Monthly Archives: September 2014

Inspiration? Or Perspiration?

I may not be the most stable person sometimes.  An idea catches me and I’m suddenly aflutter with ALL. THE. THINGS.  If it’s a decorating bug, I scour websites, pin to my boards, bookmark ideas, research good prices and coupon codes for free shipping; in the meantime I start rearranging furniture, packing up dustcatchers, adding different decorative items, cleaning off windowsills…and then I stop.  Maybe it’s the fact the windows look a bit dingy and I should give them a good battle with Windex, or the very tops of the curtain valances have some interesting dustball formations, but just as suddenly I lose interest.  I close out all the bookmarked pages and tell myself I was silly to get all bent out of shape over this idea, what I have is just fine.

Or the idea for writing a story invades all my waking moments and I can’t stop thinking of how I’m going to have characters behave.  I write for days and I get impressed with myself until the first morning I make my tea and bring it over to my laptop and realize that I’d rather play on sporcle than write.  In fact, I’d rather clean dustball formations than write, and you can imagine how low writing has sunk on my meter of interest.

I’ve always wanted to illustrate, and enjoyed a moderate success at craft fairs selling my humorous calligraphy quotes with illustrations.  But instead of becoming bored with it (never!) I would get a horrible case of the humbles and decide that what I was producing was absolute crap and what kind of people bought my stuff anyway?  Were they crazy?  I practically stole their money!  Anybody could do what I do, and probably do it much better.  Look at Mary Engelbreit!  (Now, that’s hubris.  Me and Mary Engelbreit in the same breath.  Yeah, no.)   Or Susan Winget!  Or my latest obsession, Susan Branch.  (Go ahead and click on that link.  You will be gone for days if you’re anything like me.)

Susan Branch is a woman/illustrator/human too good to be true.  She is a watercolor artist who lives on Martha’s Vineyard and has a marvelous old home with a picket fence garden and the most positive, upbeat, and optimistic attitude I’ve ever seen.  I felt the itch and I knew I was doomed: I bought new pencils, markers, sketch books, erasers, and began scouring my books for ideas.  (I always get nervous: at what point do you deviate from “inspired by” to outright and blatant “plagiarism?”)  My dream is to have stickers and scrapbook items, as well as mugs, kitchen linens, and fabrics with my artwork, as well as writing and illustrating a children’s book.

Good heavens, I just wrote down my dream.  Now what?  Now I’m accountable!  Now I have to work at it or forever be known as a slacker!  (Well, I think I already own that title.)  Now there are actual people (or, to be completely honest, virtual internet presences) who have witnessed my spoken dream and can forever more say things to me like, “so, how’s that dream of yours going?  Have you done any WORK towards it?” and when I have no awesome success to show, I will be a failure.

Isn’t that what we’re all afraid of?  We put it out there, but if we don’t follow through then we will be judged and found wanting and nobody loves a loser.  I don’t want the Maytag dishwasher to call me a lazy toaster, even though I do have the lazy gene.  I can’t even show you evidence because I don’t think any of the printer/copier/scanner machines we’ve bought in our lifetime have ever been able to scan an image into the computer successfully.  I suppose I could take photos…

Oh, look, there’s some dustbunnies calling my name….

 

 

You speak truth, Grumpy

You speak truth, Grumpy

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What’s Next?

Do things happen for a reason, or is life a series of random events that need reactions based on your personal make-up? (I am not talking Maybelline, here.)

I seriously thought about going back to school to get my principal’s certificate, because I thought I could make a good assistant principal. I researched and read a lot and started to file my on-line application. Imagine my surprise when I was blocked from registering because I had been “inactive for too long.” What does that even mean? Page refreshing did no good; time for a note to the webmaster.

Three days later, I sent the same note to the webmaster.

Two days later I called the Office of Graduate-Let’s-Take-All-Your-Money-For-Further-“Education” to ask what was up. Raise your hand if you’re surprised that I got an answering machine and no answering call! I resolved to show up in person the Tuesday after Labor Day and give them what-for. Maybe even what-five.

In the same time frame, we were narrowing down our search to adopt a puppy. We sent out a few inquiries and every single one came back as “already adopted, but we’ll add you to our list for future spam. We found one the next town over which both Daughters claimed felt just right and an email was sent and (ready for a shock?) never answered! Plans to build our fence to keep said new puppy contained were finalized and the materials were to be purchased Friday of Labor Day weekend.

This is where we go with the philosophical question, do things happen for a reason? Because we’re here on September 25 with no new school, no new fence, and no new puppy because my darling Hubby lost his job. When? The Friday of Labor Day weekend.

Was some unseen force holding us back from all these life-altering and expensive moves because it knew what was in the works? Is this a message that I shouldn’t be a dog-owning assistant principal with a fence? Or is it just a melange of unfortunate timing and bad luck?

Besides that, all my nails are breaking down to the quick. What does that even mean?

Because I just can't even.

Because I just can’t even.

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The Day

There is a blog post sitting inside of me, aching to get out.  It wants to be a detailed acknowledgement of the many wonderful things that happen in my day, from the way the morning sunlight transforms a room into rich colors and textures, to the heavenly aroma of toasting rye bread, to the satisfying hum of a washing machine effortlessly cleaning my clothes….

But this is not that day.

Why does my laptop decide that everybody else in the house gets internet except me?  Not cool, dude.  What’s up with shutting it down and starting it up just to get internet?  And what’s really up with refusing to shut down after five minutes of my lonely home screen, forcing me to use the power button in a death-jab?

Why would a pest service company that I called on Friday promise to send somebody out on Saturday which they did but it turned out to be a salesman?  He looked and confirmed that, yes indeed, we do have yellowjackets buzzing around our front door, he’ll send somebody out on Monday.  What the elf?  What did that solve?  Oh, you want me to purchase your comprehensive maintenance plan, also known as the Pay-Us-Up-Front-And-We-Might-Do-Unneccesary-Work-Because-How-Will-You-Ever-Know plan which is five times as much as just treating the problem I have now?  Yeah, think again.  And it’s 4:15 and nobody has shown up to rub out the wasps.

Why does butter taste so good when it’s warm and so weird when it’s cold?

Why can’t all the popcorn kernels pop?  What’s up with the recalcitrant ones at the bottom of the bowl?

Why don’t knitting patterns tell the truth with yardage needed?  Would you like to know how many projects I’ve ended just a few rows short, and that’s not a euphemism like being a few crayons short of a full box?  No?  Well, fine.

Why is everything under the sun premiering tonight?  How can I watch Sleepy Hollow AND Big Bang AND Monday Night Football AND Food Network that I missed last night because of celebrating Younger Daughter’s birthday?

I think that’s enough whining, don’t you agree?

 

 

 

Really.

Really.

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Friday Fun Day

In no particular order:

  • Woke up chilly.  I love that feeling!  Gets my blood pumping and an eager outlook to my morning.
  • Scored an impressive victory in a game I’m playing on the iPad.
  • Took a walk to the local library’s Book Sale and got five (FIVE) books for seven (SEVEN!) dollars.
  • Almost finished another Christmas gift, it will be off the needles today and then I start something new.  Yay, stash-diving and pattern-matching!
  • I will be the only one home for dinner tonight.  I get to make whatever I want and I control the TV!
  • There will be wine consumed, too.
  • Messing around with illustrations and kind of liking how they look.  Maybe I’ll share someday.

In the meantime ~

It's almost hockey time!  Yay!

It’s almost hockey time! Yay!

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It’s My Time

Oh, yes, it is.

This weather we’re experiencing now in New Jersey is DA BOMB.  It is crystal clear blue skies, big white fluffy clouds, clean-smelling air, and temperatures that quicken the blood and put roses in your cheeks.  Who could NOT love this weather?  Seriously, I do not understand sun-worshippers in the slightest.

I don’t get putting on a bathing suit, first of all.  It is a latex material (read: rubber bands) that doesn’t glide onto your body like normal clothes: it has to be pulled and tugged and jerked and readjusted a hundred times just to cover all the bits it’s supposed to cover.  By then, you’re already dripping wet with sweat from the exertion of it all, but now there’s the schlepping of all the things needed at the beach:

  • Cover up to cover the bathing suit that just cost you 35 minutes of your life to put on;
  • Sandals or flip-flops to negotiate over the long trek of hot sand, and really, how effective are those things at either walking or keeping your feet from the blazing temperatures of Hot.Sand;
  • Lotion to either keep you looking a normal shade of skin or an oil that will leave you looking like a well-basted Thanksgiving turkey;
  • Sunglasses which only marginally cut down on the squinting required;
  • Towels of every shape and size, to encompass the sitting, the wrapping of wet hair, the drying of wet bodies, the one to keep dry to brush off sandy feet before getting in the car and invariably gets wet anyway;
  • Snacks and/or lunch: must include sandwiches because it’s tradition but shouldn’t be because no matter how well you wrap them they’re going to get sand in them (and why shouldn’t they since sand is in their name), fruit which nobody will want because it’s drippy and juicy and messy and where do I put the pit or the core?  (Of course, these problems are solved by bringing frozen grapes, but let’s face it, you’re the only one who’s going to eat them.)  The drippy and messy argument kind of gets forgotten when there’s ice cream available, isn’t that funny;
  • Money to purchase said ice-cream;
  • Something to DO; how can anyone just sit there and do nothing and sweat while doing it?  So how a bout a magazine, which is rendered useless because of the glare from the sun; playing cards which will get sand and water on them; knitting, which adds some interesting texture to the yarn when a piece of seaweed accidentally ends up entwined in the mix; a book which is less glare-y than a magazine but still ends up damp, sandy, and induces naps;
  • Beach toys, like buckets and shovels and blow-up balls, flotation devices, those skimming things that look like baby surfboards, and for the really adventurous, a kite;
  • Spare bucket or bag to put the fifty-seven seashells you’re bound to bring home.

What do I do at this time of year, and what equipment do I need?

  • My legs to walk among the fall flowers and leaves;
  • My camera (or phone) to records a particularly stunning example of such;
  • Comfortable clothes;
  • That’s pretty much it.

Hands down, this is my time of year.  Here it is, Monday, and I’ve already done two loads of laundry and put dinner in the crockpot (pork shoulder with cranberry chutney, if you’re interested) and haven’t broken a sweat.  I’m not even breathing hard.

Yeah, this is TOTALLY my time.  Enjoy!

 

Woo Hoo!

Woo Hoo!

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Well, All it Took Was Food

It’s amazing to me how the brain works and how it affects the rest of the body, including the emotions.  It’s been a bit of a wobbly week and that neighborhood didn’t feel right to me.  I was lucky enough to make plans with a friend to meet for a glass of wine, and after spilling out tons of words and feelings and thoughts and “I know, right?” and a plate of perfectly seasoned and crispy sweet potato crinkle-cut fries, I was feeling a whole lot better about Things.

Yesterday we went fishing, and brought our cooler of sandwiches, fruit, pretzels, water, and seltzer, but I never took a bite: too seasick!  I haven’t been seasick since I was eight years old, so this was quite the “whoa” neighborhood.  Interestingly, there was no nausea and no chumming for the fishies; it was full-body trembling, dizzy, and an inability to stand (which is already challenging on a boat).  So I ended up napping and all the food was brought home untasted.  But as a sign of true love, Hubby made pancakes for dinner, half plain and half blueberry and it was the perfect “bring me back to the normal neighborhood” prescription.

This morning I met my breakfast buddy at our usual place, and had my bacon, tomato, and cheddar omelet with rye toast and many cups of hot tea.  More spilling of words, more sharing and laughing and planning and commiserating and by the time it was all over, I had a restored spring in my step and a happy outlook.  Once again, my neighborhood had come back and all it took was food.

I’ve been reading a couple of blogs and I’m wondering what makes me want to read ALL the archives of some, and barely want to skim others, and I think it’s because of the tone.  If it’s funny or upbeat I think I’ve found a new friend, somebody I want to be around often.  If it’s constantly a complaining place, I don’t want to stick around.  The ones who share something personal that bring up remembrances of my own feelings make me want to learn how others think.  How do other brains process the feelings I can’t?  How do others stay so happy all the time in the midst of strife?  Where does that talent for stringing words together come from?  How can I be more like them and less like me?

And today I answered myself: There’s already a them.  Just be a you.  Maybe throw some food in, too.

 

 

 

 

Come to mama.

Come to mama.

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Warning: Soul-searching Ahead

Apparently I’m lost because I’m trying to find myself lately.  There is a lot of daydreaming serious thinking happening here and I’m not used to that; usually I just read or play games or knit, but now everything is kind of tinged with a “…maybe I should try….” or a “…I could try this, I suppose…” and it’s happening more and more.  Am I going through another kind of puberty God forbid?

As a musician and teacher, I played several instruments fairly well.  Now I have absolutely zero interest in picking up an instrument, so what does that make me?  Most real musicians would never let their skills fade, so does that mean I was a sham?  I loved teaching, but I was lonely because the music department was two people, and I longed to be a “team” like a grade level or subject matter.  Now I wonder if I could ever do that again (and judging by the response to the resumes I’ve sent out, probably not) or have I given up because of the bad association with my former job?

I used to do beautiful calligraphy, and as well as the obligatory envelopes for weddings, I would write and illustrate quotes for selling at craft fairs and I enjoyed it.  But again, I haven’t done it in so long, and do I have all the hubris to think I am still good enough?  Drawing/illustrating is so pleasurable yet I am so highly critical of myself that it’s easier not to start.

Writing has always appealed to me as well.  I blog to give me practice in writing on a regular basis (stop laughing, it’s regular for me) so that perhaps I can write this young adult novel that’s been kicking around my head, so if that’s good enough I can write the book I really want to write.

I used to sing.  All the time.  It occurred to me that the last time I really sang was at Christmas Eve services which was over eight months ago.  What happened to me?  Where have I gone?  Who have I become?

I think I have become someone who is actually enjoying not working at a Monday-Friday job, and puttering about the home.  I am spending a ridiculous amount of time on my iPad, but I am reading so much, it’s not just games.  It’s a lot of games, but it’s also a ton of reading.  I am knitting and actually finishing things.  I can meet people for lunch.  During the day.  During the week.  (I know!)  

I am also sort of hovering.  Is this my new reality?  Is this temporary?  Will I ever be employed by someone else again?  (Part of me really hopes “no.”)  Could I write/illustrate/sell a book?  Can anybody point me towards a real shot of self-confidence?

If I had a dog this is what he'd be thinking.

If I had a dog this is what he’d be thinking.

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The Normal Party

Did you ever walk into a room full of people, politely say “hello” and then wonder why everybody but you seemed normal?  No?  Just me?  C’mon, that can’t be right.

If you’re the first person at an informal gathering of friends, it may be stilted and awkward to make conversation with the hosts (once you get past the “are you sure I can’t help you with anything?” obligatory exchange) but at least you get a prime chair choice: where will your butt be parked for the duration?  Personally, I avoid couches as they’re too soft and difficult to get out of easily, especially if you’re the kind of person who stands when somebody new comes in.  It’s also the seat that everyone wants to steal when you go to refill your drink or grab a couple of chips, so you return all at sea, a ship without its berth, self-conciously juggling your full drink and salty chips in a room full of happily docked boats.  That’s why I usually pick a dining-room chair that’s been pressed into service as “additional seating.”  I like the hard seat, the high supportive back, and the lack of desirability by the other butts in the room.

If you show up when the room is about half-filled with invited guests and give a weak “hello” to everyone in general, you’ll get a “hey” in return from some of them because the rest of them are still laughing at the story that concluded just before you walked in and half of them didn’t notice you arrived.  They have done the parking-lot system of sitting: don’t park next to the car in the lot, leave a space in between or even two, makes it easier.  Except for the poor cars that come later and have to park between a giant SUV and a smart car that’s hanging over the line (and really?  You’re the tiniest car in creation next to the ones the Shriners drive in the parades and you can’t stay in the lines?  I bet you raised hell in kindergarten, didn’t you?), you can sit between two people on the couch or perch on the arm of the overstuffed chair-and-a-half or take the one dilapidated folding chair that doesn’t look like it would support Kate Moss.  (I was going to say Twiggy but I don’t know how many of you are in my age bracket and would get the reference.)  If this is the situation presented to me, I usually go find the hosts in the kitchen where I can snag a kitchen chair, be near the drinks AND the chips, and justify that I’m keeping them company while performing the “are you sure I can’t help you with anything?” rodeo.

But what if the hosts are also in the living room?  You can’t sit in the kitchen by yourself, so you flit around the room saying things like “Oh, your hair looks fabulous, I love that look,” and “Don’t you look comfortable, what a great pair of sandals,” and “That drink looks delicious, what is it?”  Somebody offers to get me a drink, and I say “Oh, I don’t mind getting it myself, just point me” and they follow me to the drink-creating area and now I’m out of the awkward sitting situation and only have to deal with the awkward small-talk situation which is always a little easier if you happen to be slicing limes.  Then you can linger in the kitchen, admire the aromas coming from whatever we will be feasting on, and thank them for their generosity in having everyone over.  You are now the good guest, because you’ve spent quality time with your hosts and thanked them before anyone else.  If you are lucky, the hosts have offered you their seat in the living room as they have to “see to a few things” and bonus! It’s the dining-room chair!

Where I end up not feeling normal (and I do understand that if the preceding narrative hasn’t made me sound not normal, then you are probably just the kind of person I like hanging out with, which, you know, poor you) is listening to other people’s conversations and wondering how they have so many stories to tell, so many interesting facts to relate, such an easy time recalling shared adventures, and so up-t0-date on movies.  I begin digesting the details of their story about meeting the hosts in Manhattan for a drinks and dinner date and how hilarious the escapade was from the train ride through the mixed-up desserts, and sorting it out in my mind when someone says “You’ve eaten there, right?  Did you like it?”

Smiling and anticipatory faces turn to me, willing me to embellish this great story even more with additional bon mots of frightfully good humor, and I say, “Oh, yes!  Yes, we did!  Yes, it was really really good!” and the faces grow a little less smiley and a bit more anticipatory like they’re waiting for the punch line.  “Um…it was just so good… when we went.”  The faces turn back to the main arena, smiling even less and changing the subject.

The thing is, as I’ve mentioned, I’m really bad at small talk.  My strength comes in the little editorial one-liners, the quicksilver observations, the plays-on-words.  I am more the editor than the novelist, more the movie critic than the movie maker, more the taster than the winemaker.  My words come quickly and quietly and are usually only picked up by the people near me, so a group of entertainment-needing people makes me feel not normal at all.  Then I have a conversation with my brain about why we can’t make cool stories like Hannah or funny accounts like Edward or even amusing movements like Rover the family dog, and I look at Hubby who’s sitting silently but has a relaxed expression and will say later what a wonderful time he had and I wish I was normal like him.

 

Go sit in the kitchen.

Go sit in the kitchen.

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Laboring

It’s Labor Day here in the US, and a day set aside to honor the men and women who tirelessly sit at a desk all day and create stacks of paper that mean virtually nothing.  Having been in such a job myself in earlier times, I can safely say that this day has virtually nothing to do with reality or sense.  Much like this blog.

I believe it also honors the union workers, who historically labored under dire working conditions without any job security or dignity, and it is due to these unions that we now have the five day work week, minimum wages, and a song that urges us to look for the union label.

Here’s my labor takes:

  • I’m not in labor.
  • I’m not laboring, as I am still without employment.
  • I’m not doing any labor because it’s hot and humid outside and I’m fairly caught up inside.
  • I don’t own a labor-atory.
  • I don’t know anyone having a Labor Day cookout, so it looks like dinner is up to me.

Share your mundane Labor Day so I don’t feel quite so laboriously underwhelmed.

 

For all you hard workers out there.

For all you hard workers out there.

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