today was too long and I am too old and still not well enough to manage such a strenuous day. 

Keeping in mind that what I actually do is not difficult in the sense of what strenuous really means, but it is within the context of what I am able to do.  In fact, I was going from one errand to another and there was a two-woman road crew that was making small repairs to the road, and I remember thinking, as I was driving past them, that I really do not have much physical work in my life. 

I see and know about so many people who really do physically demanding work and I always feel a little of my inner slacker coming through when I see it or think about it.  I really do not work very hard.

When it comes to mental work, I am right up there with just about anyone you could name, but my best bet is that even those other mental-workers have some aspect of physical activity in their lives.  I know that even T, who spends most of his time in his wheelchair makes time each day to work out at the Y or at home.  Me, well, I do not do that.  Even when I am making art or sewing or messing up a batch of soap, or whatever the heck else that I do around here, it is not hard work in that sense. 

It occurs to me, fairly regularly, that I am not as physical as I should or could be.  I do not because it hurts.  It hurts in a way that pain support cannot help.  I make no apologies for that, but even a day like today simply exhausts me.  Today found me at the dentist, at work figuring out the logistics of how we are going to serve clients within the context of the remodel, visiting the gallery to prepare for the next exhibit, the post office, the bank, and the grocery store.  Once at home I did laundry (up and down a tall staircase), made chicken curry soup...oh, my, will it ever be ready to eat?...and I have to take a rest before I can shower and wash my hair.  This here, sitting at the computer with a fan blowing directly on me, is the rest.

Seriously, that that little effort could bring me down and make me sweat and ache all over is just ridiculous, insane, stupid and astounding.  Heck, even I can see that. 

I do not think that it makes me a bad person or anything, but I really and truly do not work very hard.  Well, maybe it does make me a bad person, but even that thought is not going to have any effect on what I do, you know.  Sad, but true.  Enough of this.

I have to share that giving myself the name of Simpleton is one of the most bestest things that I have ever done for myself.  I have been calling myself that for at least a year or so and I think it completely suits me.  Making it the title of this place was brilliant.  Every time I see it, and my eyes looking back at me, well, it just makes me tingle all over.  It is like a little hug each time I look at it.  Even better than having Jimmy Smits as my fantasy boyfriend, and that is saying some.

The soup cannot be ready yet, but I am going to put in the coconut milk and thicken it up a bit and have some because I am unable to resist that seductive aroma any longer.

New process, first batch, fresh lesson

You know, when I poured that soap yesterday, I knew, like really knew in my heart, that I had stirred it too long.  I tried to pretend that it was going to be fine, and if I had stayed up all night with it and kept testing to see if the loaf could be sliced, well, I might have gotten actual bars out of it.

But, I did not pay attention to how long I was grooving on the while stirring thing.
I did not pay attention to the environment in which I was making the stuff.
I did not stay up all night.
I did not test it for slicing.

I waited until this morning and got this.

It gelled beautifully, I swear.  But, I stirred it too long.  I also think that standing out there in the cool and lovely afternoon distracted me and I clearly remember that there was nothing between the bottom of the rockin' purple pan and the open-work wrought iron table.  Rats.
It is find to enjoy the lovely Autumn day, especially the sky, which totally knocked my socks off, but you have to pay attention to what you are doing, for crying out loud.

I did more things wrong than one would think to be humanly possible.  It is, however, a lovely soap, lathers beautifully and has that nice, fresh scent that only new soap can give your nose such pleasure.

It seems like the only thing I did right was to not have enough lye to make all three batches.  So, anyway, when I get back from the dentist and the bank and work, where I have to check out the newly remodeled workspace and find out how tomorrow is going to go, I will take my new 1.5 quart crock pot out of the box and slowly rebatch this crumbly mess. 

Well, off to chop up the corpse so that it melts down more effectively and then to brush my teeth so that I do not totally gross out my dentist.  She likes me a lot and I would like to keep it that way.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Soap

I have been trying to make soap for more than a week.  Stuff keeps happening and I cannot squeeze it into the day.  It rains.  It is too cold, but that happened only one day and the weather, except for the couple of days of actual rain, have been wondrous.

So, I actually took a break this afternoon to make the darn stuff.  Three batches.  Olive, grape seed and coconut oils, my favorite blend.  Late last week I went to the farm supply store to look for some new molds.  I wanted one that was sloped on the sides, so that the bars would slightly narrow at the top and I have been unable to construct anything decent enough to work.  I cannot explain why I have this obsession with the shape, subtle though it is, but I do.  And, I want to be able to pop the loaf out and make a variety of slices, without having to make the predetermined sizes that a wooden mold would give me.  Well, sort of.  Never mind.

I also had this absolutely brilliant idea and bought roof flashing and PVC plug/caps to make round bars, being too cheap to buy a mold, and just before I went to sleep the other night I realized that I could not use the flashing because it is made from aluminum.  Rats.  Although, when I have the time, I might experiment a bit with the stuff, just to see how black it becomes and if it ruins the soap.

So, anyway, I took a moment from all of the hand sewing on the xmas ornaments for this swap in which I am taking part, and hauled all of the stuff outside.  My kitties are way too curious and there is not any way that I can make soap indoors, which means that this is a seasonal activity for me.  Hence the angst about not getting this darn project finished. 

I have a new bucket and pan that I decided to get when I was at the farm store.  Red and purple and I just like them so much.  The pan worked better than the bucket for these small batches and I think another visit there is in order.  It still amazes me that plastic works so well in this process.  All the stuff was finally outside and the cats were inside, despite Lilith's efforts to the contrary, and I realized that I had enough lye for only one batch.  Double rats.

The nice part was that because I was making a single batch, I could take some time and enjoy the process.

It was a bit cool outside; the air felt to be somewhere around 50-55F.  No wind and the sky was as glorious as only autumn skies can be.  I have a brand-new stick blender, but chose to put it aside and bring the soap mixture to trace by hand.

I really have no idea how long I stood out there, stirring and basking in the lovely day, and when it came to trace I kept stirring a bit, only because it was so wonderful to be doing this so slowly and to be a part of the magic that is soap making.  I just love the whole thickening part of the making of soap.  I love how it slowly comes together and the patterns you can make in the stuff.  Time seems to stand still, just me and the mixture and my wooden spoon, making beauty, transient though it may be.  I really do love that part and I have to wonder why I am always in such a blasted hurry to get this done. 

Whilst I was stirring, I was thinking about the women who made their soap before everyone got so serious about measurements and times and additives and all the rest.  I wonder what they would think of our grams.  They made their own lye from their own wood ashes, and I am certain that the end result differed all the time.  They rendered their fats from the savings from the slaughter of their own animals.  My best guess is that is was not always purely fat and nothing else.

They used what they had and they still got great soap, at least most of the time.  Even in the midst of a busy and demanding life, sitting and stirring a pot of goop into something useful might have been the perfect excuse to sit and enjoy the quiet and the process in itself.  I would be that they made it outdoors, just like I do.  Kind of silly, but I felt a real connection to those women this afternoon.  Maybe not so foolish.

It was also my first time using the room temperature method, although, in this case it was the outdoor temperature method.  The coconut oil was slightly warm because I popped it into the microwave so that it would slide out of the jar, but the other oils were the ambient temperature of my back yard and when the lye mixture was ready, I just mixed it into the oils and it was as easy and uncomplicated as can be.  And, frankly, even though I did not keep track, I really do not think that coming to trace took any longer than it does using the cold process method.  The bonus was not waiting around for everything to equalize in temperature before mixing.

I really like it and, depending on how the soap looks tomorrow when I un-mold it, this is going to be my new way of making soap.

All in all, it was a nicely productive day.

Tomorrow when I am out and about with appointments, I will pick up some more lye and will get those last two batches done before dark.

I almost forgot about the mold I found.  It is a mud tray, the kind you use when you are installing drywall and have to mud the seams, the places where the panels abut.  It is 13.25 inches at the opening and 12/5 inches at the bottom, the length.  The top is 4.5 inches at the opening and 3 inches at the bottom, the width and is 3.25 inches high, but the batch of soap only filled it to 2.5 inches.  It has a thin, metal strip along one long edge for scraping your mudding trowel (or whatever it is called), but it is totally not in the way.  It is a very sturdy plastic and cost me $2.50, so I bought three...because I intended to make three batches.
The Soap Mold, formerly known as Mud Tray
The other mold I found was at a discount hardware store and is a tray for use with narrow paint rollers.  The plastic is flimsy and I am guessing that they will not last long, but they were only 99 cents and should work well for making four rectangular shower bars.  This tray has the roller bumps on the bottom, but I can pad that with some cotton batting beneath the plastic that I use to line my molds.  It is 6 inches wide, 10 inches long and 2 inches deep.  It was difficult to photograph because it is so blazing shiny.  It should also work really well for the melt and pour bars that I am making for the grandbabies. 
Small, kind of flimsy roller tray, soon to be soap mold.
I found the best uber-soft dinosaurs to embed in the clear glycerin bars.  They like stuff inside of their soap bars and most of the small toys are hard plastic which does not make for a particularly comfortable bubbly experience in the bath when the bars wear down to where the toys are.

These are the dinosaurs.  They are approximately 2.5 to 3 inches long.  The green and orange ones are kissing because it was the only way I could get them to stand up.  Huh, they are kind of blurry, too.  I will try to do better.
Very soft and lovely dinosaurs




Did you know that there is a glass kiln that you can use in the microwave?  Well, there totally is, for goodness sake!  For someone who is saving all of her discretionary funds for travel, I am seriously tempted, as it is too labour intensive to use my ceramic kiln for little projects, which are the only ones that appeal to me right now.  I wonder how that can work, since glass needs a lot of heat, like lots more than it takes to steam a potato, something that has the capacity to alarm me once in a while anyway.  But.  Man, when I think of the holiday gifts I could make with that baby.  Oooooh, baby.

At around $130.00, they are only a tenth of  the cost of a small, tabletop kiln.  My big one is a Paragon, and they make the small one, too, one that I have wanted for, oh, about ten years or so.  And, the microwave ones get up to 850C inside, which is likely to give me nightmares, so my best guess is that I will not be getting one, especially since I am already having enough trouble sleeping. 

More research is needed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Worthiness

Right now I am making gifts for the winter holidays.  Well, not exactly right now because I am here at the computer, but I just left that mess land of wonderment on my kitchen table.  As part of taking a break from all of that close work, I also am planning an a game or two of Mah Jong and a quick look at a couple of sites that, if not parallel what I practice, are close enough on occasion to keep me coming back.

Frankly, I am a very high-maintenance kind of forum member.  It takes just about every micron, or however you measure such things, of my determination to not offend when reading at those places.  Part of the difficulty I face there is that many of the (mostly) women still do not have the length and breadth of life experience that someone of my age has.  But, my goodness, there is so much judging going on there, but not only there and probably not a general practice of their day-to-day lives.  I sometimes wonder if I was ever like that and the sad and unavoidable truth is that I mostly likely was.  

I remember many times when I felt that I had something new to share and could be quite relentless about talking about whatever it was.  Try as I can, I do not remember sharing with anyone else how lame or unworthy someone who did not believe the same things as me I might think that someone to be.  

Now there is this whole behavioral practice, that is part of people that I like or love or whatever who are ready to jump all over what someone else believes and judge the crap out of them.  When it is truly offensive I will speak/write up.  If it is racially or culturally or religiously dismissive or that objectifies a group of people, well, you better hunker down and hold on to your tasty bits, because I will take a stand on that sort of thing.

But, most of the time, I just move on and ignore it.  Like I did two times just now.  I read and move on, not sharing or writing or anything, because to take a stand on all of these relatively minor things makes me just as bad, just as judgmental, just as critical and non-supportive as the behaviors that offend me.

So, anyway, I am making these gifts.  Today's efforts were fabric ornaments, the kind you might hang on a tree or wreath, or something.  I have big plans to make personalized totes for my coffee friends and fill them with home made soap, marmalade, bath salts, fudge (which is really fabulous and whilst it is a slacker recipe, everyone always wants me to make it) and knitted washcloths.  I am also embedding flower seeds into paper and making little books of the pages, with planting instructions and some information about each of the plants.  Each is receiving one more thing, something that is related to a personal interest of hers.  

One friend is getting a pincushion and needle keep because she is beginning to sew and I know that she does not have either of those, as well as a few sewing notions.  Another is getting bookmarks, which are embroidered or plain ribbon (have not yet decided) with beads.  One of them is getting three loaves of my bread and so on for the rest.  I am trying to make what they like and have said they can use and if it is consumable, so much the better.  I have everything except the cotton for the cloths, and I keep forgetting to buy it and they are going to take me a lifetime to finish and I have only six weeks.  Erp.

Which cycles right back to worthiness as pertains to the people for whom I am making this crap.  I happen to know that each of them wants this stuff, especially the totes because we are all trying to use reusable bags when we shop.  But, each of these things was chosen for it's re-gift-ability.  So, if one of the recipients is in a mood and just does not want a particular item or finds that she simply does not get around to using it, she can just pass it on to someone else.  

You know, when we give a gift to someone, it is because we love or like them and we just want them to have whatever we give without any expectations about how they use or not use it.  Once it is given, it is theirs.  They can do whatever they like with it.  Keep it, use it, give it away, throw it in the trash, whatever they like.

I have another friend...all right, she is my sister, but she is going through another rough bout with her drinking and in this moment I am not all that happy to be related to her.  But, you know, it is her life and I can have all kinds of opinions about it, but I have to keep them to myself and let her take this part of her journey on her own.  She is only a year younger than I am and I am just worn out with all of the drama.  

So, anyway, she and some of her friends gave a money gift to the daughter of one of them on the occasion of the birth of her first child.  It was a nice chunk of money and the daughter and her husband used it to take care of some bills related to the baby's birth and to purchase some things they needed for the baby.  

That sounds great.  You would think.  However, the group of them had decided that this gift was to be used to open a savings account for the baby's education.  The fact that they never mentioned it to the young parents, and the whole thing about a gift being a plain, old, no-strings, no expectations gift has not lessened their distress over how the money was used.  After hearing her complain about this for the third or fourth time, I asked her that if the account was so important to them, then why did they not buy something long-term investment-wise with the money, buy it in the baby's name (although I am not certain that you can legally do that any more) or in the name of one of the parents with the designation that it was for education.  

Her answer was that that was too much work and that the parents should have known that such a large monetary gift was for a larger purpose.  Maybe they think that when sperm and an egg combine to make a baby that there is some alchemical process that bestows the ability to read minds on at least one of the parents.

The bottom line is that she and the other babes do not believe that the parents were, or still are, worthy of the gift.  And, that is what I read today in two different forums.  That whole belief that whatever we give, especially if we make it ourselves, should be received by the recipient with extreme and slavish gratitude.  Their praises should be sung, although they would be ever so humble about hearing such sweet things said about them.  The givers should be petted and fussed over, and if none of this happens or...horrors...the gift is not properly appreciated, then the person who receives the gift is not worthy of the effort that went into making the damn thing.

And, you know, that is part of being a gift giver.  If it comes from the heart, then we find out what would please that person instead of putting our pleasure of making and giving ahead of theirs.  I try to practice that.  Last fall there were two family wedding, nieces of which I am so fond.  The weddings were two consecutive weekends, preceded by two other consecutive weekends of wedding showers.  They were in two different states, neither of which is the state in which I live.  I went to all four events and made certain that what I was giving would serve them.  

Once niece always wants me to make something for her.  She does not care what it is.  She is having her first baby late next spring, and I asked here a couple of weeks ago to choose two colours and an animal.  I am making all kinds of stuff for the baby and wanted it at least try to match the colours and decor that pleases her.  S'kay, anyway, she wanted wine charms for her wedding gift, similar the the gemstone ones I had made for her mother.  I did that, and made a two-drawer chest to hold them.  I also made matching coasters, but I keep forgetting to send them to her.  The other niece wanted a gift card to one of the department stores in her town.  

I was thrilled to oblige both of them.  
Because they were gifts.  
Because I love them.
Because it was what they wanted or needed, but it does not make any difference to me.

I and they are satisfied because they got what pleased them and I got to do what pleased me, which was pleasing them.

No strings.  No expectations. No judgment.  Nothing but love.

And, the best part is that there is not any angst or worry or disappointment.  That is as it should be.  So be it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Slowing down

I have to begin eating more inexpensively.  Groceries are just too darn expensive.  I have been trying to have a garden here for nearly three years.  I had one, a nice large one for decades, but you know how it is, you get busy with family stuff and then someone plants grass and there you are.  But, I want another garden space.  Interestingly enough, I can plant all the flowers that I want, which I do not want, and that is fine.  I want a food garden, but I need permission.  Those who give permission are not.  Giving it.  I do have this small patch of rhubarb, crowns from my daughter's garden and next summer they will be old enough to harvest.  I am so looking forward to rhubarb preserves.  Lots for me and lots to share.

I tried this year to plant food crops around the ornamental plants in the front yard, but they did not grow and some of them completely disappeared.  We used to have a lovely garden in the back, but the preferred plantings there are turf grasses.

This is not about the darn gardening, but not being able to grow my own food is at the core of the whole grocery problem, or at least part of it.  We have all of this outstanding space and nothing but grass growing there.  I do not get to choose.  Were there a committee who decides these things, I would not be on it.  Actually, I think that there is a committee, but there seems to be room for only one person.  And, that ain't me.

I do have this plan for next year, though.  There is this thing that you can do with pairs of big, plastic tubs that you cut up and put together and use an indirect watering system, like, ummmmm, where you use textiles or ropes or some damn thing to wick the water into the soil.  Damn, I wish I could remember what that was called.

Anyway, if I haunted the charity shops and found suitable containers, I could totally do that next year.  They, the containers, would be on the patio, which no one uses, although I used to when I smoked, so I would not be damaging any turf and I could grow a lot of food in them, maybe even beets and carrots and onions.  Oh, yeah, baby, that could so work.  I would just have to haul in some soil and buy seeds.  I am also thinking that they could look kind of cool and decorative, as well.   Well, that is my hope so that I do not find myself on the wrong side of someone's opinion.  Lordy.

So, anyway, got to save money on vittles.

No more convenience foods, although I do not know how I will survive without my Progresso chicken noodle soup. It is my budget and I can make that exception.  Whew!  That was a close one.

No forgetting to take food with me when I am out and about and then having to grab something at the drive-through.  That does not often happen, but every little bit helps.

I do not think that I can give up Saturday morning coffee with the friends, so that is off the table.

Plus, I am not eating enough flesh.  Really.  I have diabetes and a vegetarian diet is simply not working well for me.  Besides, I am always so hungry and that inevitably leads to extra snacks and meals.

So, I dragged out the slow-cooker and used it on Monday.  Three days later I am still enjoying the lovely soup that I made.  It was supposed to be stew, but it would not thicken, so it is soup.  Really lovely soup, and there is a huge chunk of meat that has not been shredded into the broth.  It was a sandwich this morning for breakfast, but I have to noodle around and find more things to do with it.

I will also be going back to making a week's worth of oats and rice again.  If it is already there, waiting for me in the refrigerator, then I have no excuse for wanting something quick and not-so-great.

I also have to start meal planning.  Man, I am so bad at that.  I used to do it, like decades ago, when my daughter was still little and even later when she was still living here, although I was already slacking off then.  But, it has to be done.  Oh, gods, I am going to be so cranky about this. 

Part of the problem is that I am too busy to make recipes.  Since I retired, I am busier than ever.  I sometimes wonder how I had time for a paying job, but I did, although I was always exhausted after a day of being on my feet and trying to satisfy customers.  I was pretty darn good at that, but it takes a lot out of your energy bank account.  And, I like plain food, like the soup.  I do not like fussing with more than a couple of ingredients or making anything that takes more than a few minutes to throw together.  That is why the slow-cooker will be nice.  You just toss everything in there and forget it for a few hours or overnight.

That is my inner slacker talking.  Well, truth be told, I am a fully invested outer slacker as well for things that do not excite me, get me all juicy and motivated. 

So, food.  Easy and healthy food.  The lovely beefy and vegetable-y soup will last through the weekend, but I am going to have to come up with something to buy for the next go-round.  I am thinking that a nice chicken curry would be nice.  Yum, nice.  And, I have to keep looking on the Internet for more slow-cooker recipes, but ones that do not have soup mixes or salad dressing or other convenience ingredients, all full of salts and sugars.  That would be such a huge step backwards.  There have to be healthy recipes out there, right?

Oh, rats, it just occurred to me that if I am going to do this here, that I will have to, or should, take pictures of the stuff I make, as in keeping a decent visual record in addition to all of the spewing.  I do not know if I should do that.  The food I make is delicious, but kind of ugly.  I do not want to look back on this project and unintentionally disgust myself.   Maybe there is some kind of photo resource that I could join and pay for beautiful food images.  I would not pass the images off as photos of my own food, but could say that this is what my food would look like, were it not so freaking ugly.

Aw, crap, I have to do labels, too.  Man.

Sheesh, already messed up.  Forgot the recipe.  I am too tired.  Maybe tomorrow.