the boss of me

Scene: My living room, Thanksgiving eve. I’m sitting on the couch and Mark is sitting in the chair. Junior is on the floor between us.

Junior: *exasperated huff*

Mark: What’s wrong, buddy?

Me: It’s like 7:30. He probably wants a walk.

Mark: You want a walk, buddy? I can take you for a walk. Let me get some music going on my phone first.

Mark stands up and starts fiddling with his phone.

Mark: Pandora is trying to give me turkey recipes and dinner party music. Fuck you, Pandora. You’re not the boss of me! I’M not even the boss of me, so YOU don’t get to be the boss of me.

Me, in a supportive tone: You can be the boss of you!

Distracted by his phone, Mark slowly rounds the corner to go up the stairs and hits his leg on the baby gate set up across the bottom of the stairs. The gate makes a loud clunk.

Mark: Raaauuuuggggh!

Me: Maybe you shouldn’t be the boss of you, actually.

Mark: It may be for the best…

Mark disappears up the stairs while I laugh. Junior sits near the doorway to the kitchen, wondering how he ended up stuck with us.

-Fin-

*********

Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving holiday was filled with delicious food, time spent with loved ones, a lack of family drama / fights over politics, and zero mentions of Pilgrims / forefathers / founders of this country.

And if you’re not American, then I hope your Thursday and Friday last week were everything you wanted, and I hope all us silly Muricans taking over social media with our public displays of #thankfulness (which seems a lot different than actual gratitude, at least for many) didn’t annoy you too much.

virtual reality

Last night my phone finally got sick of my procrastinating ass and forced me to install a system update. Along with the system update, there were also a bunch of updates to the apps I use, including the camera software. It looks a little bit different, but I can still find everything I need, so I didn’t think much of it.
This morning I took a selfie to show off my hand-knit neck wear to some like-minded friends, and I noticed that the camera automatically took two pictures, which seemed odd. I kept switching back and forth between the two pictures, trying to figure out why one looked slightly different than the other. One looked just a tiny bit eerie and it took me a minute to realize why.
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Do you see it? The program filtered out the freckles on my cheek and the scar on my nose, and made my skin just generally brighter / whiter.
AUTOMATICALLY.
It didn’t even give me a choice. It just assumed that I wouldn’t be happy with my face. Because who actually likes their face anymore, you know? Who WOULDN’T want to be touched up a little?
Yes, I’m making a leap by talking like my phone is making assumptions, but the simple fact is that while the phone itself can’t make assumptions, the people that write the programs that the phone runs absolutely can. They are collectively assuming that no one feels like their face is good enough anymore. They are collectively deciding to feed us an ALTERED version of reality FIRST…then offering the actual reality as an afterthought.
That’s not only sad to me, but scary as well. It’s SO easy to fake things nowadays. Altered pictures, fake social media accounts, news being spun to fit a network’s or publication’s bias. Who do we trust anymore? What do we grab on to in order to not get sucked into this crazy vortex of reality being constructed for us?
The way my head is wired, I need to check in with what’s real on a regular basis or I start to feel like I’m disassociated, detached…like I could happily float off into the deep end of the Crazy Town pool and let myself drown. To combat this, I go outside and spend time in nature. I visit friends in actual meatspace, face to face. I read about science because I find fact-based things grounding and soothing. I practice yoga and meditation, both of which remind me that I am here, right now, with each breath.
And I look at myself in the mirror or in pictures. Not like Narcissus gazing at himself in the pool, but looking at my own face for a moment and remembering that I am not just the constant barrage of feels pelting the inside of my skull. I am not actually a (mostly benevolent) ghost floating quietly in the background of all these rooms that I enter on a daily basis.
My wrinkles, my freckles, my scars…they all remind me that I am a person, piloting this meatsuit through space and time, having real experiences and doing real things.
I’d rather technology not decide to take those reminders away from me with the assumption that I value luminous, freckle-free skin over…you know…my actual face.

 

impotent rage, part 372

There’s a lot to be mad about lately, but I’ve got something specific stuck in my craw and I need to rant about it.

Yesterday morning I was listening to Morning Edition in the car, and they did a piece on the Country Music Awards, or CMAs, that had been televised the previous evening. They named off some people that got awards, but they also talked about how the Country Music Association, while organizing this year’s CMAs show, basically tried to put a gag order on people. They tried to tell journalists covering the show not to bring up guns, the mass shootings that have happened recently, or politics in general.

Because, you know, not talking about problems is the best method of resolving them. Obviously. 

The reporter went on to say that there was outcry from basically everybody, and that the Association ended up relenting, as well it should have. The story then turned to the various tributes that were performed at the CMAs in honor of the victims in Las Vegas and Texas. There was a clip of Eric Church singing a suitably emotional rendition of “Amazing Grace” to kick off the show, and one of Carrie Underwood singing some other hymn, with a mention of how her “voice turned to a whisper as the pictures of all 58 victims of the Las Vegas massacre flashed across a screen”, and the moment of silence that followed. Predictable trite thoughts-and-prayers stuff.

The report then pivoted to something so many mainstream country artists are NOT doing, which is speaking out about the need for gun control. Most artists at the CMAs wouldn’t even talk to reporters about the shootings at all, let alone bring up that we need a profound change in this country. There was a soundbite from an artist named Aaron Watson, who said “…we live in a world today where, if you say something, you know, someone’ll hang you out to dry”. The reported then mentioned that Watson is on a list of artists that are promoted by the NRA. Watson, according to the reporter, pointed out that bad people are going find ways to do bad things, so he won’t be campaigning for stricter gun laws.

That’s when I started rolling my eyes.

There was another soundbite from Watson at this point, where he said: “If I’m gonna start doin’ some preachin’ or some pickin’, it’ll be for our veterans, for our soldiers, for our school teachers, and for babies. I mean, those are things that are dear to my heart.”

THAT, friends, is when I fucking saw red.

This asshole is taking money from the NRA, first of all. He’s not an artist. He’s a fucking corporate shill. He’s a puppet with a hand up his ass, a mouthpiece the NRA uses to further embed gun culture into the psyches of Americans.

Second of all, how…and I mean FUCKING HOW…can someone claim to care for people like school teachers and babies, and be totally cool with the NRA? Does he think there were no veterans or school teachers that got killed at that festival in Las Vegas? Sorry, but the laws of probability are pretty firmly against you there, broseph. Did he forget all about the Newtown massacre, where all those little kids got blown away because some asshole had beef and was able to get ahold of guns and ammo? What about the babies…LITERAL BABIES…that were shot in Sutherland Springs? It’s easy for people like Aaron Watson to stand up after the fact and say they hold the memories of DEAD children dear, but the simple fact is that every child in this country is now unwittingly playing the odds every day when they attend school. Every teacher is playing those same odds when they go to work. All because of the fucking National Rifle Association and their insidious infiltration into so many aspects of our culture.

It’s not just country music stars, and that’s the depressing part. It’s sports team owners, it’s politicians…it’s the people who need help the least. They can afford home security, they can afford to send their babies to private schools where random people with guns would probably have a much harder time gaining access. The people with the money are not the people who need protection, and yet they are driving this culture of “I must protect my own” in this country and it’s NOT SANE.

Where does it end? How many more children, how many more people just living their lives, have to be shot and killed before the blood on the hands of those with power and influence stop being such incredible cowards? How many dollars in their bank accounts are enough before they finally start doing the right thing?

Let’s go back to that Aaron Watson quote from earlier: “…we live in a world today where, if you say something, you know, someone’ll hang you out to dry”.

Let that really marinate. What he’s saying, what they’re ALL saying, is that their incomes, their personal comfort, the lifestyles that they’ve become accustomed to, are more important than their fellow humans’ lives. 

I am not anti-gun. I grew up in a rural area with hunters all around me. I’ve gone target shooting and enjoyed it. I have no problem with responsible people owning reasonable (read: not automatic) firearms and reasonable quantities of ammunition. No one needs access to automatic weapons outside of an actual field of battle. No one needs to have hundreds of rounds of ammunition stockpiled in their home. No one with a history of violence should have legal access to firearms.

I don’t pretend to know how to fix the problem, but I do know that until the people with money and influence grow spines and stop being so god damned greedy, this shit is just going to keep happening.

If you got this far, here’s a picture of my dog and my messy living room for your troubles:

 

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“Just nod and smile. She’ll tire herself out faster than you think.” – Junior 

 

 

tiny magic

The other morning I was washing some pots before breakfast. A tiny soap bubble landed on the leaf of one of my African violets and didn’t instantly pop.

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See it? It looks kind of like a big water droplet, but it’s not.

I’ve always loved soap bubbles. If my mom ever wanted to get me out of her hair for an extended period of time, all she had to do was hand me a bottle of bubble fluid and point me outside. HOURS of entertainment. The shine of them, the flow of liquid rainbows over their surfaces, the idea that a whole other world could be contained inside those ephemeral little spheres of soap film – they’re magic.

The little soap bubble on the leaf made me smile. I admired it a few times while continuing my chore, knowing that one of the times I glanced up at it again, it would be gone. I finished one pot, I finished another, and the bubble remained, cushioned on the soft hairs of the violet’s leaf. At that point maybe five minutes had passed and I was pretty impressed with the bubble’s tenacity so I grabbed my phone and took some pictures to remember it by.

By that time breakfast was ready, and after that I had to take Mark to work. On returning to the kitchen for a second cup of tea after I’d run Mark to work and walked the dog, I happened to look over…and see the bubble still there!  It had been well over an hour at that point since the bubble landed on the leaf. But there it still was, its surface swirling madly with tiny iridescent storm clouds. Amazed, I very carefully picked the violet up off the windowsill to get a closer look. The bubble quivered with the movement but didn’t break. I admired it for a bit longer, then had to bid it goodbye because it was time to get ready for work.

That bubble clearly gave ZERO fucks about my measly human existence and flimsy preconceived notions of How Things Should Work though, because I shit you not, it was STILL THERE when I came back into the kitchen on my way out to work. It had made leaf-fall at approximately 6:15am and I took this video (linked – sorry, WordPress won’t let me upload it without paying them more money and I love you guys but god damn), just before I left the house at 9:15am. THREE HOURS that little bubble sat there, that I know of. It wasn’t there when I got home from work around 4:45, but who knows how long it actually lasted after I left. For all I know, it might have popped five seconds before I walked back in the door.

Now, listen: I don’t care what you want to tell me about humidity and surface tension and dust and whatever other cockamamie logical frigging math-doing mumbo jumbo (it’s always math’s fault. ALWAYS). This was straight up MAGIC. That was a MAGIC bubble with OTHERWORLDLY properties that landed on my MYSTICAL African violet in my SUPERNATURAL GOD DAMNED KITCHEN, and you will never convince me otherwise.

The world is a dumpster fire right now – it might continue to burn for the next twenty years for all we know – but as long as we can still find a little magic now and then, things aren’t completely lost.

Magic, motherfuckers. Hang on to it when you find it.

we goat this

Today is my 8th wedding anniversary.

My husband got me a nice card  and wrote a heartfelt note in it, then wrote a further heartfelt post on Facebook and included a link to our wedding song.

The card I got him has two baby goats on the front and inside it says “we goat together”. It was completely selfish because I’m the one that loves goats, not him. I also don’t have the attention span to stand in the store and read all the lines of text on all the pretty, sentimental cards. I suck at heartfelt notes, too. I’m really more of a long-form person.

And yet, for some reason he thinks I’m a keeper. I have a feeling a lot of it is to do with my willingness to incorporate bacon and/or cheese into most dishes that I cook.

My husband is a lot of things. He’s smart, but he’ll tell you he’s not. He’s an excellent writer. He is kind and has a generous spirit – he’s forever helping people out, even people he doesn’t know and will never meet. He’s principled but also compassionate. He’s funny.  He sings his guts out no matter who might hear, because music is more important than what the neighbors think. He is sentimental and deeply sensitive. He has no time for close-minded, intolerant people, and yet he can somehow still be nice to them (which I am always in awe of, because it’s something I am utterly incapable of doing). He’s a champion-level trip planner, he’s incredible at cards (and most games in general, much to his poor-loser wife’s chagrin), and though he’d never in a million years admit it, he’s a natural leader. He’s wildly charming. He could sell ice to a polar bear at twice the normal mark-up and the polar bear would leave thinking she’d gotten such a good deal that she’d send all his friends over to buy ice from him as well. And, probably most important when it comes to being married to me, he has the patience of a god damned saint. Like, if there were a Nobel Prize for patience, they’d just rename it the Mark Armitage prize and stop even trying to give it to anyone else because no one else would ever even be in the running.

He keeps me afloat on days when all I can imagine doing is sinking. He laughs at my awful, puerile, completely inappropriate jokes. He drags me out of my shell and forces me to be social, but he’s also gentle and understands when I say I’m not up to it. He tolerates my inability to keep house and my (literal) piles of yarn. While he may not entirely understand my compulsive drive to always be making things, he never complains about the whiplash-inducing frequency with which I switch from craft to craft. He doesn’t hold my lack of executive functioning capability against me and he respects the weird routines I come up with to try and keep myself somewhat regulated. When I fall apart crying and can’t explain why, he doesn’t try to fix things and he doesn’t back away. He doesn’t think it’s weird that I stand outside for extended periods of time talking to the birds in the yard, or that I try to make friends with every animal that crosses my path (even when it’s maybe not super wise to do so), or that I sometimes repeat things over and over to myself in funny voices.

We’re not perfect. I’m still trying to learn how to not be alone inside my head all the damn time. Neither of us are A+ communicators, which is funny given that we both like to write. We’re both prone to making piles of stuff, and neither of us are super great at choosing to do chores when there’s fun stuff we could be doing instead. He takes really long baths and doesn’t like Led Zeppelin.  But at the end of the day, we don’t have to be perfect, because we have each other to lean on and that’s better anyway.

And I’m still convinced that he’ll come around on the Led Zeppelin thing some day…

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My first two goats are going to be named Page and Plant. Just saying.

catching my breath

August was a rough one, friends.

Yes, I realize that it’s already almost mid-September and I’m just getting round to telling you about August. That should be a pretty good clue as to how my August went.

My mom had a stroke at the tail end of July. We were very lucky as it could have been far worse, but it still left her with no use of her left hand, heavily slurred speech and trouble swallowing due to weakness along the left side of her mouth and throat. We were also very lucky that it happened one evening while she and my dad were sitting up visiting with my aunt and uncle. Had it happened while my mom was home alone, or even worse, driving…yeah. It’s not fodder for pleasant contemplation.

Anyway – there was a lot of driving back and forth between home and hospital, then home and rehab facility, for about a week and a half. I was also trying to keep an eye on my dad, as he has a habit of running himself pretty ragged when my mom is unwell (which we know from experience the last few years with her being in and out of hospital so much). It was busy, full of stress and worry, and just all around not a great time.

And then things really took a nose dive into the deep end of the shit whirlpool.

Our beloved Maltese, Junior, had been having some problems keeping his balance for a couple weeks prior to all this. It started out as just a little bit of wavering when he’d cock his leg to pee, and the occasional stumble while going up the stairs. When it got so that he was almost tipping over when he squatted to poop, was losing his back legs out from under him while just walking across the floor, and when he stopped even trying to go up the stairs at all, I knew something was wrong.

Two days after my mom’s stroke, I took Junie to the vet to be checked out. The vet hemmed and hawed and decided it was probably arthritis in his trick knee. She sent us home with a bag of joint supplement chews and orders to not jump up on stuff or tear around crazily for a while. We dutifully administered the chews and kept things to a dull roar for a week but things kept getting worse. Junie would get up on the couch next to me and basically not move for hours, which was very unlike him. I kept trying to convince myself that it would just take some time for the joint supplements to kick in and then he’s start feeling better, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more going on.

Instinct finally won and I made him another vet appointment. We saw a different doctor than our normal vet that day. He had me put Junior down on the floor so he could observe Junior walking around…or skittering and face-planting, as it turned out. He watched him quietly for a couple minutes, then shook his head and told me that he was pretty sure it wasn’t his legs but rather his spine that was causing the problem. Tight-lipped, the vet referred us to a doggie neurologist and told us to get there as soon as possible.

The next day, the neurologist looked him all over, did some x-rays, and determined that it was either granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME for short), or lymphoma. The treatment would be the same either way: steroids and chemo. In order to confirm it was one of these things and not a brain tumor, Junior needed an MRI. In order to have the MRI, he needed to be put under anesthesia. In order to have the anesthesia, he needed to have an ultrasound to make sure it was safe, because he has a congenital heart defect that has been getting progressively worse. Junior just turned eight at the end of August, by the way. He’s not an old dog by any means.

We brought him back to the specialist the next day for the ultrasound. They cleared him for the MRI, with the caveat that we sign a waiver saying we understood that there was up to a 20% chance that the anesthesia may kill him. We signed the waiver and sent him off with the doctors to be prepped for the MRI. Mark and I then proceeded to spend the rest of the day floating in our own private banks of fog. We went to get food, we went for a scenic drive, we went to see Wonder Woman…all so that we could try and distract ourselves from the very real chance that we might get a call saying our dog had died. Not our most enjoyable day ever.

We were at McDonalds forcing ourselves to eat when Mark’s phone finally rang. He stood up and walked away from the table to answer it, and I had to sit on my hands to keep them from shaking while I strained to hear any words at all from the other end of the call. I distinctly remember thinking, “well he hasn’t burst into tears yet, so hopefully things aren’t TOO bad”.

And they weren’t, at least not entirely. Junior had survived the MRI and there was no brain tumor, but there was a lesion or tumor on his spinal cord. Now he needed a spinal tap to try and determine whether it was GME or lymphoma we were dealing with. The spinal tap ended up being inconclusive, but the doctor was leaning toward lymphoma over GME. We got sent home with a whole bunch of meds and a boatload of anxiety.

The problem, you see, is that it doesn’t actually matter if it’s GME or lymphoma, because neither one is curable. If it was lymphoma in some of his actual lymph nodes, it may have been possible to do an operation to remove them or radiation to shrink them. But the lymphoma is in / on his spinal cord…it’s called CNS (central nervous system) lymphoma. We can’t even do a biopsy of the lesion because it would probably kill him or paralyze him. Also, while the steroids have helped him to be able to walk again, they’re very hard on his already faulty heart. And the chemo that we have to give him every 3 weeks to try and shrink the lesion? Very hard on the heart. As if this all wasn’t enough, we also found out from some tests last week that it’s very possible Junior also has a liver shunt. Quick physiology lesson: your liver cleans your blood, and metabolizes many of the medications you may take. A liver shunt is where some or all of the arteries that are supposed to feed your blood into your liver for cleaning aren’t actually in the right place and are instead diverting some or all of your blood around your liver rather than through it. When stuff doesn’t get cleaned out of your blood by your liver, it just keeps recirculating through your body and eventually build up to toxic levels. So it’s possible (and currently looking probable) that all the heavy duty steroids and chemo Junior has been getting are building up in his system rather than getting cleaned out of his blood. This even further limits our treatment options. Best case scenario, the remission we hope for is being measured in weeks at this point, not months or years.

Rather than dwell on feeling sad and angry and guilty and who knows what else, I’m trying like hell to find ways to learn from this experience. I’m getting a crash course in sitting with my own discomfort, for one. My M.O. is to fix things but there is no fix to this thing, and that makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t know how to accept helplessness as a valid state of being. I’m also getting a refresher on the fundamental impermanence of life. Just because you’re not old and frail doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a lot more time. To paraphrase Xzibit: yo dawg, I heard you like feeling helpless so I put some more helpless in your pile of helplessness. And lastly, I’m finding a whole new motivation for trying to be more present, for acknowledging and appreciating what each moment holds, rather than dwelling on the inevitable.

My mom’s doing well now, by the way. She’s got quite a lot of use of her hand back, her speech is much better and she’s having a much easier time swallowing. She still has a lot of serious health issues but if I let myself start to worry about those on top of everything else going on, I’m pretty much guaranteed to go the way of Artax and get sucked down into the Swamp of Sorrows…and that doesn’t do me or anyone I love a bit of good.

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“I got 99 problems and you not rubbing my belly is relatively high on the list.”

good enough

I keep writing blog posts and then not posting them because they’re not good enough. In reality they’re fine, but in my head they’re not funny enough, they don’t make sense, they’re boring, they make me sound dickish (which isn’t untrue, but still)…and who the fuck knows what else.

This is the brain weasels talking. That stuff about not being good enough, I mean. Not this right now. This is me. The weasels haven’t completely taken over. At least, I don’t THINK they have. Maybe they’ve gone all dark ops and actually HAVE taken over and I just don’t realize it. Shit, that’s terrifying. Let’s back away from that one.

Point being…I’m still here and doing the thing. I’m just kind of lacking in my follow-through lately. And that’s ok. It’s not ideal…but it’s ok. It could be worse.

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“Yeah, I mean, you could have some crazy lady with a camera stalking you like a fucking paparazzi when you’re just minding your own business, trying to get your clover munch on. GOD.”  *woodchuck huff*

 

a little TOO quiet

My desk at work is an L shape, except the corner of the L is chopped off. The only reason I can think of for the builder to have chopped off the corner of the L is that it would have partially blocked the window behind it, but the whole far leg of the L blocks the next window in exactly the same manner, so why the fuck would it even MATTER, you know?

This isn’t even relevant to what I wanted to talk about, by the way. It’s just something I was thinking about when I took the picture I’m going to show you shortly, and also I didn’t sleep well last night so filtering my thoughts is right out the (partially blocked) window at this point. Har har har.

ANYWAY.

This is my workspace:

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None of that cutlery is currently clean. Don’t judge me. Also, I have no idea how my mouse pad got turned upside down. Weird.

Off to the extreme left of the picture, obscured by glare because I’m not a professional photographer and I was stealthily taking this picture while my boss was in the bathroom so I didn’t have time to re-position for 14 different shots, is a long, thin grey box called a network switch:

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It looks like it’s written on the window in blood. Mwa-hahaha. Ew.

The switch has been sitting there shunting electrons hither and thither around the office for at least the five years that I’ve been sitting at this desk. Probably longer. It’s always a fucking production when the IT guy comes in to replace or fix things, so I’m pretty sure the advent of the switch being changed out would have stuck in my mind.

Which brings me back around to my actual story.

The switch in the picture is a new one because the old one started to sound like a helicopter touching down. The degradation wasn’t a sudden thing by any means. The switch had been exhibiting a normal-ish electronic hum for many months…years, even. It would ramp up to more of a refrigerator-like hum when the weather got very warm, but it wasn’t really distracting. And that’s saying something, considering I am the QUEEN of getting distracted by noises. I can’t NOT hear every noise going on around me, especially at work…but the hum of the switch even on its loudest days was just kind of a wall of white noise off to my left and it didn’t bother me.

Fast forward to last week. We had a couple of warm days in a row, and on the third morning we came in to find that the hum of the switch had escalated to near air-conditioner levels. This thing is like four feet from me when I’m sitting at my desk and I started to get a little bit worried about it exploding or something. I don’t think they actually DO that, but still. Never hurts to fret, right? My boss walked in later that morning and asked where the noise was coming from. We pointed at the switch. He said he’d ask IT to change it out. We muttered about not holding our breaths and got back to work.

A week later, the IT guy showed up at my desk with a new switch and commenced with his usual over-dramatic explanation of what needed to be done, how much work it would be for him, how long we’d all be offline, and the general piss-poor state of all the electronics in the building (side-note: why do IT guys do this? It’s effectively saying ‘I’m shit at my job’). I nodded and smiled, then fucked off downstairs to get a cup of coffee, leaving him to unplug cables from one box and plug them all into another.

Ten minutes later, I returned to my desk…and to a gaping maw of silence. The new switch made no sound at all. Not even the barest hum! It was CREEPY. I commented to my office-mate that the silence was making me feel off-balance, like something that I’d been leaning against on the left was now gone. He looked at me like I had two heads (which is his usual response when I open my mouth).

“Do you want me to turn my music up louder to compensate?” he asked.

“NO NO, that’s ok, I’ll get used to it”, I said, trying my best not to look panicked at the idea of having to hear any more of his music than strictly necessary.

And, to be fair, I WILL get used to it…but in the meantime, it’s totally weirding me out. I didn’t realize just how much I relied on that background noise until it was gone. Even when I’ve got my headphones in, I SWEAR can notice the lack of white noise off to the left. And on a day like today, when office-mate and his terrible music aren’t around, the quiet is like a black hole threatening to suck me in, break me down to atoms of the elements that make up my body, and spit me out the other side into an alternate universe where the Big Bang hasn’t happened yet and I might end up being part of a rock in several billion years. Or something.

Also, not having the white noise means I can now hear every fart, groan and trickle from the adjacent bathroom.

Nobody wins when you can hear the boss’s Metformin poops, trust me.

sonic coping strategy

Music has always been important to me. Neither of my parents played instruments, at least not in my lifetime, but they both liked listening to music so it was a common feature in my early life. My mom liked contemporary rock – Bryan Adams, Tina Turner, John Cougar Mellencamp. Saturday mornings were for cleaning the house, and dancing around to ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ got us through many a post-cartoon bout of dusting and putting away laundry. My dad was into older, harder stuff – Z.Z. Top, Blue Oyster Cult, Cream, Pink Floyd, old Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin. He also liked country though, so I was just as likely to be singing along to ‘Mama, He’s Crazy’ by the Judds rather than Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ when I was with him.

When I was old enough to have my own little boombox as a kid, the first things I went for were pop – Michael Jackson (‘Bad’ was the very first tape I ever got) and Paula Abdul featured heavily – but I also started exploring a lot of my parents’ cassettes too. Albums like Aerosmith’s ‘Toys In The Attic’, The Grateful Dead’s ‘Shakedown Street’, and Billy Joel’s ‘An Innocent Man’, along with greatest hits compilations from Steppenwolf and The Beatles, all made it into my regular rotation. We didn’t have a lot of money so I couldn’t go out and buy new music very often, but it didn’t take me long to discover that time-honored 80’s tradition of taping music off the radio. I recorded the local rock station most often, as that’s what my little boom-box picked up with the best reception. This introduced me to such wonders as The Scorpions, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Guns ‘n Roses, and Metallica. By middle school I had a part-time job and a little pocket money, almost all of which was usually spent on music. Hip-hop was just starting to show up in the music stores up here around that time, and I embraced acts like MC Hammer, C+C Music Factory, and Digital Underground with the fervor only a newly minted teenager looking to set herself apart from the tastes of her parents’ generation can muster. High school ushered in my (predictable, in retrospect) transition to harder rock and goth music. I was obsessed with The Crow (again, predictable), and the soundtrack to that movie introduced me to groups like Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots and Rage Against The Machine – all groups I still adore more than two decades on. When ADHD first reared its head and I started having trouble concentrating as a teenager, music helped considerably. Counting Crows’ ‘August and Everything After’ got me through many hours of homework, and the first short story I ever wrote was to an endless loop of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rhiannon’.

Today, I’m a grumpy middle-aged woman with a very boring day job. Alas, all those fantasies of becoming a musician didn’t pan out (not that I tried to make them, admittedly), but music is still a deeply important part of my day-to-day life. It has become my main coping strategy, not just in terms of dealing with my ADHD symptoms, but also my depression and anxiety. When I’m having a particularly anxious day, I’ll listen to a lot of Bow Thayer and Patrick Ross, wonderful local bluegrass / folk artists whose shows I’ve attended many times and who serve as anchors to the here-and-now for me. When I’m angry, I go for the catharsis of Rage Against The Machine, Incubus or Audioslave (I hope you found peace,Chris. You will be missed so much more than you could ever have imagined). If I need to power through piles of particularly boring data entry, I like the flow of older hip-hop and rap like A Tribe Called Quest, WuTang Clan, and The Beastie Boys, or the driving, trance-like beats of EDM.

If you have any favorite artists or playlists that help get you through the day, I’d love to hear about them. I use Spotify at work and enjoy exploring new music. I’ll listen to anything once! My main playlist, which is a super mixed up mess of everything from funk to metal to rap to comedy tracks, can be found here if you want to do some exploring of your own, or just want to listen along with me at work.

 

supernom

I’d claim this is a self-portrait, but my nails are nowhere near that long.

a curious hole

A couple weeks ago I was out in the back yard tending to the bird feeders when I saw A Curious Hole dug in between the roots of a giant maple tree.

 

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NOTE: The peanuts weren’t there when I found the Hole. Pretend you can’t see those yet.

 

I got all excited because I was fairly certain it was a Steve-hole (all chipmunks are Steve), and thus Steve-Watch 2017 officially kicked off.

Steve-Watch activities include, but are not limited to:

  • obsessively watching the suspected Steve-hole from the kitchen and bedroom windows at every opportunity,
  • getting overly excited whenever something moves in the leaf litter around the suspected Steve-hole and adjacent environs,
  • crushing disappointment and cursing of sparrows that have the nerve to look vaguely Steve-like in the leaf litter,
  • leaving handfuls of peanuts, sunflower seeds, and dried berries near the Steve-hole as tribute / Steve bait, while simultaneously making a specific clicking noise with my mouth so that any Steves in the area begin to associate said noise with me and also a bountiful supply of delicious snacks (this is rooted in science, people. I don’t just make this shit up. Well, not ALL of it, anyway),

…you get the picture.

It should be noted, by the way, that these are not whole-household activities. Mark will happily watch Steves out the window with me, but he participates in none of the pacing, muttering, or HIGHLY SCIENTIFIC baiting / grooming activities that I engage in. It’s fine. He has hobbies I don’t share. They’re hobbies that don’t include making friends with painfully adorable woodland creatures so clearly they’re INFERIOR hobbies, but that’s cool. Whatever floats his boat.

ANYWAY.

Yesterday afternoon I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing a frying pan to make dinner in, and I saw a scuttle in the leaf litter outside. Muttering about useless fucking sparrows, I leaned closer to the window and squinted (note to self: buy binoculars, and maybe also stronger glasses), trying to confirm my suspicions.

Except it wasn’t a sparrow at all.

“Steve!” I yelped, and then I went full Hodor: “Steve! Steve! STEVE! STEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVE!”

As I watched one adorable Steve scuttle up the maple tree and perch on the edge of the abandoned bird house, more scuffling at the base of the trunk caught my eye.

Another Steve poked his / her head directly out of the Steve-hole. I jumped up and down.

“ohmigod, two! TWO STEVES! DOUBLE STEVE-AGE, OH MY GERDDDDD!”

Mark had gone upstairs a few minutes before to…I don’t know, something. Maybe he was in the bathroom? (Sorry if I interrupted your post-work poop, babe). He came thundering down the stairs to see what all the commotion was about and found me stuck in front of the kitchen window, pointing and doing my excited dance with a frying pan in my hand.

“Did I hear something about a Steve?” he asked.

“Two. TWO STEVES.”  I gestured toward the window with the frying pan. The Steve that had been in the Steve-hole ducked back down out of sight.

“Two? I only see one, up there on the bird house.”  Mark side-eyed me.

“THERE WERE TWO, I SAW THEM. The one in the hole just popped back down but it was totally there a second ago.”

He smirked.

“Are you sure you didn’t just get so excited that you started seeing Steves everywhere?”

“Absolutely not. You cannot gaslight me about Steves. There were DEFINITELY two. Look, look! There goes the second one off into the brush!”  I flailed at the window and then realized I should really put down the frying pan.

“Ok, if you say so.”

He patted me on the shoulder and then wandered back into the living room to do whatever whack-ass inferior non-Steve-related things he does.

I had been almost ready to start dinner when this whole thing started, by the way. Steak, salad fixings, potatoes, were all sitting on the counter waiting for me to do something with them. I looked at them, looked back out the window at the frolicking Steves, then turned to the other end of the counter and grabbed a handful of peanuts from the bag sitting there.

“I gotta go make friends, I’ll be back!” I said over my shoulder on my way out the door.

Out around the back corner of the building, I started making my very scientific clicking noise, alternating with talking in soothing, Steve-friendly, sing-songy tones.

“Steeeeves? St-EEEE-eeeves. I have delicious peanuts, Steeeeeves. I just want to be your friend, Steeeeves.”

It sounds creepy as fuck when it’s typed out, but I assure you, it was soothing. SCIENCE.

Birdhouse Steve eyed me from its perch. Steve-hole Steve was back at that point. It sniffed in my direction but didn’t move. I crept closer, crouching down as much as my fatness and bad knees would allow, continuing the (scientifically proven, patent pending) clicking noises. A rustle off to the right broke my concentration. I turned to look, just in time to see a third Steve poke its precious snoot out from under some leaves.

THREE STEVES, PEOPLE.

Troix Stéphanes.

Tres Estebans.

I about lost my god. damned. mind.

My stifled squeal of excitement sent Birdhouse Steve bolting down the tree and over the bank, but Steve-hole Steve and Leaf Steve both stood their ground. Leaf Steve was clearly a juvenile – not a BABY-baby (because holy shit, you’d have heard THAT screech around the fucking globe), but one young enough to not be hyper-vigilant yet. It skittered around under my lilies with very little concern, stopping to eye me now and then as it munched sunflower seeds. I crouched down more and offered an un-shelled peanut in Leaf Steve’s direction. It sniffed toward the peanut a few times and even came within about eight inches of me, but in the end wouldn’t take the peanut from my hand.

And that’s fine. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

My dream of a personal cadre of tiny chipmunk ninjas can wait.

World domination is worth being patient for.