Category Archives: The Variety Show

Rain, Pawn Shops, and Parenting

entering broadway tunnel

I probably should have looked for a rainy picture from the archives. But this one made me happy so that’s what I’m using.

We’ve been getting lots of rain lately and it’s such a relief. I don’t know how much it has to rain to fill California reservoirs a respectable amount but I hope we get enough this winter to make a big difference. Max has taken a couple of walks in the rain just for the sake of enjoying it.

4 more days of work and I’m on vacation. I think these are going to be really long days. Unless business mellows out and it turns out to just be a clean-up and catch-up week, that would be fantastic.

When I get home I have to make cookies. The teen has decreed that holiday cookies are necessary to get into the proper holiday mood. They must be decorated and everything. But he’s letting me off the hook a little bit, he just wants green frosting with sprinkles. For years I’ve counted myself lucky that my kid isn’t crazy for Christmas and all the Christmas shit most parents have to participate in. I wonder if Max is going to evolve into a Christmas-y person. I guess as long as he doesn’t join a caroling group I can live with him enjoying some traditional holiday activities and dragging me through them too.

Max bought and sold a couple of things at one of the local pawn shops. I had to go down there to be an adult for the transactions to take place (can’t sell to a pawn shop without a parent or guardian if you’re under the age of 18 I think). It was a strange experience. He really likes the pawn shop. It seems like a fully Williamson thing to feel comfortable with. Pawn shops are depressing to me. What I really enjoyed about the experience is that Max is getting out there and doing things on his own (or trying) and one of things he bought was for his dad. We don’t play that game that kids have to get anyone presents. So he just saw something and thought about his dad and how his dad might like it. He came home and wrapped it right away and it’s the first and only thing under the tree right now. He’s maturing in all the ways I’ve hoped he would mature and he’s doing it at his own pace and in his own way.

I don’t know how other people’s kids work but the one thing I know I’ve always done right with Max is to let him progress at his own pace and in his own way. This is how he works. Give him the information he needs and then step back and wait for him to move forward with it. Don’t pressure him and don’t guilt him. It doesn’t matter what other kids are doing at the same age, Max is not other kids.

I don’t miss anything about parenting younger versions of Max. What’s most satisfying to me as a parent is to be present for all the stages and to see him move on to new stages. Max becomes more fun to hang out with and more interesting to talk to all the time. It’s exciting to see him mature and refine his already strong sense of self every day.

It’s just about time to eat and run off to work.

As Above, So Below (as it applies to micro and macro traditions)

frozen morellos

I got 2 small jars of sour cherry jam from this year’s Morello cherry crop on our little tree. I used half of it for the vanilla custard and sour cherry tarts I made for my mom’s birthday.20151127_205926The other jar I have been eating on toast. It’s so good I’m going to plant another Morello tree in our yard. They’re naturally small trees and a very old variety from England. I’ve grown Montmorency cherries too (the American sour cherry standard) and while they’re very tasty, they just aren’t as amazing as Morellos.

Weather-wise I’ve been super happy lately. Night time temperatures have dipped down to the low 30’s (cold for us here) and we’ve gotten a decent amount of rain with (supposedly) more to come. Grey skies, cold temps, rain – this is my kind of weather and if I wasn’t fighting off a virus right now I would feel so energized by it.

The virus I’m fighting off might not be a virus so much as customer service related exhaustion. If you have ever had a retail and/or wholesale customer service job during the holidays where everyone you talk to wants something last week but didn’t bother ordering it last week and you’re now the target of their stress and ire – then I hope to God you are an angel of lightness, politeness, and patience when you’re doing your own holiday shopping and I hope to God you’re not asking anyone to perform miracles with the space-time continuum.

I feel so fried right now. It’s okay, in a week I’m going to have a week and a half off.

In spite of being gainfully employed, we are working with a very tight Christmas budget and not able to fix our car, possibly for another month and a half, so I’m feeling that dreaded familiar financial strain and light panic. The difference between being stressed about money when you aren’t employed compared to when you are employed is that you know you will have opportunities to get better at budgeting with every pay check. The difference is that you know there will be more paychecks coming down the pike. So while I complain, I’m also feeling pretty damn grateful that I have a job.

My horrid haircut is still horrid.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I dislike tradition and yet rely heavily on daily rituals. Daily rituals are like micro-traditions, so why do I feel so constrained and stressed by the idea of being beholden to traditions like having to make the same dishes every year for Thanksgiving (we don’t), or having to bake cookies every Christmas because that’s the thing we do every year (we don’t – because I don’t like baking cookies very much)*, or being beholden to everyone I know to spit out cards every December. I used to do that. It started out fun. As a young adult I loved the process of making or buying cards and writing messages in each one for everyone I know and getting them into the mail. Each successive year I did it it became more of a burden than a joy until eventually I just stopped doing it.

I don’t like other traditions either.

When people say the phrase “traditional family values” I want to puke because it nearly always means a person doesn’t value family unless it’s made up of straight white Christian people who at one point not that long ago in history thought inter-racial marriage was an abomination of god and country and fought to keep it so. “Traditional family values” is code for a very narrow ugly exclusionary version of family.

Traditions that are bound up in legality also make me angry. Things like men being the family inheritors instead of women. First borns being the automatic inheritors in families because that’s the way it’s been for several centuries, not because there’s a particularly fair and good reason for it. If parents make a will in which a son inherits everything because there is no daughter, that makes sense. But parents choosing to have their son or their eldest son inherit the bulk of their estate because they believe in patriarchal traditions, that’s just bullshit and pretty evil. I don’t particularly like the opposite Napoleonic version of inheritance either. Who inherits what should be a personal matter not decided by societal tradition but by individual families, based on their particular circumstances and needs/wishes.

“Tradition” often manifests itself as antiquated systems that survive long past reason or usefulness because people don’t like change. Systems that may have been useful at one point, maybe even felt to be necessary in some way when they were first started, but which have atrophied into “the way we do things because that’s the way it’s always been done”. Which is a lie, obviously. Nothing on earth is so stagnant that “it’s always been that way from the beginning of time”. Even inert things change through the influence of weather and other forces around them. Rocks break down into smaller rocks, weather decimates landscapes that then behave differently than before. Oceans become deserts, deserts fill with water and become lakes, mountains explode, the earth swallows up cities and everything in its wake.

Everything changes at some point. It serves humans best to initiate changes for the better than to wait until change is forced on them.

The American and European tradition of brides wearing white is stupid. If a bride wants to wear white because it looks good on her and she likes – I have no argument with that. But if a bride wears white for her wedding only because it never occurs to her to break tradition or because other people might not approve, I think that’s fucked up and really stupid.

Incidentally, I also think white as a symbol of virginity and purity and goodness is also fucked up. Mostly because I think it’s fucked up to view virginity as a virtue and to equate virginity with “purity”. To value “purity” as it relates to sexuality and blood are evil in my opinion. Especially because virginity as purity is only applied to women and valuing “purity” of blood is nearly always the evil seedling that grows up to become racial genocide. Religion is the other evil seed that grows up to become ideological genocide.

And yet, for all I loathe unchanging mores and societal rules and yearly obligations that many people actually enjoy, take away my little daily rituals and I will become extremely anxious. Getting dressed in the wrong order freaks me out, seeing others get dressed in the wrong order makes me feel like a thousand fingers are rubbing at a block of squeaky styrofoam right in my ear.

I’m thinking about how the concept of “as above, so below” applies to me in this context. If I want macro traditions to shake loose in the bigger world outside of me, do I need to shake loose my micro traditions of self? And how does having mental illness fit into all of this? The majority of my need for daily ritual is because I have clinical anxiety and the rituals are calming and give me a sense of order and control that I need in order to be able to function. Is that what bigger macro traditions do for others? Do some freaks of nature (who clearly hate my guts) go Christmas caroling every year because it makes them feel less anxious, more in control of time and season? Or do they do it because they think others will enjoy it?

WE DO NOT ENJOY IT YOU CREEPY MANIACS.

I have some self-soothing habits/rituals that are really negative and unhealthy so I could look at macro traditions in the same way. The kind of traditions that impede the liberties and rights of human beings are as unhealthy to civilization as cutting my own flesh with sharp objects was on a micro personal level. I haven’t done that since right before I turned 18 years old, in the same way that interracial marriage was made legal not long before I was born.

I have to go to work now and leave these thoughts somewhat hanging. I’ve already been thinking about them for two days. If you love macro traditions, what do you love about them? What do they DO for you personally? Do you also have a lot of personal micro traditions?

Be good to yourself and to others out there today, folks!

 

*Although I have toyed with the idea of making gingerbread and/or shortbread this week for some unfathomable reason. The fact that I haven’t yet done it is super-fathomable. I’m tired and don’t enjoy making cookies very much.

Atheism Versus Spirituality

neighborhood at dusk

I have a Hindu friend with whom I enjoy discussions about spirituality and religion. On a number of occasions she’s got me scrambling to clarify my own views (for myself) and to think earnestly about hers. Most recently she commented that although I’m an atheist, surely I believe in a higher power or some kind of spirituality?

DO I?

My instinct is to shout out: I DO NOT BELIEVE IN ANY HIGHER POWER.

I get stuck on the “higher” part of that concept. But when I really think about it, what I don’t believe in, nay, CAN’T believe in, are deities. There is no part of me that can believe that there are deities with personalities and names and agendas who make decisions about our lives based on our interactions (or lack of interactions) with them or our interactions with each other. I  can’t believe in powers that have mysterious “plans” for all of us that we will never know until things happen to us at which point  we declare that such-and-such deity planned it all along. To me, that’s just as ridiculous as saying (after an event of note occurs in my life) that my dog planned that to happen for me.

I can’t believe that there are powers (above, below, or anywhere) that have rule books for us to follow. Rule books with outrageous rules like not eating certain foods at the same time, or not having sex until a ritual is performed in just such a way that this personality is satisfied that we are its personal performing monkeys.

From all I can tell, all deities are a projection of the humans that believe in them. Kind of like invisible friends that a bunch of people “see” together based on their particular set of needs, fears, and wishes. Deities are so human in their demands, systems of reward and punishment, and narrowly defined paths of “righteousness” that there is nothing particularly more powerful about them than the humans that believe in them, except for, well, the fact that the humans who believe in them believe they’re more powerful.

So, in the classic and most well understood meaning of “atheist” I AM AN ATHEIST.

I don’t believe being an atheist is superior in any way to believing in deities. I don’t think believing in deities is inherently stupid or that only uneducated people can believe in God (as, apparently, quite a few other atheists do). That would be incredibly stupid of ME as there have been many luminaries of thought in this world who believed in a God or Gods of some stripe.

Not all atheists are arrogant assholes and not all religious people are uneducated bigots, reassurances none of us should have to offer each other but DO because otherwise we fear being lumped in with the worst of our respective affiliations.

But as to spirituality…when I start talking about souls and consciousness I start sounding like a proper hippie/agnostic/whatever. I DO believe all beings have spirits. Animals, insects, plants, water, rocks, air. I believe that all souls have some degree of sentience even if humans are incapable of measuring it. Maybe souls are nothing more than commutable energy. Maybe it’s something wonderfully unchartable. It really doesn’t matter that much to me if souls can’t be quantified or qualified by math or by proof. In this way I think I understand the nature of other people’s religious suspension of disbelief.

It’s enough to me that I feel in my bones the residue of history like unsettled ghosts getting drunk 24 hours a day. It’s enough to me that sometimes I can feel energy shift in the air telling me to get the hell out of whatever place I’m in and have later discovered that horrible things happened in the very place I stood feeling the bad shit coming. It’s enough that I can feel and hear all the spirits in the world being torn to shreds with pain as much as I can feel the exuberance of joy that rushes through a thunder storm making me laugh out loud into the bright clash of sound and fury. These are the experiences that deepen my understanding of the world, that allow me to understand poetry. These are the experiences that allow me to respect people who pray to deities, to reach out to them with love because, for all the things that separate us in ideologies and philosophies, what brings us together is so much greater than any of that.

I don’t believe in literal miracles. Literal miracles always strike me as creepy human wishes made liturgical. There is no such thing as immaculate-fucking-inception. For fuck’s sake, REALLY?

(Don’t get me started on my real feelings about Santa Claus.*)

The greatest revelation I may have ever had and probably will ever have again (good god, I peaked early, my friends!) was the time I was attending math and language classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and the sky opened (as it is wont to do) and I suddenly saw everything around me in terms of math. I’m not kidding. Biggest eye-opener in my life. There is nothing that can’t be described with math if you have enough data and math skills. It verges on magical, yet isn’t magic. Math is a language more precise than words  but is structured in sentences and has grammar and all kinds of requirements for agreements with subjects and verbs. Math is as beautiful and as generally misunderstood as poetry is.

I looked all around me and realized that every object, every action, every interaction, every sound, and every thought has a correlating mathematical expression and that’s as close as I ever came to believing in miracles.

This is spirituality to me: Language. Love. Math. Reason. Music. Science. Beer. Poetry. Reciprocity. Interconnectivity. Soil. Avocados. Evolution. Forgiveness.

Peace, out.

 

*Philip knows. Max Knows. Jay knows. Anyone who knows me really well already knows my feelings about Santa Clause and no one wants to hear me say it out loud again.

speghett Western-ish

As lgradientYou’ve invested so much of yourself into your national identity as a gun carrying old west hero that your life has become a spaghetti western from which you cannot disentangle yourself. You wake every morning wondering how the saloon whores got you out of your pants without removing your chaps, but it wasn’t saloon whores, it was syphilitic clowns and you were roofied because no amount of gun protects you against your own appetite for gross idiocy. - The American character as Angelina sees it.

Second person point of view is not an easy perspective to tell a story in but I think I’ve got one in me that will some day have to come out. It might be the making of me. It might be the one I’m working on right now. I’m listening to the Mauro Ermanno version of “Bang Bang” and it screams for a second person narrative.

There is a tremendous amount of ugly in the world. There always has been. It will not dissipate just because we wish it so. We have to each work our asses off to combat it with liberal applications of love and spirit graffiti across the troubled sleep of the haunted and the graves of our neighbors. Fighting the ugly doesn’t require God, or faith of any kind. I have no faith and believe in no God and yet I possess the tools of peace in my heart. I often lack hope and yet still I slog forward seeking what will add to the counterbalance of evil. I do it because I do still (against my better judgement) have love.

There is one thing, above all others, that will add weight to love, to light, and to hope in this world: do for others. It need not be people you do for. People pretty much suck most of the time, like hangry ticks. You want to add weight to love and peace but kind of hate humans? Do for other creatures. Do for domestic or wild non-human animals. Nurture a being that’s hungry, or scared, or sick. Wake up in the morning and feed the birds in your garden. Or feed a stray cat. Or leave something out for squirrels. Or volunteer at a wild animal rescue center. Or go walk dogs at your local animal shelter. Or sew dog beds or cat beds for any/every local-to-you organization that could use them.  Save a spider if you have the guts. I’m not fucking kidding, whores.

Do for others.

You won’t see a difference in the news. Not really. You won’t see a lot of evidence of change just because you’re doing for others.

But you’ll feel it in your marrow.

There’s something I want desperately to explain but I’m not sure this is the moment. I want you all to understand how I can extend myself in the most cheerful and honest way even when I’m dying inside. Even when I’m struggling hard against the irrepressible tide of my depression. The cheer I extend isn’t fake. It isn’t a steroid version of my emotions. It’s genuine. It represents my ability to feel a deep rift in my spirit, in my mind but separate it from my experience of you. When I see you I recognize your pain, which is my pain. When I see you I recognize your struggles, which are my struggles. When I see you I recognize your broken bones, which are my broken bones too.

It’s you that lights the light in me on the darkest days.

The light in me answers to the darkness in you. The lightness in you answers to the dark in me. We survive on reciprocation. We die without it.

Do for others.

But don’t be a fucking martyr about it because martyrs are the most tedious people EVER and I want to feed them raw potatoes and eggplant.

Thanksgiving 2015, Part 1

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There are only two holidays of the entire year that I like. Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. I love Thanksgiving for the tradition of making a big feast in celebration of and gratitude for abundance. I’m not fond of its origin story, though, because I call bullshit on the Europeans putting themselves in any kind of heroic light when it comes to their bloody invasion of this land. They were absolute evil to the people who were already here. Nothing will change that. I suppose the one salvageable part of the Thanksgiving story is white people actually acknowledging the help and kindness they received from the Native Americans they encountered. Still, it always leaves me feeling sick with the aftertaste of colonial self congratulation. Taking Thanksgiving away from its mythical origin and culling from it the ideals it purports to celebrate makes this is a holiday I can completely endorse and fully enjoy.

Food + Gratitude = Satiation of Body and Spirit

I will say that the American tradition of stuffing yourself until you’re practically sick is gross. It’s very Early-Roman of us as a nation to go way overboard with the abundance of food part. I may be fat, but I don’t over-stuff myself on Thanksgiving, ever. That people treat that as a goal of the feast is weird and stupid. Just eat smaller portions, people, and you can have some of everything.

Here at our house we rarely make traditional Thanksgiving fare. Often we make a vegetarian stuffing but it’s been years since I made my mom’s yam dish, or since we’ve made gravy, or mashed potatoes, and I’ve never made a green bean casserole in my life and the one time I ate it was when my Michigan relatives came to visit and they made it from canned green beans and all I could think was “Really? People get excited over this?” Most years we’ve made a completely vegetarian dinner. But in the last two years we’ve made chicken because Max, for the first time in his young life, actually cared about what food was being made. So for the third year in a row we’re having chicken, Max’s favorite meat. We’re making grilled chicken with a savory blueberry sauce from Chef John’s Food Wishes blog. We’re having roasted beet salad with walnuts and feta and lettuce. And we’re making fondant potatoes (also from Food Wishes, Max’s favorite recipe site). and I’ll be making cheese and mushroom toasts for snacking on. Dessert will be little sour cherry turnovers using the first harvest of sour cherries from our own tree.

I have been working really hard at my part time job in the past month. Especially the past two weeks. It’s been kind of brutal – but overall a good thing. Now I have 4 days off. I’m so pleased I kind of want to stay in my pyjamas and watch tv all day from my couch. I’d end up regretting it though. Sour cherry hand pies don’t make themselves. Later today I’ll make a list of all the things I feel grateful for, as I generally do.

To all of you celebrating today – you have my warmest good wishes for a wonderful day.

A Brittle Truth

incandescent charcoal

Peace and nonviolence aren’t impossible responses to terrorism. Not only aren’t they impossible, they are the only responses that can change the war games everyone’s playing. The thing is, it takes courage to stand up to terrorists without bombs, guns, or fisticuffs. Few humans have real courage. People with guns are not heroes or brave. The only real brave people in the world are those who face opposition without weapons of any kind.

People need to believe that nonviolent responses to violent attacks are impossible in order to maintain the ordered world view they’ve invested their whole lives in. Even I might believe that the only way to deal successfully with bullies is with retaliatory force if there weren’t precedent for nonviolence to remove an occupying force from an entire continent. Gandhi isn’t just a myth, my friends. He’s real. What he accomplished is real and proves the principle I believe in. I believe in it not because it’s a great idea but because Gandhi proved it was a viable one.

More than that, I have practiced it in my own life and found it to be successful.

I have told the story here before a long time ago. For the sake of the recent terrorist attacks against Lebanon, Paris, and Baghdad, I will repeat it.

In junior high school I was the recipient of spit and fire crackers lodged at my locker, while I was at my locker. I was the beneficiary of rocks and bottles being thrown at me from passing cars. Not to mention obscenities being shouted at me gleefully. High school was no different. But in high school I found myself tired of being bullied. One particular punk girl decided that my death rock flavor was deeply offensive and threatened to beat me up regularly.  I’d done nothing that I knew of to deserve her ire or threats of violence. If she was nearby and I sat on a bench she would come along and demand that I move or she’d beat me up. The kind of fuckery assholes the world over do to people.

I was scared of her. That’s a fact. So day in and day out I moved when she told me to move and avoided her whenever I could see her coming. I didn’t want to be beat up. No one offered to stand up to her in my stead. Probably all afraid of her as well. But at some point I got really tired of the threats and the constant dealing with her shit. I didn’t wake up brave or different but at some point I’d just had ENOUGH. The next time KAREN approached me where I’d decided to sit down and threatened to beat me up if I didn’t move – I said this, and this is really true though the quote I offer is probably incorrect at this point since it happened 30 years ago now.

“I’m not going to fight you so if you really want to beat the shit out of me, just do it. Do it now because I’m so tired of your threats. I won’t fight you but go ahead and beat me up-” and I stood up and waited for the beating to begin. Maybe I was less scared because I’d had the crap beat out of me by someone who was supposed to love me half a life ago already when I was 7 and lived in fear ever since, whatever, but I fully expected Karen to beat the shit out of me. She didn’t.

Instead, she decided that I was someone to admire and follow around and be friends with and ultimately she’s the reason I got punched in the face by a drunk skinhead.

Do you get the point? Because the point I’m making is, to my thinking, crystal clear.

A nonviolent reaction to bullies is not what bullies want or expect. And also, it takes fucking guts to do it and a wholehearted willingness to get beat up or killed or bombed or whatever the stakes are. Gandhi knew that. Gandhi knew that standing up to the British meant that people would get hurt. They would get killed. But he knew that a nonviolent approach would eventually demoralize the British into retreat because if the people you’re bullying and threatening and hurting don’t retaliate and you keep hurting them you start feeling like the fucking monster you are. You lash out and faced with complete acceptance and non-retaliation the whole fucking game is changed.

Non-violence requires tremendous bravery. I haven’t faced Al Qaeda. I haven’t fought the British empire. But I have faced people who meant me harm without violence. I’ve won some rounds and gotten bloody other rounds. I almost wrote that I’ve never thrown a punch, but that’s not entirely true.

In sixth grade I had the opportunity to get back at my bully of three years while she lay on the ground in a fight with some nemesis or another, a detail lost in time to me. They were fighting in the alley I always walked through to get home. When I saw my bully of three years on the ground and her aggressor egged me on to get a hit in, I kicked her when she was down thinking I’d feel some kind of satisfaction. Instead I felt sick to my stomach and have felt sick to my stomach every time I remember that moment ever since then. That didn’t stop her from bullying me.

What stopped her from bullying me was me not caring any more. This was long before Karen the rich punk and standing up to her with an invitation to beat me up. I just stopped caring about my great grade school nemesis by the time we got to Junior High.

Nonviolence is not without cost. But the cost of retaliation to violence with violence is a never-ending death toll we have to keep tallying every year in the millions. Every nation on earth continues to NOT learn that meeting violence with violence begets more violence in spite of the fact that all data supports this conclusion.

You may say “But if we don’t fight they’ll win” and other untrue gems. You may say “but if no one fights back more people will die” but I will ask you to tally all the people who will die with the way we respond to terrorism now, because that number is already unconscionably high from all borders.

Those people who say peace and love is naive and useless have never offered themselves up to a bully at full physical risk and won.

I’m willing to die standing up peacefully to terrorists. Who will stand with me? If the whole world stood up and refused to retaliate to the violence of terrorism, fewer people overall would die and terrorism would lose vital power.

I’m an atheist who believes in the power of love and peace. So much violence is committed in the name of religion world-wide. Fuck that bullshit. If you can believe in a deity, you can believe in peace and love, in nonviolence. It seems to me that should be your greatest calling card, if it’s not, you might be an extremist or a very immature person.

I’ve been punched in the nose. I’ve been punched in the stomach. I’ve been held up in the air by my hair while being punched in the stomach when I was seven years old. I’ve been attacked on the streets by a mugger. When I was a child experiencing violence I would have done anything in my power not to experience it, but I had no power. As an evolved adult I have so much more power and I use it to disengage from bullies and terrorists. I experience some residue of fear but it’s less important than exercising my power to say FUCK YOU to bullies.

World peace is achievable if everyone universally chooses to stand together across the planet against terrorism, against bigotry, against oppression. There will always be casualties, but the numbers will never end the way we’re doing things now.

Tonight my love especially goes to peace loving Muslims around the world who are being vilified by my nation, by Christians globally, by everyone globally. I’m an atheist but the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard is the morning prayers of Muslims in a neighborhood I stayed in in Herzliya.

I wish love for everyone. Muslims, Christians, Pagans, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists – AND EVERYONE ELSE OF EVERY OTHER FAITH I’VE ALMOST CERTAINLY FORGOTTEN – love to all of you.

Choose the brave path. Choose peace and freedom.

Extra Luncheon Meats for ALL!

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You never know when you might need a lot of luncheon “meat”. Especially corned beef. One is always at risk of requiring a shit-ton of corned beef and then not being able to find any. AMIRIGHT?!

Happy Armistice Day

I’ve got a kitten lounging on my shoulder like a tiny leopard in a tree. I’ve got Scrivener open and 179 words laid down so far. No work today and this weekend I get to go pick up an O’Keefe and Merritt stove in working condition. The one we got for free is still not functioning and I realized that not everything needs to be a project in my life. It’s perfectly acceptable to buy something that doesn’t need immediate fixing. So we found my dream stove in good condition. It will probably need some finessing at some point, but what doesn’t?

The only blight on today was my mom bursting into my office to announce that she needs to go to the doctor ASAP because she has a weird skin thing that’s probably cancer. This is not an infrequent conclusion she comes to when anything mysterious is going on with her body. So far (knocking hard on wood here) it has never actually been cancer. Then there are all the times when something really is wrong  but she believes it’s nothing and won’t go to the doctor because it’s too much trouble or she’s convinced that though it’s probably cancer, it will magically resolve itself if she ignores it.

I can make fun of her all I want, but the truth is, I’m pretty much the same way.

Providing my mom doesn’t come home with an awful cancer announcement, life is still good. Remember when I posted a few days ago that it was good and you know how often I post how good things are going and then they all fall apart and the next time you hear from me I’m pretty much a mess of depression and crisis? Yeah, that’s often how it plays out.

I’m listening music all inspired by the Lux Aeterna mass. I’ve also just named the coffee shop/bookstore my fictional character works in “Lux Aeterna”. The person responsible for this inspiration is Thalassa Therese. Thank you! Your bower is ever littered with beautiful objects and music!

I also just had a revelation about my current wip: segments of it will be in letter form. I’m wary of using letters as a way of telling a story just for the novelty of it, it can be so hackneyed and irritating. I’ve always wanted to write a novel based on letters but no story (until now) naturally lent itself to the use of letters. It has to be organic to the story. I just realized that using letters in Suicide for Beginners might be the only way to tell this story naturally. Either that or it will have to be in first person for at least part or most of it.

I realize that those who have read Cricket and Grey would love for me to finish book 2. I believe only a couple of people who’ve read it have not said something about that. With a year and a half of writer’s block under my belt at this point I’m just working on whatever comes to me. Right now book 2 is not where the energy is. It might take another lifetime to get to the rest of the series, or maybe I’ll die before I ever do. OR maybe I’ll simply decide to leave it where it is. I can do that because I’m the decider of the books I write.

Maybe Suicide for Beginners is calling more loudly because it must be written before I die and my time is coming to a close. This is one of those things we can not know for sure. I DO know that if I don’t get another book written before I die I will probably end up sticking around as a disgruntled ghost and ride the minds of other writers spurring them desperately on to write through every night and day until their books are finished even if it ends up being the thing that kills them.

That was darker than I intended it to sound.

It’s time for me to shower and eat. There may be a haircut for me today as well because my hair is making me feeling mega-frumpy with its long straggliness.

I hope you all cease-fire today!

Update: My mom’s skin thingie is NOT cancerous. In case you’re all worried now. Doc says it’s just a thingie.

 

So Much Good Stuff I’m Feeling Suspicious

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I have been temping at the business that laid me off in the winter and didn’t hire me back. Things have changed and it’s a new day. I need money and they need some help and it’s under new management with a fresh intention and fresh mode. Considering how stressful it was working for this company the first time around it may surprise you to hear how much I’m enjoying myself now (which I did sometimes before, because the products are awesome and the work is satisfying). That’s the power of change.

My garden has 2 yards of fresh compost covering it. I mulched permanent plantings in the front and our cherry-berry bed in the back. We trimmed, we cleaned things up and out, weeded, smoothed, and the established plants all responded immediately with fresh foliage and out of season rose buds. I planted favas, shallots, lettuce seeds, kale, radishes, Swiss chard, and carrots. I harvested comfrey and mugwart. I’m not even sure why I planted mugwart now because when I look it up it is mostly useful as a milder wormwood – for sachets or de-worming. I trimmed my rosemary and made rosemary salt out of it.

I’ve sewn (but not quite finished) 3 new pairs of pants and one new skirt. I also almost finished a shirt but it looked so horrible on my fat body that I went into an instant nasty depression for a few hours and plan to buy the cheapest black shirts in size ZILLIONX and not expend energy sewing shirts I won’t wear. I’ve already got some cool shirts that would be cool on anyone but Jabba the Hut. <—- me right now.

The last few months have been hard. Everything broken, everything needing money we didn’t have, my mom’s needs being colossal for a while, and attach the usual cycle of depression and inertia onto all of that with the usual poor sleep and frequent nightmares and you will understand just how flagrantly stymied I was feeling. My writing stopped completely. Everything non-essential to THIS MOMENT RIGHT NOW was shut down, left for later. I re-gained all the weight I took off the winter before last. I drank a few kilos of beer and have eaten enough cheese to sustain an entire nation for a year.

But here I am. Through to the other side. Or near it, at any rate. Last weekend I put down a couple thousand words on my “Suicide for Beginners” novel. I think that may be where my energy lies right now instead of fighting book 2 of Cricket and Grey. At least this weekend it flowed out like it needed to be written and knew where it needed to go.

But I had beer this weekend. I have no beer now. I am off the sauce. Again. So it goes, right? The things we struggle with sometimes take herculean (and repeated) efforts to subdue. So when I try to work on my novel we’ll see how well that goes without any lubricant or sedative. I’m done apologizing to myself or anyone else for the erratic way I’m going down my own path.

Needless to say, I have done no work on my Sugar & Pith site in the last few months. I’m nowhere near done setting everything up. Judging by the flood of Christmas commercials on Hulu and the flood of stupid sacrinated bullshit Christmas movies added to Netflix last month it seems that as a retailer I may have already missed my chance to sell much for the rest of the year. You know what? I don’t care. This part time temp work is giving me a little breathing space. I’m trying to create something sustainable and meaningful and that can’t be done in a hurry, as I’m finding out. I’m going to have to do it at my pace and in my way, like everything else. The stress over it and the struggle to go faster is a simple matter of financial pressure that we have felt in the last few months what with all the broken stuff/people/pets. The pressure has made me feel impotent and paralyzed instead of acting as motivator. This is typical of my kind (mentally ill, particularly of people with depression and anxiety) in case you aren’t like me and don’t already know these things.

I was so fucking tired, folks, so fucking tired every day. Now I’m feeling energized and it’s kind of weird. Without beer I’m kind of giving up the day early, like – old person early, to go to  bed. But I’m getting up earlier too. Winter is coming and finally fall is feeling less like summer. This cold air gets up into my bones and makes me happy and is certainly part of this new energy I’m feeling. It’s amazing what a temperature drop and a little rain can do to lift my spirits.

My current batch of foster kittens are coming along slowly  but steadily. Well, Wolfie is coming along like a speed train into her kitten-hood, she was never feral but underweight and very sick so she’s a healing rocket of joy. Scotch and Jupiter were possibly the most feral kittens I’ve had of this young age and I almost sent Jupiter off to another foster because I thought I might not be making enough progress with him but then he started making real progress. Now Scotch and Jupiter are purring and relaxing when we hold them and when I pet them, they don’t run away as frequently (but they do still hide quite a bit) and I’ve got them playing with the cat toys out in the open, I can lure them out of hiding with the toys. This is great progress.

It’s time for me to go to work. Bottom line for this report from Angelina-ville is that there’s change in the air and in my bones. I’m feeling refreshed and good. I hope you all are feeling good too. If you’ve been stuck in an awful quagmire, like I have been, I hope you find your way out of it soon. Remember always that change often happens in tiny increments we don’t immediately notice until it builds up. Hang in there, make all the little changes you can, make the best decisions for yourself that you’re capable of right now. Be patient with yourself and when your head is telling you awful lies, listen to your dearest friends and family who truly love you when they tell you how lovable you are. You can trust yourself better than others in most ways, but when it comes to self care you need to trust people who routinely show you kindness and patience and don’t abandon you because when you’re feeling low, those are the people you can trust better than yourself to know your worth.

Have a fabulous Friday!

 

Mental Health Awareness Day

the nails

I don’t know a time when I wasn’t different. I have always lived in a world slightly removed from everyone else’s world. I looked mostly normal when I was little. Except for the distinctly GoodWill flavor of my attire mixed with home-haircuts that distinctly marked me as the daughter of a hippie mom more than anything else could have done. Later I dressed like an 80 year old who just discovered T-shirts and black eyeliner. The older I got the less normal I looked.

That’s merely window dressing. It’s window dressing that got bottles and rocks thrown at me from cars, that got jocks to spit on and throw fire crackers at my locker while I was still standing next to it. But still, window dressing compared to the world inside of me that was like living inside one of those 3-D post cards of Jesus and kittens.

Any person who says “Isn’t everyone a little crazy?” is either in deep denial or aren’t at all out of the normal range of human behaviors. People who say “Everyone gets anxious and depressed sometimes” isn’t exactly wrong but clearly don’t understand what it is to be suicidal and unable to live next to super tall trees that have a slightly leaning appearance. No one who’s truly different suggests such “aren’t we all the same?” bullshit. Because when the chips are down it’s us different people who stand out like neon signs in a post apocalyptic landscape that say “VULNERABLE DISASTER THAT MIGHT BITE”. It’s us truly different people who get beat up by people who are supposed to love us because we don’t feel we matter enough to stand up against the abuse. It’s us truly different people who get crucified on the pillar of societal abnormalities to be feared because others know we’re running on a different operating system that unfortunately sparks their darkest fears.

Everyone’s “the same” until we’re not. And I’m not the same. I hear everyone in the world crying sometimes. I hear murders happen, I hear the lonely retching into the void. I crumple into a ball of unworthiness at moments others call triumphs. I’m tuned into the world on a different frequency than a lot of other people. I’m mentally ill.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “Don’t let labels define you” or “Stop seeing yourself defined by illness” and I understand where people are coming from who say this shit. I do. They aren’t coming from a place where their brain has shaped their emotional landscape by not producing enough of the right chemicals to maintain balance or, as is often the case, their brain isn’t efficient at transmitting chemical signals to the nervous system so closely linked with our sense of well being. When your illness is connected to the heart, the spirit, and the mind simultaneously it throws all three into a maelstrom of  chaos. What I know is that they lack a full understanding of what it is to not only be ME, but to belong to the greater community of mentally ill people that make up my world, that make up my tribe.

Many of us are creative forces to be reckoned with. We see things the well regulated mind can’t see. We hear global music, music in the stars, music in the vascular systems of human beings. We understand the minutiae of life intimately and can tell you things you saw but didn’t understand because we’re seeing things from a different balcony. This is the gift in the illness. We hear, see, smell, feel, and empathize in ways other human beings generally aren’t capable of and when we’re able to apply it we create the world’s art, music, stories, and philosophy. We are formidable in this way.

But these gifts come with an intense price. In general we’re more vulnerable to abuse than most other groups of people. In addition to being more vulnerable to violence against us we’re vulnerable to self harm more than any other segment of the population on the planet. We are exponentially more likely to hurt or kill ourselves than we are to hurt or kill others. Mental illness has a death rate.

Most people have lost someone to suicide.

I struggle with suicidal ideation. No matter how good my life is at any point this is something I struggle with. I can’t imagine living life without this struggle. My attachment to life is less vigorous than my attachment to truth. I would rather tell the truth and die than lie and live. I live with a constant juxtaposition between loving the details of life, loving certain people I meet, and not wanting to feel the pain of hearing all the torture and death across the planet every day. I can’t shut the pain of the world out unless I die. Medication dulls it, mercifully, I might be dead already without it. But it can’t shut out all the world’s pain playing on my mental radio.

I have heard many people suggest mental illness is curable through will power, gut health, diet, plenty of exercise, positive thinking, and just getting the fuck over it. As though it was a bad boyfriend one can simply stop calling in the middle of the night. FUCK YOU ALL WHO THINK THAT.

FUCK YOU.

We’re the people who bring you your own hearts in the form of music, art, and dreams.

Some of my tribe are so severely affected that we can’t even understand what they’re seeing or feeling. And you know what? They need the rest of us to protect them and to continue to look for answers to unlock their voices, their dreams, their loves, and their spirits. It isn’t that they’re evil, it’s just that we don’t know enough to translate what worlds they’re seeing into without us. They’re reacting to stiumulae we can’t see but that’s real.

If you don’t believe that then I know you aren’t US. But you could, if you tried, learn to understand us and how much of a reflection we are of your deeper self.

Today was Mental Illness Awareness Day. Being mentally ill is many things, the only thing it isn’t is shameful. I neither glorify nor hate my mental illness. It is a part of me that I can never disengage from without dying. I treat my brain like any other organ and do what I can to maintain the best health possible – but I accept that my brain doesn’t function efficiently or normally. My life has become exponentially better accepting the limitations of my brain and my nervous system.

The most important thing I’ve learned is this:

MENTAL ILLNESS ISN’T A PERSONAL FAILING. NO ONE ASKS FOR OR DESERVES TO BE MENTALLY ILL. SOME OF US ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO FIND GIFTS IN OUR ILLNESS AND SOME OF US ARE JUST LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE ALIVE AND TO  BE LOVED.

The best thing all of us can do is keep this conversation going. Those of us who can come out into the light must do so not only for ourselves but also for those who aren’t safe enough to do so.

When I got my official diagnosis in 2001, I was deeply relieved. I told a neighbor friend of mine how happy I was to finally have validation that I had serious mental illness and she said “Not everyone is as open minded as I am, you probably shouldn’t tell anyone else this”. I felt like a leper. It was a shock. It hadn’t occurred to  me that something I felt so good about could be looked on with such prejudice as this. I took me and my imaginary sores and flaking skin to my cave of solitude and wanted to die. Just a little bit. As I always do when someone points out my otherliness. But an unexpected pride rose in me. I always knew I was different. I always knew my brain was on a different track than others were on. I made a decision that I’ve stuck with ever since.

I decided that I would never hide my mental illness or feel ashamed of myself for it. I’ve never looked back.

I also stopped talking to that particular neighbor because: FUCK HER AND HER FUCKING IGNORANCE.

I didn’t choose to be mentally ill but I wouldn’t choose to be mentally average now if I could. I’ll take the torture with the enlightenment. I don’t know if I’ll last as long as a mentally normative person, but I’m not sorry for my challenge or my possibly shortened lifespan.

Please join me, tribe, in celebrating the gifts of our illness while simultaneously fighting for better treatments, understanding, and appreciation. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL TO ME.

#MentalHealthAwarenessDay

This is Like That Scene in Spirited Away

peeling paint

You know that scene where the giant stinky spirit comes into the bathhouse and Chihiro has to clean him and she washes and washes and washes him and the stink is so bad but eventually she finds something stuck to him and pulls it out and all this human trash comes spilling out and it turns out he’s quite small once all the trash is cleaned from him? That’s my head right now.

In an effort to purge my head of some noise I will now let thoughts fall randomly from my head. There may or may not be a strong theme with what comes out.

SPOILER ALERT: THERE’S A STRONG THEME HERE

If I were to measure Trump using his own yardstick of beauty which he freely applies to women as thought they’re cattle up for auction, he would be a big fat toupeed ZERO.

I wonder if Trump inspects the gums and teeth of all the women he sleeps with?

Men who seek sex with virgins a) creep me the fuck out and b) are almost never virgins themselves and c) probably raised on religion and/or d) are pedophiles because finding virgin adults is rare.

There is no greater turn-off than a man telling me how to behave so that he or other men will find me more “attractive” or more “pleasing” or – just go fuck your damn selves you giant syphilitic dicks!  This includes telling women to “smile more” or telling them when to open or shut their legs, or telling them to wear more skirts, or telling them how to behave so men won’t feel threatened, or – my god, this list is endless and it just gets worse and sicker.

(Purging is so important- I forget how much I need to do this)

I don’t tell men how to dress or act or behave. Except for my son. I do tell my son how to behave like a good human being. I don’t ever give him gender specific advice though. I never say stupid toxic shit like “Be a man about this!” or “Boys don’t cry” or “To attract women you should be Ryan Gosling”.

I think it’s best to follow this rule (it’s good for everyone): if the advice you’re giving to a woman isn’t advice you’d ever give to a man, then don’t give it. Men who tell women to “smile more”, have you ever in your life told another man to “smile more”? If you have, then you’re just a jerk all around. People don’t like being told to smile more. Makes them want to punch you. But in my life I can’t count how many times a man has told me to “smile more” and how many times I’ve heard the same advice being dished out to other women by men. Yet I have never once overheard a man telling another man to smile more. That right there is misogyny, for anyone who can’t recognize it.

The reverse is true. If the advice you’re giving a man isn’t advice you’d ever give to a woman, then don’t give it. Also, generally speaking, don’t give advice to people unless they ask you for it.

DON’T GIVE ADVICE TO PEOPLE UNLESS THEY ASK FOR IT.

For example, when writers talk about the difficulty they’re having with a project, more often than not they aren’t asking for advice from whoever’s randomly passing by on social media or in person, they’re hoping for commiseration. Most writers I know actually ask other writers for advice when that’s what they want. Why is that so hard to grasp?

I don’t understand how come so many atheists and non-Catholics are so riled up any time someone says they like Pope Francis. I’m seeing so many people pointing out that he isn’t perfect, disappointment that he’s met with conservative Christians during this trip to the United States. Why do people expect other people to be either all good or all bad? I like Pope Francis because he’s really saying some radical things for a Pope to say. Good things. Things I actually believe in. But just because I like him doesn’t mean I automatically think he’s above criticism or mistakes or that he’s ANYTHING OTHER THAN A RELIGIOUS LEADER AND A FALLIBLE HUMAN BEING. I’m an atheist, I don’t believe in the Papacy. What I understand is that he’s still a Catholic and still is leading millions of people who are also Catholic which means I don’t agree with a lot of what they believe in. There are things that not even the most liberal Pope is going to be able to change or even want to change about the church he leads because if he wanted to change the Catholic church that much HE WOULDN’T BE THE POPE.

Who the fuck cares if he met with Kim Davis? Do you all imagine his point in meeting with her was to congratulate her? I suspect that she represents a person in need of guidance. But even so, I really don’t give a fuck. The fact that he met with a person I think is horrible doesn’t invalidate the good things he HAS done and the good examples he HAS made through his own actions.

I don’t need reminding that all humans are human. All humans are capable of mad fuckery. I don’t even LIKE humans. Popes are people I usually dislike for their ridiculous pomposity and conservatism. Seeing a pope not wear those robes of state for every public gathering is refreshing. Hearing a Pope talking about not hating gay people and firing Bishops who have focused all their energies on anti-gay agendas – these are unheard of things for a Pope to say or do until now. So yeah, even I am impressed because compared to all the Popes that came before Francis, he’s pretty radical.

BUT HE’S STILL A CATHOLIC POPE WHO IS BEHOLDEN TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. So obviously you can’t expect him to remove the ban on contraception. It would be phenomenal if he did and I’d like him better if he did. But he’s the goddamn Pope, people.

Why is it that whenever a human does something noteworthy and people note it there is a huge inevitable wave of people crying out “BUT THEY DON’T HAVE A PERFECT RECORD AS A HUMAN BEING SO HOW CAN YOU ADMIRE THEM?!”?

Listen you little lump-nuggets, do YOU have a perfect record as a human being? I sure don’t. Don’t you sometimes think that when you do something that was challenging or new for you and positive it’s okay for people to admire you for it even though you don’t have a perfect record as a human being? I do. I think it’s okay to applaud people for improving on themselves or improving on an institution even if they haven’t done all the improving possible. It’s okay to note good actions by people who also do questionable things. It’s also okay to note when generally good people do bad things.

Positive feedback is very important to making a difference in the world. If all you do as a human being is point out what’s bad in the world and what you don’t like and what’s wrong, then you’re missing half the arsenal of change. Yes, the bad and the ugly must be pointed out and said out loud and addressed in order to bring light to the dark. But the other part of it is that when someone does something good or something good has happened – we also need to applaud it and say “YES! More of this!” and “I like this change!” and “This person did something admirable after being a total douche-pickle. Hey person I used to call a “douche-pickle”, I like this thing you did, maybe you’re not such a douche-pickle anymore” Why? Because encouraging behaviors and actions that you like and make you feel good or help the world in a positive way encourage people to do MORE good, not less. People need to know they’re going in a good direction. Nearly all species on earth respond to a positive feedback loop.

Humans have really gotten stuck in a negative feedback loop. You all can do whatever you want but I’m going to still praise imperfect human beings when they do good things for beings outside of themselves and/or the planet. I’m going to praise imperfect beings when they shed a little light somewhere. Even if it isn’t epic. It’s a given they’ve probably done things I don’t agree with. So I’m not going to listen to any of you when you point out to me that someone I’ve praised isn’t perfect. I’m going to point to myself and say “I’m imperfect too” and then I’m going to probably flip you off.

I’m still sick of this old (but active) chestnut: people who think logically aren’t emotional. Logic itself isn’t emotion, of course, but a language equation. But using logic doesn’t require one to be unemotional. You can be full of emotional outrage and still make a logical argument. Critical thinking is a skill that anyone can learn and apply regardless of their level of emotional involvement in a subject under debate.

Logic doesn’t belong more to one gender or another. It belongs to anyone who has critical thinking as part of their educational curriculum and who actively practice it. it’s a complete fallacy that men are generally (and naturally) more logical than women. It’s also a fallacy that men are generally (and naturally) less emotional than women.

Now I’m late getting going on my sewing projects but I feel much better for having purged so much bullshit that’s been accumulating in my head and heart. Things making me angry and itchy and depressed. This only dips in the surface of a deep well, but at least it’s a start.