Thursday, June 21, 2018

Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire

I'm having trouble writing lately, or rather I'm writing things and not publishing them. I suspect many of my blogging friends are in the same boat, and that boat is full of elephants, and do we talk about those? Do we distract ourselves? What is the Right Thing?

I wrote about suicide a couple of weeks ago, in part to let people know I'm okay since I've come out of the suicidal ideation closet (I'M OKAY!), but what the whole thing boiled down to was "love is an active verb, not a commodity to be given, received, earned or deserved" and "what if all that REALLY matters in the end, when your heart is weighed against a feather or Saint Peter consults his heavenly Moleskine or whatever it is that happens, is how you treated other people?" *

It pretty much sounded like your stoned friend yammering at you somewhere between the bong and the biscuits, and so forever shall it remain unpublished, alas.

I also tried writing about one of those other elephants but THAT kept turning into a story about how my privileged, white, US-citizen daughter H was (and still is) completely and utterly fearless and how every time we took her to the emergency room, which was A LOT OF TIMES, I was terrified Child Protective Services would be called in to take her away from us, and how my very first thought when I woke up on the morning of her 18th birthday was, "Now no one can take her." And about the unbelievable relief I felt over that. Which had nothing at all to do with the horror of what is happening in this country and my state right now and, in fact, bordered on appropriation. So yeah.

Since last we spoke, C isn't doing so great, or rather he IS doing REALLY great but only because he currently has zero demands placed on him, WHICH ISN'T GREAT. I've stepped back my involvement with the food pantry to deal with this situation, also not great, and my dealing with it isn't going great because life keeps getting in the way, and I'm spending a lot of time feeling like I'm failing all the people I most definitely do not want to fail and then beating myself up over the fact that I'm beating myself up over that. This is what it's like to live in my brain. Now you know how surprised and delighted I was to make it to 50! (Fifty-one now!)

H moved out of our house again and I think/hope she's doing okay but I don't get to see or talk to her nearly as much as I would like (I would like EVERY DAY please). I miss her more this time than I did last time, what's up with that? I think I just want all my chicks in the nest.

P and I aren't traveling anywhere by plane this year as far as we know, and I am both relieved and disappointed. But mostly relieved. We're taking a couple of car trips this summer and fall, one to visit family and one to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, and I don't know where we're going other than "west". For the second one, I mean. That first one is "east" until we hit beach.

I'm knitting a sweater, which is kind of a milestone for someone who up to now has knitted only shawls, scarves, cowls, socks, a few baby items and one ill-fitting hat. It's not at all appropriate for the current season but I've bought the yarn to knit another sweater that WILL BE appropriate for the current season except we're likely to be firmly into the NEXT season by the time I start it, but whatever, I knit sweaters now and I'm kind of excited about it.

I don't know what else to say. I hope you're all doing well. I'm surprisingly good in spite of it all. I'll try to write more often even if it's stupid.

* I'm pretty sure it IS the only thing that matters, and that I have a lot of work to do.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Kicking your can all over the place

I promised my family that in the first quarter of 2018 I would get my medical shit under control, by which I mean I actually would go to a doctor. I don't go to the doctor very often because -- and I am totally going to jinx it by saying this, I just know it -- I don't get sick very often. And also I look like death in a paper gown, man. And I don't like sitting in rooms full of sick people unless I'm doing it specifically to support a sick person who isn't me. So yeah.

Thanks to my newfound medical vigilance, however, I now know things about myself that I'd rather not know. Like the fact that I have the beginnings of glaucoma in my left eye, and my corneal dystrophy is getting worse in my right eye, and my diastolic is above 80 now, and my LDL is above 100 now, and all the calcium in my bones is migrating into my boobs, like HOW IS THAT EVEN A THING.

In 2017 I stopped wearing normal bras and started wearing sports bras everywhere, and I bought a pair of cute red single-vision glasses and a million pairs of cute multicolored reading glasses, and I removed color from my wardrobe and started wearing only shades of black and white and grey because ... I have no idea why I did that actually, and I bought a cheap refurbished Kindle Fire tablet when my phone screen suddenly became too small for Neflix, and I started eating a lot of gluten-free cookies which seemed like a good idea at the time but what was I thinking, honestly?

So far in 2018 I've bought TWO bras that hoist my calcified boobages back up where they belong, and I've gotten Progressives in severe black frames and surprised myself by LOVING THEM SO MUCH, and I've knitted a bunch of socks and a bunch of colorful cowls and shawls and I don't even know what, and I've ditched almost all of my print subscriptions in favor of digital publications, and I'm still eating a lot of cookies but now they're paleo instead of just gluten-free so that's better, maybe?

And today I chopped off all my hair. Well, not all of it. And I HAD it chopped off, I didn't do it myself (this time). The new 'do detracts slightly from my increasing resemblance to Fred Gwynne, so I like it. I've doubled down on the yoga this week, and I've been eating a lot of beets, and I've got three knitting projects and two crochet projects on the go, and this is the most boring midlife crisis ever, you guys.

Still to come: cardio workup! Cervical cancer screening! Colon cancer screening! More sock knitting! Binge-watching the second season of Jessica Jones! Tattoos! Dusseldorf! Daylight saving! Maybe some retinol or something! This is fifty (+1.5)!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The close and holy darkness

Right, were'd we leave off? End of October?

In November H moved back home and we had Thanksgiving and H turned 20 and I had a bit of a moment over that what with her being my youngest and all. In December it snowed and we had Christmas and we didn't travel anywhere and it was nice.

And now you're all caught up.

Traditionally at the end of December I'd talk about all the books I'd read the previous year, but the truth is that in 2017 I didn't read a whole lot of new-to-me books. I DID re-read a whole lot of books I'd read before, I think because I needed the comfort of familiar words this year: all the Harry Potters, all of His Dark Materials, The Handmaid's Tale (not comforting, that last one, but I hadn't read it in decades and was due for a refresh).

I did manage to read a few new-ish ones, though, and these were my favorites in fiction: Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters, The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, News of the World by Paulette Jiles, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix, and The Good People by Hannah Kent.

Excellent nonfiction I read this year: Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, Dark Money by Jane Meyer, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Washington's Nightmare by Scott B. Christmas, Lion by Saroo Brierley, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and I'm Just a Person by Tig Notaro.

Huh. I guess when you throw in all the three- and four-star books I read (only fives for you people, ONLY FIVES FOR YOU) and the re-reads, that DOES add up to kind of a lot of books for 2017. Well, hell. Go me! (That last photo is of some recent purchases. So far 2018 is looking pretty good, book-wise.)

Honestly I feel like I spent most of this year knitting. I made a little green scarf, a much bigger scarf in fall colors, my first completed pair of socks, a pair of socks for H, another pair for me, a very fun-to-knit hat, a cowl for my mom, and half of a mosaic shawl that I had to frog due to it being part of a poorly curated kit. Currently on the needles: a second attempt at said mosaic shawl (but this time with MUCH more suitable yarn), the second of my first-ever pair of toes-up socks, and a cowl I'll probably never finish if I'm being honest because the pattern is kind of boring and I'm not loving the yarn, oof.

I'm not making resolutions for the new year, but I do have two hopes. Just two. First, I hope I can be a vessel for and an instrument of Grace, and by Grace I mean Love and Compassion and Kindness. (My concept of the Divine is pretty broad and as a result it's unlikely that I believe in and revere your specific god, but I do believe in and revere these things.) Second, I hope I can see and recognize Grace in other people. That's all. If I can do that, at least most of the time, I think I'll be doing okay.

Happy New Year to you, my friends! Here's to the resisters and the fighters, the peacekeepers and the healers, the carers and the thinkers and the dreamers and the hopers. Here's to the innovators and the implementers. Here's to us.

Friday, October 27, 2017

We are all of us in the gutter

Hello, friends. Apart from my UK travelogue we haven't really talked about life and stuff and things since July, have we? Well, plenty of life and stuff and things have been happening since then, boy howdy!

Amazon had 23andMe kits half-off on Prime Day over the summer, so P and I bought a couple and mailed our spit off to the lab, and my results came in the day before we left for the UK. I already knew about my British Isles and German and Southern European ancestry, so those were no surprise. But I did NOT know about my Japanese, Ashkenazi and Sub-Saharan African ancestry, and those were the most bizarre and delightful surprises ever. I am still processing what this all might mean, but I'm pretty sure it means I'm at least 5% cooler and more interesting than I already thought I was, har har.

I turned 51 in September and now it's October and that means that I'm exactly the same age my mother was when my daughter was born (one month past her 51st birthday) and my daughter is exactly the same age that my mother was when I was born (one month shy of her 20th birthday). That's a pretty nifty little bit of matrilineal mathematics, eh? I've been thinking a lot about that, too. I cannot imagine my H having been married for two years and giving birth to her first child right now. And I cannot imagine being the mother of a 31-year-old and a grandmother of two right now. Holy cannoli. Quit trying to freak me out, Time.

C got his driver's license in September which was a HUGE deal. As most of you know, my boy C has some challenges. He took and passed driver's ed when he was 15 like most kids in the US do, but he found driving so stressful that he opted out of getting a driver's license. For a few years he made do with a bicycle, then an electric bike, for getting around town without parental involvement. But we live way out in the 'burbs with no real public transportation, so that wasn't a great solution. Last year he had progressed to the point that he felt comfortable taking a motorcycle safety course, and he was able to get his Class M license. We bought him a scooter that looked a LOT more like a motorcycle than I was expecting, and he was able to get a bit further from home under his own power, but scooters and motorcycles definitely aren't weatherproof, you guys. Even though he was still super nervous about it, he indicated earlier this year that he might maybe perhaps someday be interested in possibly getting a license to drive a car, and P seized on that and basically did all the legwork to make it happen. He bought C a used convertible (because C was worried he'd feel claustrophobic in a car) and got a learner's permit added to his Class M license and practiced practiced practiced with C every week until C was feeling confident enough and comfortable enough to test for his Class C license. And he did and he got it! So now he can drive a car, something that I honestly never thought would happen given his anxiety around it. We are SO SO PROUD of him!

I've read some more good books since last we spoke. Really enjoyed William R. Anderson's The Ice Diaries, even though his descriptions of piloting a nuclear submarine between massive chunks of polar ice and the ocean floor freaked me RIGHT OUT. Loved Emma Donoghue's The Wonder. Had complicated feelings about Hillbilly Elegy but it's absolutely worth reading. LOVED Grady Hendrix's Horrorst√∂r. I liked Ben Aaronovitch's first Peter Grant book, Midnight Riot, very much but I felt it wanted some editing and it took me forever to finish, by which point I was glad to be done with it. Thumbs up on Louise Penny's Glass Houses, the most recent Chief Inspector Gamache. Loved Hannah Kent's The Good People. I was delighted to discover Karen MacInerney's Dewberry Farm series of cozy mysteries earlier this fall when my brain just couldn't focus on books for whatever reason. Fluffy but well-written and with a local-to-me setting. Right now I'm re-reading the whole His Dark Materials series because I totally forgot I'd pre-ordered Philip Pullman's latest, The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage until it showed up on my Kindle.

P and I have been dithering back and forth on cutting the cable TV cord this fall. We have and love Netflix and Amazon Prime Video but we need a good option for live TV. Hulu has too many commercials, YouTube TV doesn't have TBS, we're still looking at Playstation Vue and Sling TV. Oof. Anyone have a streaming service they love that isn't Apple? Requirements: commercial-free option (we're happy to pay extra for it), cloud DVR, must have TBS, must work with both Roku and Android. Go!

I've actually weaned myself off TV quite a bit, to the point that Game of Thrones really is my only must-see, and that's only because it's moved beyond the books (like WAY beyond). But I've been enjoying some other stuff on the tee-vee, y'all! If you didn't see the first season of Claws, find a way to do that. The cast is fantastic and the writing is bananas and I found it completely unpredictable and awesome. Episodes is over now and Broadchurch is over now and Orphan Black is over now and I loved all of them. There's not nearly enough Thandie Newton in my life right now so I can't wait for Westworld to come back. The new Doctor Who is a woman and I am SO EXCITED! People of Earth is so great, The Detour is so great, Wrecked is SO GREAT, and that right there is why any streaming service we use has to have TBS. (Also: The Guestbook. Because Garrett Dillahunt.) I love The Good Place and I like Ghosted and I have warm feelings toward The Orville. And that's pretty much all I'm watching these days. I gave up on American Horror Story and The Walking Dead and The Strain ages ago. I feel like life already is horrifying enough these days without watching horror on TV, but maybe that's just me. I'm pretty sure it's just me.

Other stuff going on: I've been knitting ALL THE THINGS. Well okay, socks and scarves and cowls, mostly. But I've been doing so much knitting that I invested in a cheap swift and winder and sure, they tangle the center-pull strands all to hell, but they make awfully attractive yarn cakes, and pulling from the outside works just fine. So yay for that. I've started volunteering every week at a local food pantry and I am here to tell you that the very best antidote to feeling helpless that I've found is to help someone else. And if you're looking for a great way to put your own shit into perspective, maybe try helping a resident of a domestic violence shelter sort through shelves of donated food trying to find something that she can keep down when the chemo makes her nauseated. I'm just saying. It's hard to have bad days anymore since I've been doing this, you know? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO COMPLAIN ABOUT NOW?!

Anyway. Hi. Sorry this was so long. How are you doing? I've missed you.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Quocunque jeceris stabit

Since last we spoke I have been some places and seen some shit, man, and by "shit" I mean horse plops. You are so excited to read this update now.

P and I flew out of Austin at the tail end of Harvey, leaving our adult children here with the wind and the rain and the panic-induced gas shortage (there are a few things I've done as a parent for which I may never completely forgive myself and I've tucked this trip away into a tiny little corner of that space). We were in Dublin for five days and the only touristy thing I did that I'd done before was Trinity College and the long room in the old library because come on, if I'm in Dublin I'm going there, you can bet money on that. I am going to sit in that room for an entire hour, and during that hour there may come a point at which you wonder if I am okay, and the truth is that I'm SO VERY OK that I appear not at all okay, and it's fine. Just leave me to it. I'm inhaling the aroma and soaking in the filtered light and trying to pretend I'm alone in there, just me and the books and the busts and that incredible ceiling.

Apart from also visiting the National Museum of Archaeology (which is FANTASTIC) and getting lost in Temple Bar (WHO DESIGNED THESE STREETS?) I mostly stayed south of the canal this trip, stomping around Rathmines and Ballsbridge and Ranelagh, visiting little shops and parks and gardens and admiring the gorgeous ironwork fences and the view of the Wicklow Mountains and the chimneys of Upper Leeson from our hotel room window.

Just like last year, we were in Dublin this time for an industry conference that P attends (he was presenting this year), and we learned this trip that next year the conference will move to Dusseldorf, and I am sad because that likely means this was our last trip to Dublin for a very long while, and I LIKE DUBLIN. I like all of Ireland, actually. I understand Ireland, nothing there feels strange to me. If I have a home away from the US, Ireland is it. South Dublin is it. I will miss it so much.

After Dublin we hopped a little propeller plane for the Isle of Man and OH YOU GUYS. If you ever get the chance to visit the Isle of Man. DO IT. Do not hesitate, not even for a second. It's 30 minutes by air from Dublin or Manchester. It is by far the most beautiful place I've ever been, ever ever ever, with by far the nicest people I've ever met in my entire life. We stayed right on the Central Promenade in Douglas and only saw a fraction of the island, from Port Erin up the southeast coast and then north to Laxey and Snaefell, but holy criminy was it amazing and gorgeous and just ... wow. Just wow. Go there. You will not regret it.

The weather was gorgeous our first day on the island but the second day there, which was at the halfway point of our entire trip, it turned wet and grey and chilly and windy and I kind of hit a wall that day from which I never recovered. I have about seven days in me, vacation-wise. Ten if sun and sand and slushy drinks are involved. But this was a fifteen-day trip, you guys. That is too long for me. I am a delicate fucking flower; I can't go that long without my food and my kids and my bed and my Texas weather.

After three days of Manx shenanigans we headed to England, specifically to Cheshire, more specifically to a little town called Lymm that lies on the Bridgewater Canal between Manchester and Liverpool. We were there for a week and the weather stayed awful and my mood stayed awful but holy shit was it gorgeous there. We were there specifically to do some genealogical research on P's side but I did not expect to fall in love with this little town, with its footpaths and deep dark woods and gorgeous meadows (full of horse plops, but also flowers! and berry bushes! and apple trees! and chestnuts! it was so pretty!).

We were in England for another five days and then we flew home sweet home just as Irma was roaring through Florida. Whatever else happens, I am home now. I have my kids and my dog and my bed and my house and my warm sunshine. It's so good to be home.

But you know what? The UK is fabulous. We didn't have a bad meal the whole time we were there, not one. The people we met were without exception friendly and kind and incredibly patient with us, even the old sexist, racist anti-Semites (that was all one guy; his name was George). Everywhere we went was gorgeous. EVERYWHERE. So green, so many trees and flowers, so many dog owners, such beautiful waterways. Dublin is super fucking expensive but the Isle of Man and Cheshire are dirt cheap in comparison re: meals and lodging and transportation. They have Strongbow Dark Fruit cider on tap everywhere, which we can't even GET here in the US, so unfair.

It was an amazing trip and I'm glad it's over and yeah. Let's do fall now. I'm super ready for fall.