wandering

It’s hard to get started lately. Hard to start the day. Hard to start tasks other than ones I know that people would notice if I skipped. Hard to start making changes that would probably be helpful. I don’t know where to point myself or what words to use. The order of things gets scrambled and I wander off into dream-land rather than trying to untangle and clean up the messes I keep making.

I find myself wandering not just mentally but physically as well. Detours on routes I’m meant to be traveling. Wasting time and gas driving around looking for places I don’t need to go. I have no stake in these places. My brain is just always fishing for something to do other than what I really ought to be doing, and I don’t always have the ability to rein it back in, to stick to the path.

Part of this is down to my body adjusting to being (medically approved) off meds. Neither of the two meds I was on were working for me anymore – one was giving me panic attacks and the other one was making me wish I was dead (no planning, just the general ‘everyone would be better off without me’ feeling), in addition to causing some pretty serious gastric issues. So, over the course of the last few months, I’ve been working on getting off both meds. It will take some time for things to chemically settle back down in the brain meats, and I respect that.

Part of it is also big changes in routine. My partner found a job after almost six months of being unemployed. It’s a wonderful thing and I’m very happy about it, but it has also come with some scheduling turmoil for us and the hound. We’re still trying to get used to new time constraints, new traffic patterns, etc. Big changes aren’t easy for anybody, but when you’re someone who needs daily routines as anchors in order to not feel utterly untethered and overwhelmed, it’s particularly hard. There are things I can do to help with this, of course: stuff like giving myself a hard bedtime and wake time, doing meal prep on the weekends so that we have dinner stuff we can quickly throw together on weeknights, and making dog training time mandatory rather than optional (which is good for both him AND me). But, knowing what needs doing and actually doing it are often very different things in my world.

True to form, I don’t know where I was going with this and I don’t really know how to end it. I guess I just wanted to try and get back into the habit of writing even when there’s nothing really obvious to write about, because that’s supposedly how one becomes a better writer. Or something.

 

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Sunset at the lake last Friday. I went to the store for ice cream and ended up at the town beach. At least I remembered I had ice cream in the car and didn’t stay long enough to let it melt.

origins

I started this blog three years ago today.

cake

OCD brain is annoyed that there are more than three candles in this picture. Calm your tits, OCD brain. We’ll just assume those blurry, far-away candles are for future blogiversaries off in the misty distance. Or past ones from other blogs. Who cares, just make like Elsa and let it go already. Gahd.

It doesn’t feel like that big of a deal to me because I’ve actually had a blog of some sort for close to fourteen years now. My original blog, which technically still exists but is pretty hard to find unless you know what you’re looking for, was started on 1/13/2004. I finally gave up posting there in  2009, then started my half-assed cooking blog in 2010. The half-assed cooking blog also still exists but I haven’t posted on it since July 2015. It was starting to feel like a chore, and it was also making me feel really inadequate in a lot of ways. Like, food blogs are all about good photography, and I had neither the time or the inclination to teach myself how to be a food stylist. I’m also really not good at measuring when I’m cooking, and I don’t always think in a linear fashion, so recipes are pretty hard for me to write…and that’s pretty much what people read food blogs for. There are only so many times someone is going to want to read about how good my meatloaf is before they’re like “OK, prove it. Either feed me meatloaf, give me your recipe so I can try it, or STFU”. In the end, I opted for S’ing the F.U.

I started How Bad Can It Go because a friend drew some casual similarities between my then Facebook-based rants about being a little touched in the head and the way Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) wrote about her own experiences with mental illness. The comparison was wildly flattering. I immediately started envisioning how I’d blog hilariously (but also earnestly) about my struggles with anxiety, depression, and ADHD for maybe a year or so, then be ‘discovered’ by some publisher. I’d be given a book deal and afforded the opportunity to tell my day job they could shove off.

Let’s just say the offers haven’t exactly been pouring in. Or trickling, even. Nary a drip. Not even the merest hint of moisture in the air. Dry as a 5,000 year old Egyptian’s desiccated, mummified femur buried under 47 feet of sand, in fact.

mummy

Ramses was the worst peek-a-boo partner EVER.

But that’s OK. I’ll keep on keepin’ on, because hey, how bad can it go?

inventory

note: sorry, I know the formatting is fucked up. I don’t know why WordPress does this sometimes, and I don’t know how to fix it without inserting break tags between paragraphs, which makes the spaces between them gigantic. Sorry, sorry. Please forward all complaints to the first person named Janet you have in your address book. She’ll love hearing them, I promise.

Hi, Hello, Guten Tag.

 

I haven’t jumped off a bridge, been abducted by Sasquatches (Sas…quati? Sasquaron? Sasquatillia? I could Google it but where’s the fun in that), or launched myself into space via the power of my own ass (YET). I’ve just been busy with getting caught up at work after vacation, trying to mentally adjust to no longer being on vacation, pining for more vacation, and wading through the daily struggle of trying not to think so much about why I exist. Those all take up a lot of time and mental energy, so I haven’t had much left of either to write.
BUT I’M HERE NOW!
There’s a post about GenCon coming, complete with discussions about the games I played, I swear…but this is not that.
This, amigos, is an exhaustive inventory of my purse. This post is being brought to you by the literal five minute struggle I had to find my work keys this morning as I pulled handful after handful of random fuckery out of my purse. At one point during the process I actually thought to myself, ‘maybe I should get a smaller shoulder-bag just for my work essentials. I could tuck it here into the bigger bag and everything would be contained right where I need it’.
Let that sink in for a minute. My bag is so big, and so full of shit, that I was seriously contemplating GETTING ANOTHER BAG to segregate the things I need to find easily, and putting it INSIDE THE TOO-BIG, TOO-FULL BAG.
nevermind_nathan_fillion

Exactly.

Here is the bag in question. It’s sitting on my size 11 shoes, which I didn’t actually do for scale, but feel free to make that connection if you’d like.
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It’s sort of Tardis blue, but it’s not really bigger on the inside.

I’m not actually a purse carrying type. When I’m leaving the house to run errands or something, I just grab my wallet, which is a checkbook clutch thing. I don’t like leaving my wallet hanging around unattended at work though, and I like the idea of it being unattended in my car even LESS, so I’ve always maintained some kind of smallish bag situation in order to tote the wallet, my keys, and my lunch back and forth to work. Sometimes it has been an actual purse, sometimes a messenger bag, and for a while I used one of those reusable bags you get for like $2.50 at the grocery store.
When I first got this blue bag many years ago, the intended use was as a carry-on for air travel, as it was big enough to fit even a large knitting project, a 1-liter bottle of water, my wallet, and my Kindle or a book, with a bit of room to spare. I’m not really sure quite how I ended up transitioning it from a carry-on to my daily lug-shit-around bag, honestly. It was probably after some trip we took where I was too tired and brain-dead to transfer my shit over from one bag to another the morning that I had to go back to work. That sounds like me.
Now, if you have ADHD or are close to someone who does, you may be able to see where this is going. The Second Law of ADHD Life is that The Mess Will Always Expand To Fill The Available Space. Get a bigger kitchen table because your old small one is always covered with piles of stuff? The mess will expand to fill the available space. Clean out the trash in the back seat of the car to build the illusion that you are a functioning adult? The mess will expand to fill the available space. Switch to a bigger hand bag for whatever reason? The mess will expand, blah blah blah. It’s like gravity, or my husband’s willingness to eat Taco Bell even though it makes him sick every time. It just IS. You can try to fight nature, but nature always wins. It doesn’t matter what kind of bag I end up with. I will always, ALWAYS, end up filling it with weird junk. I did it as a child, I did it even worse as a teenager, and I will likely continue to do it for as long as I have a bag that I leave the house with daily.
SO.
With all that said, here’s the full and truthful inventory of my bag as of this morning:
  • one ballpoint pen: click style, orange, emblazoned with the words ‘Riverbank Church’, which I have never attended and don’t know the actual location of.
  • lipstick: three different shades. I had a lip color phase which I have long since passed, but for some reason I still carry these around. Just in case of a pale lip emergency, I guess?
  • small bottle of tylenol: because ibuprofen doesn’t work on my headaches, and headaches make me anxious, which makes my headaches worse. Welcome to my world.
  • empty plastic bag from local grocery store: I think I might have used this to wrap a potentially leaky lunch container one day, and then felt bad about single-handedly ruining the environment if I threw it away, so back in the bag it went. I didn’t actually un-crumple it and check whether it contained remnants of leaked lunch. I haven’t developed a case of bag-ants, so I think it’s probably ok.
  • work keys: ironically, these are all keys to the old office that I haven’t given back yet, but there’s also a security token on the key ring that I need to do some of my daily functions, and is therefore about the only thing in the bag that I ACTUALLY need to have with me on a day to day basis.
  • small container of dental floss: having stuff stuck in my teeth makes me twitchy, so I like to have floss just in case.
  • three barrettes: pop-style metal ones. These are for keeping my hair out of my face at yoga class. I only use one at a time, but I carry backups because they’re small and very lose-able.
  • wallet: where all my plastic money access cards live. This is a hot mess too and could merit its own inventory post, frankly.
  • two copies of a bill I need to pay: I brought the first one to work with me to argue with them about the charges, realized I was wrong before I even called them (thankfully), stuffed it in my bag, forgot about it, and didn’t pay it. The next month they kindly sent me a reminder copy. I thought to myself that the best place to put it in order to remember to pay it would be my bag, so in it went two weeks ago. Sidenote: I threw away the older copy while doing this inventory. Remind me to write a check for the newer copy when I’m done with this.
  • Microsoft Office suite software box, empty: I have a semi-reasonable excuse for this one. It came from when I bought our laptop a couple years ago. All it has in it is the serial number for the copy of Office that I bought. I set up the new laptop at work so that my IT guy could do his VPN voodoo on it, entered the serial number for Office, then tossed the box in my desk drawer and forgot about it until we started moving the office and it came time to empty my drawers out. At that point I wasn’t sure whether the serial number was something I should keep a record of, so I saved the box to be on the safe side. Granted, that WAS like eight weeks ago, but still.
  • small bottle of ibuprofen: because tylenol doesn’t work on my period cramps.
  • passport: the last time I traveled internationally, I used this bag as my carry-on. That was April of 2017. Passport’s still in there.
  • brush and comb: because sometimes I try to make my hair all travel in sort of the same direction, just to see what it looks like.
  • sugar free honey lemon Ricola cough drops, half bag: these are another cleaning-out-old-desk holdover
  • 2016 W2 tax form: I think I had this with me to validate my 2016 adjusted gross income so that I could file my 2017 taxes online.  I did my taxes in February. It is now almost September.
  • 2017 W2 tax form: see above.
  • 2017 W2 tax form of my husband’s: see above.
  • small tube of refill erasers for a Pentel mechanical pencil: I bought these through work with the intention of using them in my clicky pencils at home. Haven’t gotten there yet. I still use the pencils…I just erase with a different eraser. Guess I didn’t need them that bad?
  • broken claw-style hair clip, small: it’s not completely broken – just one tooth got snapped off. Still totally viable in a hair emergency, which I feel the need to always be prepared for.
  • my copy of my mom’s advance directive paperwork: my mom got really sick for a while back in early 2017. They made her fill out advance directive (living will) paperwork and since I’m her only kid and I’m named for everything in it along with my dad, I had to be given a copy. It doesn’t have any sensitive information on it or anything…it’s just a super weird thing to have been carrying around for like 18 months.
  • letter from a friend, postmarked May 2017: When I went to renew my driver’s license in December 2017, I had to bring some pieces of mail with me to prove that I really do live where I say I live. Because, you know, that shit totally couldn’t be faked.
  • 2017 car registration (now long expired): I THINK this may have been related to the last item, but I’m not positive.
  • pay stub circa 12/2017: possibly also related to the license renewal thing? I get all my pay stubs electronically now, so at least I don’t have to worry about accumulating large piles of them anymore.
  • receipt for coach tickets dated April 2017: this was from our trip to the UK. It was actually tucked into my passport folio thing but must have worked its way out during one of my many pawing-through-layers-of-shit-to-find-keys sessions.
  • little card from flowers my husband sent me for our anniversary: which anniversary, I can’t be sure. Which number, I mean. I know that they were for our wedding anniversary, not like…the anniversary of that time I thought it would be a good idea to put raisins in the sweet potato mash (because trust me, that was NOT a celebratory experience for him).
  • job application for local grocery store, blank: this was given to me to give to my husband when the owner of the local grocery store was trying to get him to come work for her. The fact that it’s still in my bag like four months later should tell you what he thought of that idea.
  • book, entitled ‘Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself’: I bought this from Amazon and forgot to change my shipping address from work to home, so it got delivered at work. I took it out of the box, tucked it into my bag with the intention of starting it after I finished the book I was working on at the time. This was in January (I just checked Amazon). As you can clearly tell, I’ve not yet gotten over myself enough to actually crack this book.
  • reusable plastic carrier bag from Asda: this is circa April 2017 when we were in the UK. We went to Asda to stock up on British candy before we headed home. I had my usual guilt over trashing a plastic bag once I got home, and then realized this was actually a pretty decent reusable bag. Why I felt that keeping it folded up in my purse was an appropriate use for it, I couldn’t tell you.

There you go. I’ve now wasted just over 2,000 words telling you about all the junk in my bag. 2008 to be exact. Well, before I wrote that. And that. Ok, I gotta go.

hair today, gone tomorrow

To say my partner is a good guy would be a profound understatement. He is truly one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met…and I’m not just saying that because I have to share a bathroom with him. For as long as I have known him, he has always made a point of giving to others. Whether it’s his time, his money, or even his most treasured belongings, he’s always happy to step up and help someone in need, and to do it with a smile.

Mark’s most outstanding physical trademark has always been a very long ginger ponytail. He’s always been into heavy metal music and long hair tends to come with that territory. Plus, having a long ponytail was something polite society didn’t really want him to do in the time and place that he grew up, so maintaining it was always kind of an act of defiance for him, a little way of flipping off said polite society and all it stood for.

 

After 30+ years of maintaining the long hair, he’s now ready to give it up, all in the name of charity.  Because, like I said, he has a habit of taking being a good guy to a whole different level.

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He was watching sports on the TV above us. I guarantee it.

The charity he’s choosing to support with this endeavor is the National Immigration Law Center. Unless you’ve been living under an actual rock for the past couple years (is there room under there for me? Seriously, I can bring snacks), you understand why NILC has become so important to so many people. Even so, I still encourage you to click the link above and read more about what they do and how they are helping some of the most vulnerable among us. They are a vital resource in these days of seemingly constant shifting interpretations of immigration law and, quite frankly, human rights.

I’m going to throw up the link for Mark’s GoFundMe campaign below, but I’d like to  point out here that NILC is a four star rated charity and has a direct funding agreement with GoFundMe, so any donations made to Mark’s campaign will go DIRECTLY to NILC, not to his or my bank account. I don’t want any ambiguity on this – we will not personally be benefiting financially from any donations made. Which, of course, is as it should be.

Here’s the campaign link.

If you want to throw a few bucks at it, we’ll love you forever. If you don’t have any money spare but you want to share the link around to get more eyeballs on it, again…undying love. If you want to shut your browser window and forget you ever heard of the NILC, well…you do you. I don’t have the time or energy to be mad about it.

Thanks for your consideration!

not funny but important

There have been a few times I’ve let fly on here about politics, but mostly I don’t go there because honestly, I’m not a journalist. Anything I say is just opinion. I read a lot and listen to a lot of NPR, so it might sometimes be decently well-informed opinion…but still. Trying to string words together in that way has never been my jam. I do funny (well, sort of), not eloquent.

I posted something on Facebook this morning that I want to get out to a wider audience, though. My Facebook list is comprised mostly of politically like-minded friends who are well informed on current events. Some of them are actively involved in local and national politics, and I’m pretty sure most of them vote. However, there are a handful who “don’t follow politics”. Which, I get it, politics are fucking exhausting…but like it or not, America is a political beast of our own making. These people that don’t follow politics, that don’t pay any attention to the news, and especially the ones that don’t vote? They break my heart, regardless of whether we have a Cheeto-stained Russian operative in the Oval Office or not.

So, I wrote this little rant directed at them and I want to pass it on to the wider world in the hopes that it motivates even just a couple people to look up from their phones, see what’s going on around them, and maybe choose to participate in civic life in even the tiniest way possible.

The offers I make below stand for anyone reading this here as well.

****

For those of you who don’t follow politics, who feel like it’s all stupid and you can’t be bothered to get involved, know this: America cannot afford for you to keep your head in the sand any longer. If what you’re seeing / hearing on the news makes you uncomfortable, please take five minutes to fire off an email or a call to your members of Congress and BE HEARD. It might feel completely fruitless, but it’s something. If nothing else, it’s a written record of the fact that you didn’t just roll over and play dead.

You don’t have to call – you can email. If you need help finding your reps’ email address, let me know and I’ll happily find them for you. You don’t even have to email – you can use ResistBot to send a fax directly to your reps’ offices from your cell phone! Hit me up if you want help learning how to do that as well.

And if you’re not registered to vote, please, PLEASE remedy that immediately. If you need help understanding how to register, registration deadlines, etc, I would love to help you.

Please don’t just ignore everything going on lately and chalk it up to business as usual. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. This is the result of a handful of very rich, very self-serving people doing their level best to create a new world order. And if you’ve been paying any kind of attention at all, you’re hopefully catching on to the fact that that new world order they’re envisioning is not going to benefit the vast majority of us. All this going on right now is a result of too many people ignoring too much stuff for far too long.

Don’t just roll over.

We have to fight.

Opossum2

Opossums are awesome, but don’t act like one, mmmkay?

easier listening

My office-mate listens to music over a set of small speakers on his desk. Normally he listens to a Jimmy Buffett channel, which I qualify under the heading of ‘easy listening. Today, however, he has switched to something I can only describe as…easier listening? But not in a good way.  Like, the grocery store I shop at has better, more up-beat tunes than what is playing in my office right now. My dentist’s reception area plays harder shit than this.

I’m actually a real classic rock nerd and most of the bands this station is playing are recognizable to me: Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, Clapton, Van Morrison…all groups / performers that have vast catalogs of perfectly listenable music to their names. But this station has for some sick reason taken all the softest, sleepiest, most boring, most utterly mind-numbing tracks they could find from all these bands (plus a bunch of genuinely shitty other ones), and coalesced them into one extraordinary, unholy stream of sonic tranquilizer.

brain

It feels like an actual waste of the energy my brain is burning to convert the waves of sound vibrating my ear drums into something recognizable to me as music. I want those three calories back. I can find a better use for them, I’m sure of it.

Could I put my headset on and listen to something more tolerable? Certainly. But every once in a while I have to take my headset off and be assaulted by the tide of blandness that threatens to pull me under. Twenty minutes ago I had to take my ears out of their safe space in order to answer someone’s face-to-face question (savages, this is what email is for. LIVE IN THE NOW, JANET), and I noticed there was a particularly odious song playing across the room. It ended just as I was about to retreat back to playlist land, but then another, even WORSE track came on…and I’ll admit it, curiosity got the better of me. As it often does.

“This isn’t his normal station”, I thought. “This is something far, far worse. I wonder how many shitty songs in a row they’ll play”.

They’re all shitty songs, Brent. ALL OF THEM. I lost count when my brain actually browned out momentarily during Clapton’s ‘Let It Grow’. I came back as Elton John’s ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’ was starting and I knew I had to tell the world about it.

Sweet pole-dancing Christ, they just brought out the big guns: ‘Dog and Butterfly’ by Heart.

I can’t. I’m not strong enough.

The madness is descending.

Only the spirit of Chris Cornell can save me now…

seesaw

The company I work for moved offices last week. It had been in an old converted farm house in a tiny rural town for at least 25 years. A year or so ago, the rumblings about perhaps moving closer to civilization (such as we know it here in darkest New England, anyway) started getting louder. Then the building we were in had some pretty serious structural issues and that kind of sealed the deal, as no one really wanted to be around when the front wall of the place finally collapsed. Funny how that works.

Anyway.

So, the new office is pretty swish in a lot of ways. It’s in a big town / small city, and it’s near a bunch of restaurants, shops, and other businesses. The old place was near…a hardware store. The new place was built less than 25 years ago so it has modern windows that actually open and, even better, actually close. The windows in the old place were hit and miss on both those points. We have central air conditioning in the new building, so no more struggling to hear people on the phone over the roar of the nearest window A/C unit! Gone is the tiny, grotty, galley kitchenette that had barely enough room for the coffee makers and the sink. Now we have a big, bright, break room with two full sized counters…and cupboards! So many cupboards. There’s tons of storage everywhere in this place as well – we have closets, utility rooms, little knee-wall cubby spaces…so many spots to cram junk (that’s what she said). All the storage in the old place was in the basement, and let me just tell you in case you’ve never been in the basement of an early 1800’s farmhouse: they are, generally, fucking terrifying. There were spiders the size of my hand in that basement. I don’t even do small spiders, friends…so ones the size of my hand are nuke-from-orbit territory.  Having storage areas where I don’t feel like I’m about to be pounced on and dragged away by outsize arachnids gets a big A+ in my book.

Another fun feature of the new office is the bright, modern bathrooms. The bathrooms at the old place were tiny and terribly lit – one of them was dubbed “the coffin” because it was so narrow and dark. The bathrooms were also all very close to the kitchenette, so you could stand there making a cup of coffee and hear pretty much everything going on in the bathrooms. Even our bathroom upstairs by my old office, which was a little bit bigger than the downstairs ones, suffered from a distinct lack of soundproofing. I’m pretty sure my office mate was privy to at least a few of my louder sobbing breakdowns in the can. These new bathrooms, though! They’re down the hall, pretty much equidistant from all the offices and the break room, they’re single occupancy, and they don’t seem to share any walls with any of the work spaces. As someone who not only has regular bathroom-based crying jags but also an intermittent inflammatory bowel condition, I appreciate this feature perhaps more than most.

The new bathrooms do indeed have a lot going for them but there’s also something weird that I’ve noticed going on in them:

The toilets seesaw.

seesaw

Does anybody else see a slightly sinister raccoon face in this image? Just me? Paging Dr. Rorshach…Dr. Rorschach to the accounting office, STAT…

The bathrooms are situated back to back with a closet in between. I’m not sure, but I suspect the cause of the seesaw effect is that a sewer pipe that comes up through the wall branches off in a T shape to connect to the back of the toilets, which then drain down to the bigger pipe at ground level. Regardless of how, I’m quite positive that the stools are connected, and the WAY I’m sure of this is that I was sitting on one when I heard someone enter the adjacent bathroom, sit on that toilet, and I subsequently felt my throne rise a rather alarming inch or so.

Now, it wasn’t enough to pick my feet up off the ground or anything. I’m almost six feet tall so that would take some doing. But it was a very noticeable shift upward. I sat there looking slightly panicked, not knowing quite how to proceed. If I got up, would the person on the other side go down? Gravity dictates that in seesaw, the heavier end always goes down. But I’m the heaviest person in the office by some distance…easily twice the weight of all but a few of my coworkers…so why was MY side of the toilet see-saw going UP when someone lighter than me was sitting on it? I am entirely certain that they were not already on the stool when I first sat down, because I heard them enter the neighboring bathroom after I was already sitting.

I ended up just staying put, waiting out the other person so I could see what happened. After a short moment (clearly this was one of my older coworkers who doesn’t understand the importance of mid-day Instagram breaks. THIS IS HOW I SELF SOOTHE JANET, DEAL WITH IT), there was a distinct downward shift of my toilet and the sound of my neighbor flushing. The see-saw had come full…circle? No, that would be bad. The eagle had landed. That sounds bad in a toilet context too, actually. Whatever. You know what I mean.

After that initial seesaw experience my interest was piqued. Was it just a freak thing? Did I hallucinate it? Not that I normally hallucinate (at least, not that I know of. Oh god, we’re all just brains in vats aren’t we?!), but I believe in SCIENCE and SCIENCE says that if your hypothesis produces reliably repeatable results then something something quarks and neutrinos, and then you get the Nobel Prize. And since pretty much the last thing I’m interested in doing at my place of work most days is my actual job, I figured I might as well try to gather more data.

If that makes it sound kind of like I staked out the bathrooms for the next few hours,  trying to rush in to sit on the toilet of the opposite one every time someone went in to use the john, well…that’s not especially inaccurate. It wasn’t full on surveillance, though. I just kept finding excuses to wander up and down the hall, visiting the bathrooms all afternoon. Once I was in one, I’d sit around for a while waiting to see if someone would visit the neighboring one and seesaw me. So it differed little from a normal work day, to be fair.

Anyway.

I tallied three confirmed instances of toilet seesawing yesterday afternoon, and I’ve tallied a further one so far today. I really think I’m on to something here, friends.

In fact, I’m so confident about my impending Nobel Prize that I’ve started drafting a list of names for all the goats I’m going to acquire once I get that sweet million bucks and am able to buy my dream farm…

goats

We’ll start with Newton and Tesla. 

laundry day bra syndrome

Anyone who has ever worn a bra has probably experiences Laundry Day Bra Syndrome, or LDBS. LDBS happens when all your good bras are in the wash but you can’t / don’t want to go bra-less, so you pull out a old bra that has been relegated to the back of the drawer. You know, one of the bras that still has enough life in it to merit being saved from a ride to the dumpster, but that has enough wrong with it that you’ve removed it from daily rotation. It has become a back-up bra for occasions just like these. You don’t have to rely on these back-up bras very often so the memory of whatever physical horror they may have been causing that brought you to buy replacement bras has faded and been tinged rosy with nostalgia.

‘This was always a good bra’, you say to yourself as you pull it out of the drawer.

You put it on and pull up the straps (unless you’re one of those sorceresses that puts their bra on straps-first, in which case, I am both in awe and slightly afraid of you). You do the swoop-and-scoop maneuver and adjust your boobs in the cups. You look down at your very satisfactory cleavage and wonder why you don’t actually wear this bra more often. The shirt you don seems to sit better across your chest than ever before, and you vow to add this clearly lost gem of a bra back into your regular rotation.

All is happy and right. Tits up, shoulders back, you feel like you and your rediscovered favorite foundation garment can take on the world. You strut through the next couple hours of your day like the patriarchy-smashing goddess you were always meant to be. There’s that one tiny spot where the bra band is starting to ride up just a bit under your left arm, but it’s hardly even noticeable. You toss your hair triumphantly and throw the person bagging your groceries a little wink, just because.

As the day wears on, that tiny spot riding up under your left arm becomes a little larger. While bending down to reach for something, the whole left side of the bra’s band suddenly rolls up like a window shade that has been pulled too hard and sprung violently. It’s ok, though! Small price to pay for such great support, right? You look down to admire your rack again, then reach around and dig the rolled-up band out of your flesh with a smile. The band immediately starts to creep up again. You briefly consider sticking it down with some double-stick tape, then move on with your day.

By mid afternoon things have deteriorated significantly. You are embroiled in a near-constant struggle with the bra. Every time you move your left arm, the band rolls up into your armpit and requires excavation. When you turn to the right, the inside tip of the underwire pokes you in the side of your breast. The wonderful support you were so enamored with this morning has all but completely dissolved as the back of the bra will now not stay put at all. The structural integrity of the straps is questionable at best – one is digging so deeply into your shoulder that it’s compressing a nerve which is in turn causing three of your fingers to go numb, while the other one has loosened to the point of abject pointlessness. You now remember very clearly why this piece-of-shit waste-of-money symbol of oppression had been shoved in the back of your drawer, and that’s exactly where it’s going back to as soon as you can get away with taking it off. Because, after all, it’s still got enough life to merit keeping it a while longer even though it’s got issues. You know, as an emergency bra. You vow to make a tag that says “EMERGENCY ONLY” to affix to the bra as a warning to Future You.

There comes a moment – perhaps in the late afternoon, perhaps in the early evening – when you simply can’t take it anymore. It’s you or the bra, and since you’re the one with brain power and thumbs, you win. That fetid combination of spandex, wire and hate gets shucked off and flung across the room as you let out a whoop of relief.

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The bra lays there, rejected, in the corner for a while. But it eventually gets picked up, washed, and put back into the drawer…where it will lurk in wait for the desperation of another laundry day when all the good bras are once again unavailable.

lust for pie

On Sunday, my lust for pie landed me at Urgent Care.

If you follow me on any other social media platforms, you may already be familiar with this saga. For the benefit of those wise subscribers who don’t follow me elsewhere, and for the sake of posterity, I’m about to re-tell the tale here in long form.  Probably too long.

Anyway. Here goes.

We used to have this neighbor – he moved out a couple years ago. We called him Crazy Gary. I feel pretty OK with labeling him as crazy since I’m sort of crazy too and also he was definitely, obviously a little bit not right in the head. Which is fine, nothing wrong with being crazy if it works for you and you’re not hurting anybody…which I’m relatively sure he wasn’t.

Crazy Gary lived in this little house on a bit of property that’s bordered on two sides by our quiet, dead-end road. The other two sides are bordered by our landlord’s property, which is mostly a woodchuck wonderland of lawn and vegetable patches. Crazy Gary was a hoarder and a tinkerer. He had every kind of engine you could imagine sitting around in his tiny back yard, and could often be found fabricating strange hybridized lawnmower-garden tiller-tree trimmer things out of like, spare bike parts and twine. The guy was clearly some sort of mechanical genius. What he was NOT, however, was a responsible custodian of the house he lived in. The house actually belonged to Crazy Gary’s absentee mother and I guess she eventually got sick of the place being trashed and full of boxes of greasy sprockets whenever anyone went to check on it, so she had him evicted. Technically the house is now for sale as a ‘fixer upper’, but it’s really more of a ‘faller inner’. They cleaned out a lot of Crazy Gary’s hoard (like four huge rolling dumpsters worth, plus I don’t even know how many truck loads. It took them a couple weeks), but there are still piles of junk hanging around. The house has some broken windows. One of the exterior doors came unlatched at some point in the winter and now the woodchucks are using it as a clubhouse. Most mornings when I drive by on my way to work, there’s at least one woodchuck out on the front step sunning itself, giving me side-eye like “yeah, you keep moving, bi-ped. This place is four legger territory now.”

Point being…the property is abandoned.

Which conveniently relieves me of any qualms I might have had about appropriating the odd armful of stalks from Crazy Gary’s huge, beautiful rhubarb patch. It’s not stealing if it doesn’t belong to anybody in the first place, right? And it’s just going to go to seed and spread further across the lawn if someone DOESN’T harvest it, so really, I’m doing them a favor, right?

Right.

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This patch is easily 6’X8′. Trust me, there’s enough. Also? Someone else had been in it before me, so I feel almost entirely absolved of guilt.

Sunday afternoon was actually the first time I made a rhubarb run this season. It had been ready to make delicious things with for a few weeks but I kept either forgetting or running out of time in the day (you don’t go into woodchuck country at night. They’re like bats but worse. 10 gold Internet doubloons if you get that awkward and unskillful reference), or just plain lacked the ambition to walk the 50 yards out around the corner and pull some. But this past Sunday the weather was glorious, I was in a mood to cook, and the siren song of pie was just too much to ignore…so off I went.

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On the way back home with my only-marginally-ill-gotten gains. You see that knife glinting out from the rose-tinged stalks in my hand there? I sharpened it up real good before this whole endeavor kicked off. Foreshadowing? POSSIBLY.

My bounty and I made a quick stop at the compost pile to get rid of its leaves and stem ends, and then it was back to the kitchen to transmute this bunch of inedible hell-stalks into a toothsome pie.

Rhubarb pie is dead simple to make, especially if you’re a pastry slacker like me and use store bought pie crust (life is too short to fuck with pie crust from scratch. Don’t come at me with your tips and tricks because I’ve tried them all and they work fine, I just completely detest rolling out pie crust and I’m not going to do it. Save the wear on your finger joints. I love you). The majority of the work is in slicing the stalks and mixing them with sugar. Super easy.

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There’s that very sharp knife again. It’s a Henckels, and I’ve had it for nigh on 15 years. I cook A LOT and this knife is essentially an extension of my right hand.

One of the things about my ADHD is that it often takes me on tangents. The beat up jalopy of my mind is always taking turns down sketchy, winding side roads, often on two wheels at a high rate of speed, when it is least convenient. It can get very frustrating because I feel like I’m not the driver but rather, just one of those little smiley-face balls people sometimes stick on the end of their radio antennas. Sometimes I’m just along for the ride and I have very little say in direction or velocity, and that gets exhausting. I’ve mentioned before that one of the things I find helpful in terms of regaining a feeling of control over my brain is to make things. The creative process burns a lot of gas for me (big on the automotive metaphors today, I guess. Crazy Gary would approve), which helps slow things down a little. Making also often involves repetitive motions: the under-and-through under-and-through of knitting, the stab and draw of the needle and thread when embroidering…and of course, the methodical motions of chopping up ingredients for a dish.

Some people are afraid of very sharp knives, but anyone who has spent any time in a professional kitchen will tell you that the sharper the knife the better. Sharp knives are safer to work with, and they’re far more satisfying. There’s a specific swish that a good sharp knife makes when it cuts through veg, a specific feeling when I’m motoring through a stalk of whatever and making nice even cuts. It’s like everything else falls away, including the static in my head, and I’m in a state of flow. It’s just the knife and the veg dancing across the board, with my hands guiding via pure muscle memory. I don’t have to think about anything when I chop. I just have to show up and make the motions. It’s like a tiny glimpse of nirvana.

Another thing about ADHD is that it there are no guarantees. Something that helped you relax and focus one day might not work the next. And that hyper-focus, that Zen-like state of flow where everything seems like it’s happening almost without you, like some beautiful out-of-body experience where you get to just sit back and watch? That can vanish in an instant, in mid-motion, leaving you feeling lost and bemused until you realize, oh yes, I’ve fallen out of The Flow and I’m back on planet Earth.

And the thing about sharp knives is, they’re made of metal and thus very unforgiving. They have ZERO fucks to give about your mental state. They demand constant respect and utmost focus. A sharp knife can do a lot of damage if you’re distracted for even a split second.

Which, as you may have guessed, is how I ended up crumpled in a kitchen chair with my head between my knees, trying desperately to not pass out while I squeezed a wad of paper towel against the side of my left index finger in an attempt to staunch a rather alarming flow of blood.

The knife was in my finger, completely through my flesh and out the other side before I even registered anything. I tried to give it a quick rinse under cold water but I could immediately tell that it was deep and bad, so I went for paper towel and pressure instead. I’ve cut myself plenty of times in the past and I knew all the things to do – hold firm pressure on the wound, keep my hand above the level of my heart, sit down and stop pacing. I breathed my way through the massive urge to throw up and the torrent  of cold sweat that an adrenaline come-down always leaves me with, then I made my way to the couch so I could put my feet up. Mark wasn’t home and Keppo was pretty sure that he could fix everything by adamantly licking my face, which was as endearing as it was ineffective.

The blood wasn’t seeping through the paper towel, but the wound was getting re-opened every time I moved the paper towel to try and see if the bleeding was stopped. After about 40 minutes or so of repeating that cycle, I finally admitted that I may need stitches. I probably COULD have driven myself one-handed to Urgent Care, which is about 30 min away almost entirely by interstate, but I was still feeling a little wobbly from shock so I called my dad for a ride instead.

About twenty minutes after I went in, I emerged from the Urgent Care facility with a finger held together by superglue and steri-strips, and wrapped with elasticated gauze to roughly the size of the average corn dog.

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The doctor pointed out that it kind of looked like a dick and I couldn’t not see it after that. He used the term ‘winky’ though, which was more charming.

I’m grateful that I didn’t need stitches. I’m even MORE grateful that I didn’t sever an artery or a tendon. I’m still going to keep my knives sharp, but I might not do any serious slicing or chopping while I’m home alone for a while.
And I’m definitely going to steal more of Crazy Gary’s rhubarb.

the power of rhubarb compels you

Have you ever wondered how hard it is to become a minister? Well, wonder no more, friends and gawkers! For I, Rhubarb Tiberius Swank, Queen of Steves and Lego Dinosaurs, Starter of Many Things and Finisher of Few, Supreme Glittering Viscountess of Run-on Sentences and Abuser of Ellipsis…es?, have recently had holy orders conferred upon my person.
That’s right, I’m now officially an ordained minister!
Why, you ask? Well, that’s kind of a funny story. And, as with a fair number of my questionable ideas, it all starts with Facebook…
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If you don’t know what this means, I’m a) very sad for you, and b) think you’re probably up past your bedtime.

So, the other day I was skimming through my Facebook feed, as I am often wont to do of a weekday afternoon when the rigors of sending the same emails to the same people over and over again have inevitably brought my brain to teeter on the precipitous brink of madness. It was during the initial aftermath of the recent SCOTUS decision about the case where that asshole baker in Colorado decided they didn’t want to make wedding cakes for gay couples. There was a friend on my feed posting about how she’s ordained and would be happy to perform marriage ceremonies for any gay couples in any state, etc. That made me smile of course, because love is love. People should be able to marry whoever the frig they want (assuming both parties are down with it, obviously), and it ain’t nobody’s business what flavor of human another human likes to boink.

But it also got me thinking. Not the boinking thing, I mean (although…), but rather, the ordination part. The person who had posted this was someone I call a friend, but I’ve never met her in person. We’ve never had any talks about beliefs, philosophy, or religion, but given the avenues through which I became acquainted with her, I was pretty comfortable in assuming that she leaned pretty atheist. Rather than send her a message and start asking all kinds of probing questions about her personal beliefs and religious affiliations, I instead took myself over to trusty ol’ Google and typed in “how to get ordained”.

Side note here: if anyone ever truly hacks me, I’d be 97% willing to give up my credit card and bank account information in exchange for the solemn promise that they not compile and publish a comprehensive list of my lifetime Google search terms, because HOLY POLE DANCING CHRIST, I would never live it down. Like…you don’t even know. You don’t WANT to know. It’s that bad.
Aaaaaanyway.

One of the first things that came up in the results was a site called Universal Life Church. Having never heard of them, I was 50/50 on whether it was some kind of “every sperm is sacred” situation (you know, the ones who say you can’t even masturbate because THINK OF THE POTENTIAL CHILDREN), a cult like that one that starts with an S and ends with -ology and kind of sounds like the word ‘science’ (I am genuinely afraid of them and refuse to type out the whole name online. If you aren’t afraid of them, you need to watch Louis Theroux’s movie about them. Google it. I’m not even linking it because I’m convinced they keep track), or maybe just a nice, gentle, UU-type “don’t be a dick and everything will probably be alright” kind of thing.

Wait, that was three options, not two. So rather than 50/50 I was…33.3333/33.3333/33.3333…ish. Shout out to infinite decimals, heyyyyy.

Fucking A, where was I?

Ok, yes. Universal Life Church. I held my breath, clicked on the link, and was immediately greeted with a cheerful banner image of a dove in flight, with the words “We are all children of the same Universe”. Following this was a link to a video of Conan O’Brien proffering his own certificate of ordination from Universal Life Church. I exhaled. These were clearly my people.

There was a big blue button mid-page that said “Online Ordination”, flanked with what I originally thought were lightening bolts (me, internally: fuck yes, let’s get Norse up in this motherfucker! Zap me with some Odin-juice! Wait…), but what I now see are actually rough approximations of olive branches. Which make more sense, to be fair…but are a little on the boring side.

I clicked on the button. Through the dark arts of tiny HTML gnomes with pixel-axes (get it? Heeee), I was whisked to another page which said a bunch of stuff about how this ordination was legal in all states, how I couldn’t lie and give a fake name, some crap about online communities that were available if I had questions, etc. Much more interestingly, there was also a sidebar showing some of the other famous people in addition to Conan who had been ordained through the site. You know,  in case I needed more confirmation that I would be in truly esteemed company. The list included such luminaries as:

  •  Lady Gaga
  •  Stephen Colbert
  •  Ian McKellan
  •  Paul McCartney
  •  Richard Branson (maybe not as compelling of a selling point as they think)
  •  that Beneflick Clumbermonk guy, and…

…wait for it…

…waaaaaaitttt…

…Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who I personally have oft considered worshiping as a supreme being in and of himself.

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 I couldn’t hit that next big, blue, definitely-olive-branch-and-not-lightening-bolt-festooned button that said “Begin Ordination Now” fast enough.

The next step was a web form to fill in. First and last name, email address, state and country of residence, and password to use for the site. I filled it all in and read the fine print at the bottom, which was just some junk about being 18 years of age, and how to access your paperwork later on.

I hovered over the “Submit Ordination Request” button for a minute, wondering what I was getting myself info. Would there be a background check? Would I have to submit references who could vouch for the fact that I’m not secretly a puppy-kicker? Would I have to demonstrate my knowledge of…well, anything?

My gaze floated back up to the ecstatic pearly grin of Mr. The Rock. It was almost as if he was offering a benediction through the computer screen, a blessing for my interminable curiosity and the weird places it often takes me. And my roody-poo candy ass, of course.

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I’m shining it, Mr. The Rock. I’m shining it! (If you’re unfamiliar with The Rock’s wrestling catchphrases, that’s going to sound really sordid out of context. I acknowledge this, but I do not apologize.)

I don’t THINK I actually uttered the words “I’m doing this for you, Rock…” out loud as I hit the button. My co-worker didn’t ask what the shit I was talking about at least, so I’m probably safe.

A split second after I hit the button, the screen flashed up with a big certificate with my name across it (my real name…I didn’t lie to the church like I do to most of social media), proclaiming me officially ordained, legally capable of performing marriages…

…and starting my own ministry.

[ Imagine a picture of my official certificate here. I can’t actually show it to you because it costs $39.95 to download and I haven’t coughed that up yet. You’ll just have to trust me.]

That’s right. I could actually start a Church of Rhubarbology, if I so chose. Or a United Church of Swank. Or I could start a religion where there were ascending orders of holiness named after the chapters in The Hobbit, where you’d have to complete thematic initiation rites for each order. I could start an actual church devoted to the worship of perfect avocados. Or the smell of freshly cut hay.

I COULD CREATE THE CHURCH OF LATTER-DAY STEVES.

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Praise Nuts!

In all seriousness, though: I didn’t actually do this as a joke. I saw the potential for amusement in it, sure…but my sincere motivation was to be able to make myself available to conduct marriage ceremonies for people that might otherwise have a hard time finding someone to do so. It is remarkable and continually infuriating to me that we still live in a country where some people can’t love who they want to love without being given a load of shit about it. If my silly little ordination adventure can be counted as taking a stand against that oppression, then I’m truly proud to do it.

And if you’ve already got an officiant for your big gay wedding but are having trouble finding someone to bake you a cake, I can sort you out there, too.

I promise I won’t even make you have rhubarb as one of the flavors.

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 Happy Pride!