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.

free fallin’

When I was a teenager, I had a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers greatest hits CD. I think I may actually still have it, in fact. Anyway – the CD had a defect that caused a tiny skip in the first track, ‘Free Fallin’ ‘:

All the vampires, walkin’ through the valley

move West down Ventura Boulevard

On my CD, the skip was in the word “boulevard”, making it sound like some kind of syncopated contraction….like Tom had taken all the vowels out and was literally singing the abbreviation, “blvd”.

I had heard the song on the radio plenty of times and I knew it didn’t actually go like that, that it was either a microscopic scratch or a manufacturing glitch causing it, but I listened to that CD and that song in particular so many times over the years that it got stuck in my head. To this day, when I hear ‘Free Fallin’ ‘ and the skip DOESN’T happen my brain notes it and judges that version of the song, that particular split-second sonic experience, as ever so slightly sub-standard.

I’m not a music critic or a biographer and I certainly didn’t know Tom Petty personally, so it feels silly to try and eulogize him. What I can say is that I loved Tom Petty for his plain-spoken lyrical style. I loved that he was smart and sly and also a stoner, and didn’t give a shit who knew it. I loved that he was so versatile, writing everything from hard-charging rock like ‘Runnin’ Down A Dream’ to sensitive, almost bluegrassy-sounding diddies like ‘Wildflowers’. I loved his ridiculously nasal voice and his Scarecrow-goes-to-Hollywood looks, and I’ll miss him very, very much.

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worries
You belong somewhere you feel free
You belong somewhere you feel free

‘Wildflowers’ by Tom Petty

wildflowers

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.”

the surprise

A couple weeks ago I had a little Amazon shopping spree. There were a few books I’d been pining for, plus I had my eye on a set of fancy colored pencils (which haven’t yet made me a better artist, but I’m willing to give it time). I also bought some vitamins because I’m supposedly an adult. I had an Amazon gift card to pay for it all, which made the whole process even more exciting, because free stuff is best stuff! I got home that night and told Mark about it.

Me: Hey, I got a gift card from work so I bought some books and colored pencils, and also vitamins.

Mark: Sweet. I bought something today too, but it’s a surprise.

Me: What is it?

Mark: It won’t be here until Monday. You’re just going to have to wait.

Me: What IS IT?

Mark: It’s a surprise.

Me: How much did it cost?

Mark: Fifty bucks.

Me: Ok, but what is it?

Mark: Sur. Prise.

Me: Come onnnnn.

Mark: You’ll like it. It’s something for US.

Me: US? You mean like, a sex thing?

Mark: Not a sex thing, no. Welllll…I mean, I guess it COULD be a sex thing if you really wanted, but it wouldn’t be very comfortable.

I could see that I wasn’t going to be wheedling any useful hints out of him, so I flounced off to make dinner and basically forgot about the surprise for a few days.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon. Junie and I were chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool when the mail guy pulled up outside our door and left a package on the stoop. I went out to retrieve it and, seeing that it had Mark’s name on it, realized it must be The Surprise arriving early. Mark was actually in the bath when it showed up, and I demand further adultiness credit for not instantly yelling up the stairs to him that he had to come down right that second and open the package. Instead, I placed it on his chair so that he’d see it as soon as he came back.

I was in the kitchen futzing with bread dough, struggling to maintain my hard-fought veneer of nonchalance when Mark finally reappeared. He opened the package up and brought it over for me to look at as he chortled with glee. I looked down at the contents.

“Jurassic World Inflatable T-Rex Costume”, it said.

What it SHOULD have said was, “All Rhubarb’s Dreams Are Coming True”, because HOLY SHIT, YOU GUYS. I love dinosaurs way more than any normal 37 year old non-paleontologist woman probably should. And those videos of people dressed up in inflatable T-Rex costumes doing stuff like pole dancing and ice skating? ENDLESSLY amusing to me. They’re my favorite.

Mark opened the costume up and started reading the directions while I cleaned the bread dough off my hands. The whole thing smelled exactly like a new shower curtain. After what likely would have proven to be a rather embarrassing amount of time had we been keeping track, we finally figured out how to install the fan into the costume, and how the battery pack attached to it. It was a muggy day (Vermont is GROSS in July. Don’t let the travel brochures (do they even make those anymore?) tell you any different), and he was still kind of damp from the bath, but Mark insisted on getting into the costume right then and there.

The whole thing is basically constructed like a big dinosaur-shaped bag with elastic cuffs at wrists and ankles. You get in via a long zipper up the front, and a little fan blows inside the costume to inflate the fabric around you. The head of the costume isn’t detachable – it’s fused to the rest of the fabric at the neckline, and there’s a panel of clear plastic in the dinosaur’s neck approximately where the average height adult’s face would be. Which is good I guess, because being trapped inside a dinosaur suit with no ability to see one’s surroundings is dangerous. I mean, how are you going to defend your turf if another dinosaur steps to you, you know? Safety first.

We unzipped the thing, got his legs through the leg-holes, he got one shoulder in…and then the plastic-y, nylon-y fabric suctioned to his sweaty back. There were several seconds of hilarious albeit futile flailing, wherein my terribleness as a person was reaffirmed several times over by the fact that all I could do was stand there giggling helplessly while my poor sweet husband was trapped in a vaguely dinosaur shaped straitjacket made of shower curtain material. Finally, we figured out that he’d have to put his head into the deflated, and therefore very floppy and claustrophobic, head of the costume before he could get his other shoulder in. The clear plastic panel in the dinosaur’s neck area fogged up with Mark’s breath almost immediately, adding yet another layer of awful hilarity.

Once we got the arms sorted out and the fan turned on, we zipped him up. During the frenzied flailing we had managed to create a little tear along one of the costume’s seams. There were several tense moments where it seemed like as a result the fan might not actually inflate the costume, but the T-Rex did eventually roar to life, and the posing commenced:

I especially like the fact that the progression of the four small pictures on the bottom there make it seem like he’s coming to eat the viewer. Well done snapping pics there, me!

After about five minutes of picture-taking, Mark mentioned that it was getting hard to breathe in there and that he’d like to come out. We got him out of the suit, laid it out to dry (it got really sweaty, really quickly), and set about posting the pictures on Facebook and enjoying the heady dopamine rush of validating like-clicks.

No one has gotten back into the costume yet, but I’ve been thinking up all sorts of applications for it once the weather gets less jungle-y. At some point I’d like to wear it to the grocery store, for instance. I’d also like to sneak up on family members with it, like peeking in their windows. It’s obviously going to have to be worn to work for Halloween (I’m the only one in the office who ever dresses up for Halloween anyway, so might as well go all-out). And, thanks to Haddaway’s “What Is Love” popping up on my Spotify station yesterday, I’ve realized that my true calling in life is to bring into this world the masterpiece that I will call…

…A Night At The Rex-bury.

And no, it won’t be a sex thing.

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“KHAAAAAAANNNNN!”

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.

 

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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.

insert awkward title here

The other day I had to pick up a prescription. When I got to the pharmacy, I opted for the drive-through prescription pick-up window, because why the hell would you get out of the car if you don’t have to, am I right? MURICA!

Anyway.

I pulled around the corner of the building toward the pick-up window and chortled with glee because there was no one waiting in line. What luck! I reached into my bag to grab my wallet while I waited for the friendly face of the drug-dispensing angel to appear in the big plate-glass window. Something felt a little off about the car as I was rooting through my bag, so I glanced up and realized that the ‘off’ feeling was, in fact, the car continuing to move after I had come to a stop.

“OH SHIT. I guess I’m not in Park”, I yelped as I hit the brakes.  I put the car in reverse and backed up until I was even with the window again, just in time to see the tech behind the window losing her shit laughing at me. Apparently I had been loud enough to hear over the little speaker that lets them talk to the outside world.

With a cheerful smile, I commenced to explain to her how I had pulled up and forgotten to put the car in park while I was looking for my wallet. You know, despite the fact that she clearly saw the entire performance, heard me yell, etc.

Because I am THAT woman. The one that is not only impossibly awkward to begin with, but that also then feels she needs to explain the awkwardness (awkwardly, no doubt) to the observing parties. Then, to marinate a little longer in the extra awkward sauce, I write about these experiences on the Internet. Awkwardly.  And I’m OK with that nowadays. Well, more OK with it than I was as a kid, at least. Being awkward used to feel like the worst, most unbearable, most embarrassing thing ever. Now it’s a lot easier to take it in stride, to tell myself: “you could be a LOT worse things than weird. Like, you could be a serial killer. Or a puppy kicker. Or, OMG, a flat-Earth-er. An evolution denier! OK, stop, you’re getting yourself all wound up. Think of otters…”.

In the eternal words of Maurice Moss:

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Preach, Brother Moss.