babblings…I’m feeling…

*lucky. So much Charley lovin’ going on in this house. After all the pain and loss this summer, I can’t begin to explain how blessed we feel to have Charley join our family. This dog. Oh my, this dog. He has the sweetest, most gentle essence about him. He is the best medicine I can imagine. And every day starts a bit brighter because of Charley. He awakes so happy and high on life that you just can’t help but feel better about life yourself. He is an absolute love. And I can’t even put into words how much of an understatement that is.

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*insightful. Ha! Yeah, that may be overstating it. But I have had a few things dawn on me recently. I’ve been in perhaps my most all-encompassing painful fibro flare to date. There is a weird balancing act that goes on with me and fibro, between refusing to give into it and yet accepting that I have to respect it. One thing that has dawned on me is that this seems to be the place I need for my mental wranglings. It’s just not something I feel comfortable talking to other people about directly. I’ve noticed that when people ask me how I’m feeling, I tend to sidestep. And another thing I’ve noticed is that I am so often apologizing because of fibro. Because of the things I just can’t seem to get done when in the grips of a bad flare up. Apologizing to people I love and care about for letting them down in myriad ways–from not returning emails and letters to not cooking the supper someone was really excited about.. Thing is, I’m blessed with the kindest, most understanding family and friends on earth–and they always find my apologies unnecessary. And I think it’s time I learn to let go of some of the guilt that comes with this chronic invisible illness.

*incredulous. Gray turned 15 yesterday! I am grateful every day that I get to be a part of this amazing kid’s life. Again with the understatement.

*weirded out. By the fact that I just can’t seem to make myself read lately. Since Dewey’s Read-a-thon a week and a half ago, the only reading I’ve done has been for homeschooling. Nothing that was just for fun. What I read for read-a-thon was awesome though! Loved all three books I read: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley (though I think I’m in the minority of people who actually liked his Lost at Sea better), March Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (can’t wait for final book of this trilogy), and Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens (reminded me of how much I adore awesome middle grade fiction; seriously, I was smitten). Just remembering how much enjoyment I got from those books, makes me think that today is the day I need to pick up a new book–like maybe Hark! A Vagrant, before I have to return it to the library.

*numb. Over The Walking Dead. Not numb as in “I don’t care,” but numb as in “I care too much, and I’m not sure how much more I can take.” This season has been nothing short of brutal thus far.

*panicked. But amazingly calm about the panic. Which of course is completely contradictory. There’s no way I’m going to get all the gifts made for Christmas. It’s just not going to happen. *sigh* And still I don’t stop trying. I worked on Chris’ gift much of the last two days, and can’t believe how little progress two days looks like. On a side note, I binged on the entire first season of How to Get Away with Murder during those two days. I do believe Annalise Keating may be the. most. intriguing. character I’ve ever seen on a television show.

 

babblings: moving forward…

Lots of ruminating going on here since I wrote my last post. Of the pensive variety, not of the chewing the cud variety. (Personally, I’m grateful I have only one stomach.) Thinking about how I might begin to live that more deliberate life, a life that is more acting-as-opposed-to-reacting.

Then I got this email from Chris in response to that post. There’s a reason he’s such a phenomenal therapist. Not that I see him as my therapist, obviously. Just that a lot of the things that make him such an amazing, amazing friend surely play into making him an amazing therapist too. Without demeaning my struggle in any way, he was able to remind me of what was already “right” with my life, remind me of the ways I was already leading the life I want. Essentially he reminded me that I don’t need to start from scratch here.

With that in mind, I figured out that there were two types of changes I wanted to make: the real honest-to-goodness changes in behavior, and the more subtle, but nonetheless real and important, changes in perspective and attitude. For example, I so often let myself get frustrated, even resentful, of the overwhelming amount of time I have to spend on homeschooling. It’s not that I want to beat myself up for those feelings, but maybe I could work on redirecting my perspective. Because when I look at it, every moment I spend on homeschooling, I’m living a giving life. And in some very concrete ways, it’s helping me live a more informed life as well.

So over the next month, I’m going to adopt two strategies. I’ll evaluate after the month is over to see if they’re actually helping. Now it may be that I end up mentally turning them into something else for the to-do list, in which case I’ll ditch them and try something new. But I have high hopes.

The first is to just keep myself a tally sheet, with the categories of “a more appreciative life,” “a more informed life,” “a more sustainable life,” “a more creative life,” and “a more giving life.” Every time I realize that I’ve done something the qualifies for one (or more) of those, I’ll add a tick. My hope is that this makes me more mindful of how I spend my time, and helps me view the life I already lead with a brighter perspective. I’d love to find that after a couple months of this, I won’t need to do it anymore because I will have internalized this brighter perspective.

The second is a little more proactive. Each week, I want to add more of each category to my life. I’m going to start small, with half an hour for each category, but would love over time to up that amount. And I’m not talking about things I already do, but about setting aside the time to add, with deliberate mindfulness, more of the things that to me make for a richer life.

We’ll see how it goes.

babblings: lost at sea, yet feeling inspired…

I can’t even count how often I’ve just thought of ditching the whole blog thing. Keeping a blog, that is. (I can’t foresee ever giving up reading blogs.) Thing is, my idea of what I want my blog for–a place just to record my life and work through my thoughts–always gets distorted the second I start thinking that someone else could read it. I somehow can’t get past the paralysis of that thought. Anxiety sucks.

Been sort of feeling lost in a lot of ways lately. Adrift. Not sure how to get my footing. I’m talking about life here, not my blog. Though it does sort of apply there too.

Thing is I do know what I want. I say so right there in the tagline. I sort of wrote that as my mantra a few years back, and it still applies. A more creative life. A more sustainable life. A more appreciative life. A more giving life. A more informed life. Yep–still want all those things. Still know those are the things that matter to me.

But it’s not the life I live in my heart. I feel like the life I live is “an obligated life.” A life of “musts” and “shoulds.” And I know to some extent there is no escaping that. Being human comes with responsibilities. And while I’m sick to tears of even the mention of fibro, there’s no avoiding the fact that it is of late sucking much of the optimism from my life.

Ah, but on the flip side, I’ve been feeling inspired lately. By my dearest friends.

One has been inspiring me to grasp opportunities and live in the moment and be open to the awesomeness of life despite it’s capacity to hurt us. She’s been reminding me of the joys that sharing brings. She’s been reminding me that being alive is a blessing, and that nothing could be more important than the connections we make with others. I love her so. damn. much.

Another friend has been inspiring me to accept what is. To grasp what good and wonderful and beautiful we can from even the most heartbreaking and painful of circumstances. And he’s been reminding me that we’re all full of contradictions, and that that can be confusing…but that sometimes we just have to roll with it. I love him so. damn. much.

And yet another friend has been inspiring me to embrace the magic of quiet pursuits. Ours lives are very different in some ways, but her deliberateness in choosing how she spends her time has been reminding me that I could choose more wisely myself at times. And that I should count myself as a worthwhile recipient of my time. And yep…I sure do love her too.

So have my babblings gotten me anywhere today? I suppose it remains to be seen. But I hope like hell that I can start living those inspirations. And that I can remind myself more often what it is I do want from this life. And that maybe, just maybe, I can drop a few of those shoulds.

this past week…week three

the week’s mood:

Sadness. Lots and lots of sadness. But also the love and comfort of friends.

in the reading room:

*First book finished this week was The Devotion of Subject X by Keigo Higashino. Annie had read it, and on finishing it, she pretty much shoved it into my hands because she wanted someone to discuss it with. 🙂  And I’m glad she did–it’s been a long time since I’ve read this sort of cat-and-mouse type of mystery. The two battling wits were not your typical criminal and typical detective, but instead a brilliant mathematician and a brilliant physicist. (No glazing of eyes ensued, as actual mathematics and physics were not really a part of this book. 😛 ) But as much as I enjoyed this book (and I truly did enjoy it!), it wasn’t perfect. I could have lived without the sexism…and gee, surprise surprise, it totally would have made for an even more interesting story without it. Here’s one of the most blatant examples:

Kusanagi had already accepted that even if Yasuko was involved with Togashi’s murder, she couldn’t have done it alone. She would have needed a male accomplice–or perhaps it would be better to call him the actual killer, whoever he was.

And I also wish there had been at least a bit of commentary on the event that starts the whole book rolling. The story itself starts with Yasuko killing her abusive ex-husband, who unexpectedly pops back into her life, tries to extort money from her, and starts beating on her daughter. What follows is the fascinating tale of attempted cover-up and the unraveling of the threads of this cover up. But what is never even mentioned is the depressing reality of a world that puts women in this situation to start with.

Annie is currently reading the next in the Detective Galileo series (Detective Galileo refers to the physicist, whose friendship with a police detective brings him into contact with the unsolved crimes). Or I should say the next that has been translated into English (I believe Higashino is a prolific writer, and I’ve no idea if these books are being translated in order). She seems to be enjoying it a great deal, and is excited that in this one the police detective has a new partner–a woman. Obviously, the addition of a lady detective doesn’t mean the book will have any fewer sexist undertones, but one can hope. I’d really like to read it when Annie finishes. (Update: Annie said she thought that as she read the second book it better re sexism, but then she got to the end and was proven wrong. 😦 )

*Next up was Crimes Against Humanity by Adam Jones. I read this book for homeschooling, though I’ve actually owned it for a few years. I found it to be an excellent introductory book. The author uses the legal definitions as a starting point for each chapter, but he did it in a clear way that was quite accessible. (I can’t claim that to be the case with every essay and article I’ve read so far in preparing our genocide/human rights course.) For each chapter, he discusses examples, usually starting with a well-known one but then talking about at least one example that isn’t quite as well-known. There were things in this book that were extremely hard to read, but that was to be expected. But one thing I really loved about this book was that with each chapter he talked about people who were fighting to change things. So while it was a book about the ugliest sides of humanity, it was still a book filled with hope. Another thing I very much appreciated was how the author didn’t pull any punches when it came to the Western world, particularly the U.S. Inequality–racial, gender, economic–seamlessly worked its way into many of the chapters of this book. A quote from near the end of the book:

In a significant sense, most readers of this book have a stake in systems of structural inequality and discrimination. Most must transcend their allegiances as comparatively privileged members of the global order, if they are to play a role in undermining the injustices that pervade it.

It’s a short book (under 200 pages), but I thought it was an excellent introduction.

*Read an article in Outside magazine, which I talked a wee bit about under the projects section.

*We had one of our wonderful weekend read-a-thons. Once Ana and Chris mentioned that they’d likely be reading mostly comics, I totally couldn’t resist following their lead. First one I knocked out was Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, which everyone has been raving, raving, raving about. And now I get why! It was so completely charming and funny and just plain wonderful. Serious, serious love.

*Next was A Bride’s Story, volume 6 by Kaoru Mori. While the storyline sometimes makes me a bit uncomfortable, I can’t help but love this series. Learning about the central Asian cultures of the 1800s and falling in love with many of the characters are both big pluses. But I admit that more than anything, I’m deeply in love the art. Kaoru Mori is just the most incredible artist, and the pages of her books are filled with so much exquisite detail. I can’t imagine that they are anything less than a complete labor of love.

*Next I did a little catching up on Marvel Unlimited–I had three issues (#10-12) of Ms. Marvel (adored!), an issue (#21) of Hawkeye (lukewarm), and 4 issues (#8-11) of Inhuman (very much enjoyed!).

*Then on to a reread of the Wandering Son Volume 3 by Shimura Takako. It had been a while since I’d read this, so I thought it best if I reread it before moving onto Volume 4. It is still just as sweet as ever. So lovely that a series featuring transgendered characters doesn’t have to focus solely on the fact they are transgendered. Instead they get to be people first, get to be individuals, just as it should always be.

*Next up was The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 2: Fandemonium by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. This series…hmm…what to say about this series. It’s wicked fun. It’s clever and intelligent. It keeps you on your toes. I know a lot of it goes right over my head, and yet there’s enough there for me to grasp that I can still love it. But it does make me envious of those who are quite schooled in their mythologies, because it most certainly must be even more delightfully fun for those readers.

*Then I read Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me by Sarah Leavitt. Wow. This was such a beautiful memoir. Truly beautiful, and all the more so for its sometimes brutal and unflattering honesty. One of those books that just ripped my heart out and made my brain go to places it never wanted to imagine.

*And the last book finished was Skip•Beat! volume 9 by Yoshiki Nakamura. Not my favorite volume thus far, but not my least favorite either. I loved how this one ended and am eager to see how this new storyline progresses. And despite my best efforts not to, I’m really starting to ship Kyoko and Ren.

on the screen:

*Rich and I watched the intro Project Runway episode for the season, and the first challenge episode (“Mad Dash Mayhem”). Little too early to have many opinions about whose work I really like and whose I don’t. But I can say I really did love Ashley’s winning look and was happy that she won. 🙂

*Not sure how we got so distracted from Once Upon a Time and The Wire, but we’ve been watching more “comfort” type shows lately. Which this week meant two episodes from the first season of Columbo (“Murder by the Book” and “Death Lends a Hand”) on Wednesday evening. Not only is it just sort of a light comfort sort of show, but we’re so loving the huge flashbacks back to our beloved 70s–the clothes, the funky soundtrack music (which so often reminds of the music in Helter Skelter), the hairdos–yep, we’re totally having fun with this.

*Thursday night we got back to The Wire with episode 3 of the second season (“Hot Shots”).

in the craft room:

*Not a lot happening. Six more granny squares. And some progress on my current cross-stitch project.

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in the kitchen:

*Pretty much a dud of a week as far as the kitchen goes. Life has been so screwy, and we’ve largely just been winging it.

in the garden:

*I really ought to bag this category. The deer were back, and mowed what little progress the beans and peppers had made since their last chow down. We did pick a tiny pile of jalapenos, but in general, all I want to do every time I look at the garden is cry.

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in the home improvement realm:

*I finally finished painting the trim in Max’s room! WooHoo. Because of the weird texture of the panels that make up his walls, there was quite a bit of seepage under the tape, so I still need to go and touch that up with a foam brush. And we bought him a simple little desk that he liked from Staples, but we’re waiting until I’m finished with that touching up before we build it. (Figure it will be easier to build in his room than carry it up the narrow stairway, but as his room is so extremely small, it would be in my way trying to finish up the painting if we built it now.)

in the homeschooling realm:

*Read Crimes Against Humanity by Adam Jones. Finished up plans and prep for week two of our genocide/human rights course.

*Read chapters 2 and 3 of A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, listened to the second lecture from the Great Courses series we’re using, read the first chapter of American Slavery: 1619-1877 by Peter Kolchin, typed up an essay assignment, and finished up plans (but still have two more chapters to read for prep) for week two of our history course.

in the land of parenthood:

*Poor Annie. This is her last week of work at the library and her first week of work at Tim Hortons. And this has landed her with over 40 hours of work spread across every single day this week. But so far she’s largely enjoying her new job, despite having to get used to being on her feet for eight hours a day and despite having to clean bathrooms and despite just having so very much to learn. I’m curious to see what her schedule will be like come fall–she has a pretty heft class load including two different science labs, so I hope she doesn’t end up too overwhelmed. We’re going to tell her that if they end up giving her too many hours, she just needs to quit. The last things she needs is to crash again, and school is far more important than her job at this point. She was really sad to leave the library, mostly because of the people, but also because she’s learned what a sweet job it really was.

fellow inhabitants:

*Aldo, you will remain forever in my heart. But dammit–I want you on my shoulder purring away. This has been a cruel, cruel summer.

on the project front:

*A small, but decent amount of progress:

The Devotion of Suspect X counted towards #38 (Read 50 books borrowed from someone else) of my 50×50. (37/50)

Crimes Against Humanity counted towards #37 (Read 50 books I never heard of before buying/borrowing from the library) of my 50×50. (32/50)

–We checked out the Mendon Public Library on Wednesday, which counts towards #214 (Visit every branch of the Monroe Country Library System) of our Million and One. It’s a smaller branch, but a very pleasant one.

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–Read an article in Outside magazine titled “Up on Cove Mountain” by Earl Swift, which counts towards #46 (Read an article from 50 different magazines) of my 50×50. It was about a couple killed on Appalachian Trail in September of 1990. They were through-hikers who’d started at the northern end in June, and were murdered in Pennsylvania near Harrisburg. Even 25 years after their tragic murders, it was disquieting reading this. Rich and I were not through-hikers, but instead just spent our honeymoon hiking a small piece of the AT a bit north of where Molly LaRue and Geoff Hood were killed. We didn’t meet them, but the timing is such that we easily could have–we were in the same area at the same time. Such a tremendously sad story. (10/50)

–We checked #100 (Eat at a barbecue joint) off our Million and One. Really this should have been checked off already as we’ve been to Sticky Lips a handful of times since we started this list, but I never remembered to count it before.

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–I finally got a few books (August Moon, The Waiting Place, and Smoke/Ashes) mailed off to Chris that I’ve been meaning to send for months now. These count for #9 (Pass along 50 books) of my 50×50. (14-16/50)

–I bought and mailed off the cutest little onesie from Etsy for N’s gorgeous babe. This counts towards #21 (Buy 50 Etsy or other handmade gifts) of my 50×50. (12/50)

Tangles counts towards #42 (Read 50 memoirs, etc.) of my 50×50 (22/50) and also towards my 104×4 personal reading challenge for the disease category (2/4).

Wandering Son counted towards my 104×4 reading challenge for the transgender category. (1/4)

happenings with friends:

*My mom called Tuesday with the news that an old friend of mine had died. It wasn’t unexpected. She had battled breast cancer many years ago and seemingly beat it. But the cancer came back. We were very close back in our middle school/high school days, though we each had a different set of friends we hung out with. We spent countless nights at one another’s houses, and joked that we were twins (she was born the day before me). My mom did craft fairs in those days, and we would make things for her to sell. We were roommates our freshman year of college, and would have remained so had I not transferred to another school. She married her forever sweetheart, my brother’s best friend all through our childhood years. My brother and I were both in their wedding. Her dad was the minister that presided at my wedding. I hadn’t been in touch with her for several years. Never a falling out, just a growing apart. We grew to have very different worldviews. But she was always a woman who carried so much love in her heart, and so much joy in her everydays.

*So worried and upset for Chris. So hate the limbo of waiting that he and his family are going through, especially since the answers at the end of this waiting might be really tough. It’s just so hard when people you love are hurting.

*On a bright note, this was the weekend of our readathon, which has become somewhat of a summer tradition for Chris and Ana and Rich and me. Just a time to hang out (through email), chat, and read, read, read. Three of my absolute favorite people in all the world.

out and about:

*Thursday we left early to take Annie to her penultimate day of work at the library. We hit the thrift store so she could look for some black pants and black shoes, which she needs for her new job. Found both. And then we took her to Cracker Barrel to celebrate her new job–she absolutely loves that place. And then Rich and I hung out working at the library.

*Before summer started, Rich and I decided that we were going to make it a Friday morning tradition for the summer to go to Central Library, and then to lunch and for coffee. But well, it just doesn’t pay to plan. Something seemed to get in the way every week…until this week! We hit Central where we both checked out more books than we can possibly read in the time allotted, and then we hit Sticky Lips for lunch, and finally stopped at Starbucks on the way home.

appreciating the natural world:

*Wednesday night we laid a tarp and some sleeping pads out and stretched out to watch the Perseid meteor shower. All of the kids joined us for at least part of the time we were out there. My goal was to see nine meteors (because, you know, nine). And nine meteors I did see, five of which I would call spectacular, and the other four smaller but awesome nonetheless.

the weather report:

*Temperature-wise, the week started off gloriously. Wednesday the high was only in the 60s. 🙂 And Monday brought some massive downpours. But by week’s end, the temps were back in the mid to upper 80s. I know this is everyday weather for many in the summer, but not having to deal with that kind of heat and humidity most of the time is one of the beauties of living where we do.

in sickness and in health:

*A not so great week. Actually the bulk of the week was just fine. But by Friday evening, not so much. A somewhere between moderate and severe fibro flare up (sadly brought on by myself–but I was having so much fun playing four-square with the boys that I just didn’t stop when I should have). The worst endometriosis pain in months. IBS rudely acting up. And even a rosacea flare up that bothered my eyes. Here’s hoping for much improvement in the coming week so I’m feeling great for our anniversary getaway.