Thursday, July 30, 2009

Meanwhile, Back on the Ranch...

I have lots of good pictures from our vacation, and good stories to tell. Those are coming. But, right now, I'm just dealing with the 350 emails in my inbox (have to brag about that, because the number of emails you receive while on vacation says something about your self-worth, right?) and, more importantly, the devastation wreaked by a ginormous hail storm that hit our house the first night we were gone. Apparently, according to the internets, it was one of the most damaging storms to hit the Denver area in a long time.

It certainly damaged our house, which now needs new skylights, a new roof, a new paint job, and some new gutters. Luckily, none of this is urgent. At least, we can't see any leaks to the interior.

Insurance doesn't cover the damage to our utterly demolished gardens, unfortunately, or to our trees, which were virtually stripped of their leaves:

And all that effort gardening this year? Here is our yield--one rotting, unripe little tomato, squatting among what's left of the stalks in its bed:

I hope someone will share summer tomatoes with us this year--I'm so sad we won't have our own!
There are downed tree branches all over our neighborhood, and our backyard is no exception:

So, it has been strange to come home from Canada, and a lovely summer vacation, to find that we have little shade, no flowers, no vegetable garden, and a big mess to clean up. It has been cloudy, cold, and rainy. It is as if we stepped right from July into November. And August has not even begun.

Lots of thoughts on all this:
I know not to link weird weather to climate change, and yet, I can't help but wonder.
I'm grateful we have insurance to cover the damage to the house. We needed to make a lot of repairs anyway.
Having the garden destroyed sucks, but I'm also reminded that we are playing a bit at having a garden, and that the safety net of the suburban grocery store is firmly in place, at least for now. Imagine if we actually relied on our garden for food. Imagine if we weren't actually playing at what it might be like to take care of ourselves in that way. I'm both relieved and disturbed by this.
Fragile, it all is. So much to be grateful for, so much fear to hold at bay. But mostly, the gratitude.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

See you soon...

We're all packed, the alarm clocks are set (well, they will be soon), and we have our game faces on. Canada, here we come!

I'm not taking my computer--can you believe it? So check back in a week or so, and I should have some pics posted and some fun, crazy stories to tell.

Keep our peace, happiness, and safety in your hearts, won't you?

See you soon!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Heading North

Nuts-up. Off the rocker. Round the bend. Gone crazy.

That must be me, because somehow, for some reason, next Monday I will be getting on a plane with my kids and flying to Canton, Ohio (never been to Ohio). Then there will be an eight-hour car drive. To Canada. Then six days on a beautiful lake, all three of us in one room, sharing a cabin with three of my best friends, none of whom have children and who may or may not know what the hell they're in for.

All without Eric.

Here is what I'm imagining: lots of trees. A glassy lake. Trips for ice cream and to the petting zoo. Long conversations with the ladies. Relaxation and lots of laughter. kids fighting over legos. Having meltdowns over crayons. Refusing to go to sleep at night in a weird bed, with their sister's leg punching them in the kidney. Getting stung by bees, bit by mosquitoes, and complaining that the lake water is too cold, the sand to sandy, and the food not exactly like we have at home.

Me losing my shit with my kids in front of my friends. Me throwing my children out of a moving automobile. Me leaving them in Canada.

And still, I'm sooooo excited! I can't wait, really. And I'm actually going to take my camera, for once, so there will be evidence that I actually pulled it all off.

That is, provided we all make it home in one piece. Keep your fingers crossed, and send me any road-trip-with-kids advice you have. I've got goodie bags packed with games, art projects, pipe cleaners, and dolls. I've got DVDs, music, and books on cd. And, for now, my sanity.

What else do I need?

Record's in the Groove

E woke up Sunday morning with a nasty 24-hour stomach flu, but was well enough by noon that he could watch Nolie so that Addie and I could attend the Boulder Dinner Theater's production of Annie.

We'd had tickets for a few months, after Addie saw the movie Annie and proceeded to traipse around the house singing Tomorrow at the top of her lungs for days on end. We went with two other moms (who coordinate the whole thing, bless their hearts) and their daughters. We sat together at a two-top, had a full-course meal (including mud-pie for dessert, yum!) and watched a live production of Addie's favorite musical. She clasped her hands at all the right places, sang along, and squirmed about like a monkey. It was pretty much her idea of heaven.

I had a good time, too, though I started to feel a little funny after the intermission. Nothing really strange, but just a little bit of trouble tracking things and a general fatigue.

About ten minutes after we got home, though, I got that aura that indicates I'm about to get a migraine. The auras are getting worse over time, so that I'm almost totally losing my sight to the static, except for on the periphery. I've come into migraines late in my life--they started once we moved to Denver, and get them rarely, maybe twice a year.

Except this is the second one in a month.

Anyway, this was a worst case scenario--both Eric and I sick, sick, sick, and the kids bouncing off the walls with too-tired Sunday-night sugar-high energy. Auntie TT saved us--not a small mercy--by coming over and playing with them outside for an hour or two and getting them to bed, while I cowered in my bed, icing the shit out of my neck and wrists and praying for dark.

I haven't done much research on migraines, but I've heard what you've heard about them, so I have hints. Here is my guess:

For me, I think they're brought on by not getting enough sleep, coupled with too much caffeine. I recently stopped taking Zyrtec for allergies, because it functions as a sleeping pill for me, and made it virtually impossible for me to wake up in the morning. Because of Eric's new work schedule, I need to be able to wake up in the morning and work. So, I switched to Claritin. So, I had a few sleepless nights while my body adjusted to life off of Zyrtec. So, I drank to much caffeine. The day of Annie, I had two cups of coffee, a diet pepsi, and mud pie. That's a lot of caffeine. So, I got a migraine.

That's my theory, anyway.

As I've reflected on this and thought about how things are going, I've made a few changes. First, I need to relax more during the day. This means meditating or doing yoga everyday (how many times have I written THAT on this blog!?!). It's just not very negotiable if I want to stay healthy and happy.

Second, I need to sleep better. That means one cup of caffeine everyday (oh, those afternoon sleepies!) and, weirdly, staying up a little later so that I fall asleep easily. It means I bought myself a new memory-form pillow. It means lots of deep breaths before bed.

It worked last night. I had a really good night's sleep, woke up fully rested at 6:30, and feel like my brains are resituating themselves in my head. I hope it works tonight, too.

Now if I could only REMEMBER all this for once: meditate, stretch, take care of yourself. Such a broken record.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Birthday Clara

Like every other sewing mama out there, I'm in love with the book Weekend Sewing, which contains the pattern for this "Clara" doll. This one's for our buddy Scout, who's celebrating her third birthday today. Pretty cute, yeah? And made her in an evening or so. What's not to like?

(H/T to Dandelion Bones for first cluing me in to Weekend Sewing, and this great pattern :)).

Side thought: Clara also does not have a neck, like some other anorexic turtles I know.

Double side thought: The Dalai Lama would say I've developed an attachment to that particular criticism, at this point, and that I should find a way to let it go. Dishing it out, taking it, yadda.
Also, I think we need a new camera. What do you think?

Grosgrain Giveaway

Had to post a link to this giveaway, for this super-sweet bracelet. Thanks Grosgrain!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Moment Before

My friend says my profile shot makes me look like an "anorexic turtle." I'll have to change that soon, but that involves finding another picture of myself, and those are rarer than polar ice caps these days. But stay tuned! I'll persevere.

Speaking of polar ice caps, and ice in general, it just continues to disappear. Even though I study it, read about it everyday, think about it constantly, I can't let myself dwell on the reality of climate change too much. Weird cognitive disjunction there, but apparently that's how human brains work. We aren't well-equipped to think about and prepare for seemingly long-range, faraway threats.

I mean, it's scary stuff. Tom Yulsman over at CE Journal reports today on arctic sea ice, which continues its precipitous decline. I see these stories, about drought spreading and pine trees dying in vast swaths across the Rocky Mountain range, and worry gnaws somewhere in the back of my brain.

Have you read Cormac McCarthy's The Road? Did you see Earth 2100? I think about these dystopic visions a lot, and wonder what other possible visions are available to us. What world might we imagine that is not some Mad Max version of life on this planet? Is imagining that world akin to sticking our heads in the sand? Or do we need to dream of something different before we can make it happen?

Still, things speed ahead. My girls grow older, and I count each year as a victory. Another year survived without major climate disruption; another year where gas is relatively affordable and life in the suburbs tenable. Another year where we continue on with business as usual, waiting for politicians and infrastructure and the evolution of the human brain to catch up with the natural world, which races forward, changing faster and faster, because of and despite us.

I go for a walk after the afternoon monsoons have drenched our gardens and marvel at the coolness of the July evening, grateful for a reprieve from the heat. The hills are verdant and rolling; the last time they were like this in July was 2001, when we first moved here. The following summer was the summer of the Hayman fire, I think, when ash reigned from the sky, post-911, and the world felt and seemed in the grip of apocalypse anyway. The air is wet and heavy (do people in Denver even know the word "humid"?), the scenery gorgeous, life indomitable.

A friend sends me stories on eco-grief. I guess it is that, partly. Also, I will my girls to be strong, to be brave, to be smart. I will them to treasure sticks and leaves and sowbugs and the outside air. I will them to cook their own food, and taste it, and know which is real food from which is not. I try to tell them the truth without burdening them with things they are not ready for. Part of me feels I'm preparing them, though none of us knows for what.

So, I try to hold on. I try to grab on to this moment, the moment before everything changed. And I know every moment is that moment.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Farewell, Green Bean

You knew it was coming, didn't you? Who wins the blog pool on how long Green Bean would last?

So, Nolie is very, very terrified of fireworks. We took her to see fireworks with friends on July 3rd, and she went into shock, screaming and quaking. She wouldn't let me take my hands off her ears, and I had to sit rocking and rocking her on the front porch until she finally quieted, nodding off into a jerky sleep for a few minutes before waking again.

"I don yike fiyawohks," she keeps saying. At dinner, before bed, in the bath. "No more fireworks, Nola," we tell her. "No more."

Apparently, Green Bean didn't like them either. Because when we went out to check on him the morning of July 4th, his kiddie pool was empty.

"I saw some magpies chewing over something..." Eric's voice trailed off, sadly.

"You don't think..." I said.

"I'm going to choose to think that he got out somehow, and that he is very happy roaming the wide world. I bet he's out in that big patch of vinca somewhere, that he buried himself in the bud and is eating his fill of sowbugs."

Okay. So, that's it. Thanks, Green Bean, for letting us hang with you. They were six glorious, turtle-filled days. Best of luck in the wide world.

The New Mondays

Have I mentioned I'm home with the kids on Mondays this summer? During the great lay-off scare of 2009 (now a part of history, you see), we cut back the girls' preschool attendance to save money. Once E got the new job, we re-enrolled them for Fridays, but I am still staying home Mondays with them. Addie has ballet at 12, and Nolie has gymnastics at 3. So I'm basically driving them back and forth to the gym all day, and get to feel like a real suburban mom.

[Ooh. I'm thinking of the gender/class politics of that there statement. Chew on that].

E's new job also has him working much later, so I'm getting used to picking up the kids from school, making dinner, getting lunches ready, and in general being entertaining until he gets home at 7. I've even had plates ready for him to re-heat. It's gloriously domestic.

[Another lie. We split household duties pretty evenly. In fact, he's pulled a lot of load the past few years while I've settled into this tenure-track business. The load is simply shifting to accommodate our new circumstances.]

I'm super-grateful all of this is happening in the summer, when the schedule's a bit more flexy and I don't have classes to stress about. But I do admit to feeling a bit antsy about what's to come in August, once the semester kicks in (and it promises to be a bruiser, with three or four trips--professional and personal--classes, and mucho articles and conference presentations due, which I've been ignoring this summer in favor of focusing on getting the book out the door. Ouch).

Because it means I'll need to be getting up super-early to get to work so I can get a full day in before needing to pick Addie up from kindergarten at 3:30. Then I'm full-on mommy with them until Eric gets home at 7. And may need to work evenings to keep caught up.

One voice in my head says: you can do it. It will be fine. You've worked the kooky split-schedule before.

Another voice: Wah-wah. Welcome to the real world. Everyone else has to do this to make ends meet.

Yet another voice: You don't really have to do any of this. You could, ostensibly, get away with working a "normal" schedule, get all your stuff done, and still get tenure in a few years. You still don't have to work nights and weekends. You're the only one making you feel like a fraud.

The last voice: I hope nobody on my tenure committee reads this. The Chronicle of Higher Education warns that it could be used against me. They'll think I could have worked harder, and blogged less.

Anyway, I think what I'm really worried about is losing the spaces I've built up for myself. I'm worried about the re-negotiations E and I will have to go through as we figure out how to make it all happen on not-quite-enough time; I'm worried about losing my few free hours in the morning and night to work; I'm worried about dropping the ball on important work commitments. And I can't even fathom what might happen if another family crisis hits, like it did last year. That was r-o-u-g-h. Rough.

Ah, yeah. But everything's going to be okay. Yesterday, Monday, we did all the crazy driving around and dancing and gymnasting, and then made dinner together, the girls and I, and sat out on the back patio, throwing frisbees and making mud pies and having a tea party and eating ice cream sandwiches. And all was well.

All is well.

Monday, July 6, 2009

consumerism tidbit

If you have time, you might check out this interesting tidbit from marketer Seth Godin. It's what I was trying to say in the last post, but didn't do a very good job of. He does it better.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Anchors Aweigh

I'm feeling the love. Thanks for that. That, and a mega-healing-nap yesterday, helped a lot. I'm feeling good today. My kids are around, Eric's home, the sun is out. I cleaned the kitchen windows. Little things that work.

But, mostly this realization: a sure-fire way to get unhappy, quick, is to focus on what you don't have. Reading the Dalai Lama this morning (I know...the cheese! But it helps):

So I think that this kind of excessive desire leads to greed--and exaggerated form of desire, based on overexpectation. And when you reflect upon the excesses of greed, you'll find that it leads an individual to a feeling of frustration, disappointment, a lot of confusion, and a lot of problems. When it comes to dealing with greed, one thing that is quite characteristic is that although it arrives by the desire to obtain something, it is not satisfied by obtaining. Therefore, it becomes sort of limitless, sort of bottomless, and that leads to trouble. One interesting thing about greed is that although the underlying motive is to seek satisfaction, the irony is that even after obtaining the object of your desire, you are still not satisfied. The true antidote of greed is contentment. If you have a strong sense of contentment, it doesn't matter whether you obtain the object or not; either way, you are still content.

Ah. Yes. I don't think it's any accident that since Eric got the new job I've been focusing more on greed, less on contentment. We were released from the financial constraints of him being laid off, and so swung to the other end of the spectrum, focusing on how we would spend the money, what we could get next. And I found myself much less happy than I had been during the weeks we were preparing for the layoff. The depression descends.

Interesting, right? There were many more trips to the thrift store, the shoe store, the bookstore. And much less contentment. There was more listmaking and planning and scheming, and much less meditation, being in the present. More frantic sewing and accumulation. Less breathing, stretching, walking.

So, a shift back to center, now. An anchoring. The clouds part a bit. I choose different thoughts, and the emotions follow, a little. Let's see what happens.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Body Memory

Here's the hard thing: giving up the need to control, and at the same time knowing who you are. Rolling with the punches, standing your ground. Listening, having a voice. Living in those paradoxes, feeling your way through them. That's the hard thing.

I had to have a filling replaced today. If you know me, you probably have noticed I have half a mouth full of silver. I got all of those when I was a kid, all in one fell swoop. Eight teeth with fillings. I think my mom still has conniptions over it, having to pay for all of those cavities at once. I'm pretty sure it was from that point on that I became fastidious about flossing and brushing, and going to the dentist every six months. I'm like a commercial for the ADA.

When I met Eric, he hadn't been to the dentist in, like, six years. I was horrified, sure that they would find eight cavities in his teeth. Once I finally got him the appointment and convinced him to go, I was equally horrified that he didn't have any cavities. Not one. And he doesn't always floss.

Life is unfair.

Anyway, I've always been very nervous in the dentist's chair. From all those years of painful braces, I think. Even smelling the soap they use, or the latex gloves, makes me flinchy. So I shouldn't have been surprised today when I got in the chair, and felt myself tense up, and start to shake, and sweat.

The thing is, there was no pain. And I kept telling myself to relax, going over different parts of my body over and over again and instructing them to let go. And still I would come back to them and they were tense. Still I got up from the chair shaking like I hadn't eaten in three days. All that body memory.


The past few days I felt the curtain of depression drop. I've had it my whole life, I guess, but I've been free from it for a few months and am always surprised when it comes back. I know now it will go away, probably sooner than later. I know now I don't need to look for some external reason for it. I know to take it easy on myself when I cry at the drop of a hat, don't feel like working, want to watch t.v. all day, am short-tempered and needy with Eric, shop like a zombie. I'm just sad that it's back.

Here's what helps: rest. Not doing things I don't want to do. Reading good books. Eating well. Above all, exercise, which is also the hardest thing to do when I'm depressed. Reminding myself I'm loved, even when I don't feel like it.


I guess what I'm getting at is that it's hardest to maintain my sense of self when old habits--body memories or otherwise--pull me back to a place I no longer wish to be, and that isn't commensurate with the actual experiences I'm having in the present. It's hardest to maintain when my current good, healthy habits seem useless in the face of some switch in my brain that's flipped on to "depression," without my permission. The ground shifts, my voice fades, my vision dims. It all will come back, but for now, I'm floating a bit, and holding my breath.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Meet Green Bean

Let me begin by saying that nestle chocolate chips taste like caca after you've been eating ghirardelli chocolate chips. I hate it when Costco gets something nice for cheap, you get addicted to it, then they pull it from the shelves and you have to go back to stuff you can afford at the regular stores. Luxury Aggravation.

Second, I need to write about my time on Whidbey Island. I think--like the blessing of the Indian elephant--it changed me in some profound ways that I'm still figuring out. When I can put words to it, I will. Or I'll beat my way around and into it. You know.

The purpose of this post, however, is to introduce you to our new family member, Green Bean. "I've got a surprise for you," Eric says in the car on the way home from the airport. "Really?" I say, thinking maybe there is sushi waiting at home for me, or that the house is super-clean, or that the remaining popcorn has finally been scraped from the living room ceiling.

"We've got a turtle! Named Elvis!" he says.

"No, Daddy! I don't like that name," pipes in Addie. "Let's call him Green Bean!"

"Okay, Green Bean," I say. "That's a nice name."

Wait. In my absence, we have gained yet another animal. In case you've forgotten, we already have two cats and had mistakenly adopted and then adopted out a third just recently (Mei-Mei, now Alley-Cat, has a new home). I'd very much like to have a little dog, a dachsund maybe, but am also very clear that we are happiest, at our most balanced, life is at its most enjoyable, when we have no more than two pets. And Prudence and Sadie tell me they're not going anywhere, any time soon.

Now we have the two cats, the sea monkeys ("Mommy, Gwande died," Addie tells me this morning. "But don't worry! Her babies are fine!") and a turtle.

Apparently the neighborhood Lolita (NOT an exaggeration) dropped Green Bean off while I was gone, saying she had found him in the yard and did Eric want one? Yes he did, he said.

And here we are.

A turtle can't be that bad, I thought in the car, thinking of the terrariums I'd seen. Might be kind of cool. Like when we had the frogs. Except the frogs died horrible deaths. Remember Stella and Stanley? Remember the fused legs, and the 2,000 flushes, and the dog bites? Oh, Lord.

Then, turns out this is not just any turtle, either. It's an "Ornate Box Turtle," though I don't know if it's Eastern or Western yet. Apparently, they don't do well in terrariums. Apparently you have to build an entire habitat for them in the backyard. They are picky eaters, and like certain temperatures, and prefer to have a river to swim in. They can be easily preyed upon by hawks and dogs, so have to be sheltered appropriately. They hiss menancingly when they're scared, and have treacherous looking claw-type feet.

They're often found in the wild, and should not be adopted willy-nilly as pets. In fact, I keep thinking the best thing would be to take him to the river in Golden and let him hang out there, while I quietly tip-toe away.

In other words: just what I did NOT want. Another high-maintenance pet.

But. But. But.

He is sort of cool looking. He's got a beautiful shell. I love to watch him burrow into his mud. He's eating already, which is a good sign that he likes his little kiddie-pool set up. The girls are enthralled. Eric's into it. And, as everyone knows, turtles are a bit magical.

So, for now: Welcome, Green Bean. Welcome to the Schneider jungle. I hope you make it.