THANKFUL FRIDAY

It is cold. We all know how I feel about the cold. It turns me into a complete crankpot. It makes me think about my retirement and how it will include living in a tropical or at the very least temperate location. I grumble a lot in this weather and I don't like it. It makes being grateful really really hard. The other evening, I stood up to leave my therapist's office and remembered that I had to put my coat on. I said "Oh.. I have to put on my coat." I caught the tone of my voice and felt a little ugly. So I changed it and said "I get to put on my coat." I was all proud of myself with that one until my therapist said "I have a coat to put on." I felt a little smacked in the face with that one.

Yes, she is right. I have a coat to put on when the weather is cold. That is truly something to be grateful for when there are so many who do not have coats or warm clothes or money to pay for heat. It started me thinking. I do not have a spare coat to give, but I was wondering if I could buy a coat. There are plenty of coats in thrift stores. What if I purchased three coats from a thrift store and then donated them a homeless shelter? Sure, they're used coats, but I'm working within my financial means. Coats, maybe a few blankets. This something simple I can do to help those less fortunate. This is gratitude in action. 

Josephine is another year older and another minute more hilarious. I came home yesterday to find that she had pulled one of the house plants clean out of the pot. I don't know where the plant is. All that remains is the empty pot and a trail of dirt leading out through the kitchen. She keeps us on our toes. We took her with us to Melissa's for Thanksgiving. It was a house full of people and little kids and food. Josephine maneuvered her way around the rooms like a party pro. She was polite and loving and so good. I was so proud of her. Then she slept all the way home and well into the next day. I am thankful for our little dog. 

She keeps my feet warm. 

I'm thankful for warm coats. I am thankful for little dogs. I am thankful for quiet evenings and good health. I am thankful that friends in California are safe, though displaced. I am thankful for you. 

COSTCO CONVERSATIONS

The subject of what container I will one day put Michael's ashes in comes up around here more often than you would expect. It comes as a little bit of shock to people who only know me as the widow, to hear that I've put my late husband's ashes in a coffee can. Of course all of us who knew Chris all agree that a coffee can is probably the most fitting place for his ashes. I can't think of anything better really except maybe a bag of beef jerky. It would have to be a really big bag and seal really really well. I can be irreverent when it comes to death. For some reason, every one just assumes that I will also out live Michael. Michael is the first person to point it out. He’s surprised he’s lived this long. I’m surprised he’s lived this long. We are practical and we’ve had the talk about what to do with life insurance money and vaguely about what to do with his ashes. Our friend Jen, suggested a bottle. I was all “Ooh! Good idea!” then started to wonder where I was going to get a bottle big enough.

Costco. That's where I'm going to get a big enough bottle for Michael's ashes. They have an end cap of wine on display and all the bottles were either a three liter or five liter. Michael picked up the five liter and tucked it under his arm. We did not buy the wine because it was almost sixty dollars (and our wine comes out of a box!), but it just looked funny to pick up a five liter bottle of wine and carry it around like you were going to a fancy party. When we first saw the bottle, we both had the same thought. This was the bottle for Michael's ashes. So then we ended up standing there and having this whole discussion about not wasting the wine. First we should all drink the wine and then put his ashes in it. We shouldn't just dump the wine out. Unless it turns out to taste awful. Then, we mix it with fruit and make sangria. Next came the debate over the size of bottle to get. The five liter is funny, but I really feel like it's too big. The three liter would be fine, I think. I did also think that a regular size coffee can was big enough to hold all the ashes of one person. That was an inaccurate. We should probably go with the five liter just to be sure.

As we are having this conversation about what size wine bottle to get for Michael's ashes, I notice that there's a few other customers standing around. Their faces ranged from sad and pitying to what the fuck is wrong with us. They probably thought Michael had some incurable illness and wasn't expected to live long. "Look at that sad couple having to make funeral arrangements while grocery shopping at Costco because they don't have time to do it later." I so want to dead on seriously look them in the eyes and say "No one has time do it later!" Instead I just started laughing because for one thing it's a HUGE bottle of wine and for another thing, I can see a clear image of how ridiculous my bookshelf is going to look one day. Actually, it really is a good excuse to travel more. Eventually I'm going to run out of Chris's ashes and I won't need that coffee can any more.

Then I'll just be left with an enormous bottle and small canisters for all the pets (and I mean ALL the pets).

There was an old woman who swallowed a fly.... 

 

PANCAKE

Three times a week, in order to get more protein in my diet, I've been eating cottage cheese for breakfast with some walnuts, chia seeds and a little honey drizzled on top. It is yummy, but it is cold and started to sound really unappealing as the weather turned cold. I came across a giant box of Kodiak Power Pancake mix at Costco last month. After reading all the ingredients and nutritional facts, I found that if I used milk and egg to make my mix, I'd be getting twenty something grams of protein at breakfast and most of the carbohydrates would come from fiber. Michael did some math and said that it was way cheaper for me to eat pancakes three times a week (we're working really hard at sticking to a budget). So now, I eat two Kodiak Power cakes sprinkled with chia seeds and walnuts and topped with a banana three times a week for breakfast. 

Some of you are probably wondering how I could possibly have time in the morning to make myself pancakes. I have some super time management skills between 6:00 and 7:00AM. One hour. I've got one hour a day of super time management skills in me. The rest of my day is only mildly time managed, just enough to be productive at work. When I'm done drying my hair, I go place a pan on the stove and turn on the burner. Then I go get dressed. By the time I'm dressed with shoes on and jewelry and everything, the skillet is hot. I make up the pancake batter on Sunday. All I have to do is pour, sprinkle with chia and walnuts and flip. Pancakes are easy. That's probably why my mother made them for breakfast for us all the time. One morning as I was pouring the batter into the skillet, my two pancakes merged into a globby snowman shape. I thought of fancy pancake shapes I'd seen videos of people making on the internet. Some of them are crazy elaborate with food coloring. I do not have time in the mornings to make pancake art.

I don't know how old I was. I was small. My parents had to leave us with our friends, the Elders for some reason. It might have been the time my parents went to Tijuana or maybe it was the time Dad went to the hospital for kidney stones. Any way, Karen and David kept me for the night. When I got up the next morning, Karen made me pancakes shaped like teddy bears. It was all I talked about when Mom came to get me. I talked about it for days. “Karen makes pancakes shaped like teddy bears! Mom, did you know she could do that?! Can you believe she makes pancakes shaped like teddy bears, Mom?! That’s so neat!” A morning very soon after teddy bear pancakes, Mom called me down for breakfast. Then she placed a pancake on my plate that was shaped like an elephant. It was the most perfect pancake elephant ever. I mean, like you could see darker shaded areas around the ears and wrinkles in the nose. It was so perfect, I almost couldn’t bring myself to eat it. 

At the time, I didn’t think much about it. Mom just felt like surprising me. Now, I can imagine Mom hearing me go on and on about teddy bear pancakes and thinking that there was no way she was going to be out mothered in the pancake arena. It’s like my Mom said “I see your teddy bear pancakes, Karen, but can you make her favorite animal? BOOM!” It makes me wonder how Mom would have handled Pinterest if it had been around then. Mom was/is pretty crafty. You could draw a picture of the costume you wanted for Halloween and she could turn it into a pattern and sew it up in no time. I wanted to be Lucy Little one year and the butter lid for a giant button was all Mom’s idea. Her rubber glove finger witch noses were stellar. My Mom came up with about half of those crafty party ideas you see on Pinterest, back in the day when Mom judging was limited to just the women in your community and not the whole internet world. I can’t imagine the stress I could have added to my Mom’s daily life if I’d had access to Pinterest as a child.

It would have been a childhood of pizzas shaped like hot air balloons and cupcake elephants.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Michael missed three days of school this week because some yuck virus that seems to be going around. Twenty something other staff members from his school were out with it too. I am determined not to get it and so far my voodoo rituals have been working. My stomach is a little gurgly from all of the EmergenC I've been drinking and my nose is tingly from all of the tree oil I've shoved up there. I came home Wednesday evening with some sinus pain and a slight fever. I guzzled down more EmergenC and coated the inside of my nose with more tee tree oil, took some ibuprofen and went to bed. I woke up the next morning feeling okay. So maybe...just maybe, I'll avoid this round of plague. I'll wipe down the inside of the house with Clorox wipes this weekend and boil all the linens just to be sure we rid the house of all of the yuck germs. Though I am starting to wonder if it's possible to overdose on vitamin C.  

I'm feeling pretty good these days, at least physically. My moods are bit a manic, but it's the Holidays and that's another story. I stepped on the scale this week and discovered that I have officially lost ten pounds. If I lose five more pounds, I will be the weight I was when I was the skinniest I had ever been. Those were the days when Friday night dinner was a bottle of wine and a sleeve of saltine crackers. I'm perfectly okay with being this current weight. This morning, I put on the Levi's I'd purchased a few months ago. I hadn't really been wearing them because even though they fit, they were uncomfortable. Now they fit just right. I keep looking down at my long skinny legs and my somewhat smaller gut and doing a little happy dance. My guilty pleasure music is Kesha's latest album and I've been shaking my butt to it all morning. This body is better at almost forty two than it was at twenty two. When I turn fifty, I'm totally going to walk around kicking and punching and declaring "I'm fifty!"

It's nice to be heading into December feeling healthy. The usual feeling around this time of year is to just throw in the towel and say "I'll fix it next year." I resolve to be healthy! This is not a New Year's resolution for me. It's a daily resolution just like the one I have where I start my day telling myself to be the best person I can be today. Somedays, I am not my best and I don't even try. Somedays, I eat a whole lot of cheese. But most days, I do a pretty okay job of being my best self and not eating my weight in cheese. I am thankful for most days, but I'm not going to lie. I am also thankful for cheese. I am thankful Michael is feeling better. I am thankful for vitamin C and tee tree oil. I am thankful for this body... right now... in this moment.

I am always super thankful for you. 

SEPARATION

Once a month I watched my Dad sit down with his checkbook and write a check for ten percent of his monthly income to be placed in the tithing bowl at Sunday service. He did this every month even during times of financial struggle and instability. Which really, was most of the time I can remember. We lived paycheck to paycheck, just like I do now and just like about 78% of all Americans do today. Our pastor would have special sermons on tithing where he'd preach that if you only have one nickel to your name, you should give that nickel to the church. Occasionally we would hear about the missionaries our tithes went to and occasionally we would even have a special sermon from an actual missionary. Mostly though, our tithing money went to pay for our pastor's salary and upkeep of the church. 

Our paster and his family lived in a nice home and drove an expensive car. Our church owned a couple of buses and vans that picked up people in the community for church service or carted our youth group to the roller rink or bowling alley. There were times when we would all be rounded up to go 'witnessing' in neighborhoods. 'Witnessing' is when you share your personal come to Jesus story with others in hopes that you can convince them to open their hearts to the Lord. I was not good at witnessing, probably because my personal come to Jesus story was just a regurgitation of what everyone's come to Jesus story was. I said the words I was told to say and often they felt false and tasted sour. But I went along with it any way because I had a hard enough time fitting in at that church. We were never rounded up to go help out in soup kitchens or sort clothes for the needy. 

I remember walking into Sunday school one Sunday morning as a teenager and finding the room divided. We were told to pick a side. If you believed in abortion, you sat on the left. If you believed abortion was a horrible horrible thing that should be illegal, you sat on the right. I sat on the left. By myself. I argued that I could never make that kind of choice for another person. I knew there were circumstances that made abortion a necessary choice. I understood the value in quality of a life versus quantity of life. I didn't expect to change minds, but I couldn't with all good conscience sit on the right side of that classroom. This was when things really started to change for me personally with that church. Not long after that Sunday, I received a letter in the mail. I remember being excited at first because I hardly ever found a letter in our mailbox with my name on it. Then I opened the letter and began to read from Anonymous how I was a terrible Christian and that if I didn't change my ways, I was sure to end up in Hell. 

Sometimes I wish I had held onto that letter. Instead, I tore it up and threw it away. I knew that letter was because I had sat on the left side that day. I knew that letter was because I was starting to stand up for the things I believed in. Even if those things were not in line with the views of that church. That letter wiped away any need I had to say whatever needed to be said or do whatever needed doing to fit in. I walked completely away from that church in 1995. I was in my second year of college, but still attending church services when I was home visiting out of respect for my parents. Chris was with me and we were sitting in on the College and Career class. We sat there and listened with shock about how we should never question authority, because God put that person in authority. We left that Sunday school class and kept on walking. I never looked back. Our so called church family didn't really seem to miss me either and I'm okay with that. 

The Johnson Amendment was started in 1954 to prevent non-profits from endorsing or opposing political candidates. This means that non-profits can't financially contribute either way towards an election. Republicans have been trying to repeal this for years and they may finally do it with this new tax plan. Their argument is that it restricts free speech.

Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office

In 2004, the state of Oklahoma had two particular State Questions on the ballot. The first was State Question 705 that would allow the state of Oklahoma to create a lottery commission. The other was State Question 711 that would define a marriage as one man and one woman. Both State Questions passed by 65% and 75% of the vote respectively. When I asked my mother how she had voted on these issues, she said that she voted in favor of both. Her reason for voting 'yes' on SQ711 was that she was voting the bible. The hypocrisy of her answer riled me. It still does, but I know that her voting decisions were highly influenced by the church. You see, along with those sermons that our Pastor would give about tithing, he'd also give about who to vote for and how to vote. The Johnson Amendment did not restrict our Pastor's free speech. It just restricted how he could spend the money we gave to him every week in tithes. 

The removal of the Johnson Amendment means that the money a person tithes can and probably will go to fund political campaigns and inflammatory advertisements against certain candidates. When I think about this, I think about the church I was raised in and how they would be spending my tithe. I remember sitting in a divided room. I remember getting the hate mail. I remember the hypocrisy of a church that preaches against equal rights while at the same time endorsing gambling. The hypocrisy of choosing pieces of the bible to follow and ignore. As a child I was delusional and believed that the dollar I placed in the tithing bowl was going to feed the hungry, that my money was going to help someone in need. Now I'm just sickened by the thought of how my tithe would be used today.

I DON'T EVEN PLAY ONE ON TV

I had this actual conversation with my brother over the weekend:

Randy: "Do you have access to liquid nitrogen where you work?"

Me: "Yeah, but I'm not sure I have a liquid nitrogen container. Why do you need it?"

Randy: "I have this mole on my face I need to burn off. Maybe I could just come up there the next time we visit and you can burn it off for me."

Me: "or you could go see someone who knows what they're doing...like...I don't know...A DOCTOR!"

Here I was thinking that my brother wanted some liquid nitrogen for some cool project he was working on. When I found out he wanted it for self mutilation purposes, I started laughing. It was so completely a Dad thing for him to say. Our Dad was constantly asking me for medical advice. He'd say something like "Hey Cindy, I've got this thing on my elbow. What do you think it is?" I would look at it and say "a dangerous mole you should have the doctor look at." Then Dad would say "oh...no...maybe there's something you have at work that you could put on it." To which I would respond "Dad, I'm not a doctor." My Masters in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics was the equivalent to Medical Doctor according to my Dad. It was one of those things Dad did that made me simultaneously laugh and roll my eyes. 

I was walking down the hallway recently when Grief walked up and punched me hard in the gut. The air rushed out of me as I crumpled to the floor, gasping for air and trying not to throw up. I thought "Grief, you fucking asshole bully, when are you going to leave me alone?!" Then I remembered that Grief is not a bully, but a chronic illness. The holidays are not easy. Chris and I hosted our first Thanksgiving in the first house we'd just signed papers on. The next day he turned yellow and it was all down hill from there. Oklahoma Thanksgivings after that are scarred by the memories of the times when driving to Oklahoma became an all weekend affair. The car ride did not end once I had made it to my parents' home. That was just a pit stop before heading even further south only to spend half an hour or so with Dad before turning around and heading back. The Thanksgiving before Dad died was the last time I visited him where he was still Dad. He still had his sense of humor. He still knew who I was. I didn't have to remind him that Chris was gone. I didn't have to remind myself that Chris was gone. It's like Thanksgiving has become that last barely decent holiday before everything falls to shit. 

I remember how Dad would call just about every thirty minutes whenever Chris and I were driving from OKC to Tulsa and ask us "Where are you? How much longer until you get here?" It would drive us crazy. He was our phone version of the kid in the back seat saying "are we there yet?" every five minutes, but then we'd reach a point where we'd just start laughing about it. Dad could just be so ridiculous. My brother has started to resemble our Dad more and more. Not so much physically as in behaviorally. I noticed it the last time we were all together at their cabin near Branson. We were all sitting around outside, reading or playing games on our phones, except Randy. He was up and futzing around the camp trailer adjusting this or that. It was something our Dad would do. Whenever we were camping, Dad was always futzing with the camper or messing with the grill or making trout lines. I guess I do this too at times. Our lack of stillness is genetic.

Randy thinks we're teasing him when we call him Bud (my Dad's nickname), but what he doesn't know is that when we say that he's being so much like Dad, we mean it in a good way. Or at least I do. He's taken on those things that Dad would do that makes me laugh and roll my eyes all at the same time. It keeps Dad's memory alive. When Randy does a typical Dad thing, it makes me smile and laugh more at the memory than at Randy. I need those memories. I need to be reminded of Dad's goofball sense of humor and of the things he'd say and do that would make me roll my eyes.

WINNER

Not too long ago, Michael and I were in JcPenny's and we were checking out. The young woman working the registered told me that I qualified for a special coupon that could be worth up to 50% off. When I peeled back the tab to find out the coupon's worth, I revealed a 50% off coupon! I enthusiastically cried out "Winner!" in a perfect Kristen Wiig voice. It was really quite hilarious and Michael even snorted a little. The young woman at the register just lifted her eyebrows and said "oookay". Not even a chuckle. Who cares what that young lady thought or that she's missing her sense of humor! Michael and I now use my Kristin Wiig "winner" for any successful moment. 

Right now, I feel like I am the Christmas Winner! The reason I am winning Christmas is because I have gotten all of the Cabbage's Christmas taken care of, with the exception of some candy for her stocking. Michael and I are only buying for the Cabbage this year because we are poor and on a super tight budget to pay somethings off. Like all the presents I bought for the Cabbage. We tried to stick to a new rule of four gifts: something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. We got her a couple of things that she wants and then I saw the Kindle Fire on sale and decided that this could be something she reads. There was also a pair of leggings with kitty faces on the knees and some shoes, because the child always needs shoes. Any way, I'm sure as she gets older this want/need/wear/read list will get easier. I've been trying to figure out what on earth we were going to do for this year's Christmas card. Then, as we were driving back from Oklahoma, we spotted a Christmas light display. It was a Christmas miracle (not really). I made us get out of the car and I got a hilarious photo of the Cabbage with Christmas lights. Then, on Sunday, I made our Christmas cards with that picture and printed them out. They're all cut and ready to be addressed and I'm looking at myself in the mirror and giving my reflection a high five.

It's not even December!!! Look how much I've accomplished! Look! I'm amazed with myself. I have zero decorations up, but Halloween decorations are down (Winner!). There's still a tiny pumpkin out front because of Thanksgiving. He's not decorated or carved or wearing vampire teeth, so I thought he could stay. The decoration thing doesn't even bother me all that much. Now that I have most of all of our Christmas shopping done, I have more time to set up decorations. The Cabbage wants to help put up our tree which means inside decorations wait until the next weekend we have her, but I can start on the outside decorations this weekend. My brother's been making these cement Moai and selling them on Facebook. He gave me one for my front yard and I've got to find a Santa hat or antlers or something. I've named him Marvin and he must be included in our seasonal decorations now. I haven't figured it out how he's going to be decorated for Christmas just yet, but look at all the time I've got to figure it out. 

And! Micheal came down with a sore throat and achy body this morning. So now I've got to pull out all the tricks to dodge whatever virus he's contracted. I did get a flu shot this year (Winner?). I'm going to go home this evening and perform some rituals in hopes of not getting sick because even though I've gotten so much accomplished, I've still got some stuff to do. 

Like decorate Marvin. Maybe he needs an ugly Christmas sweater....

THANKFUL

In a few weeks, I will start teaching two yoga classes a week at the Red Bridge YMCA. After I talked to the director and left the facility with this news, I realized that I was elated with the prospects of teaching again. The feeling surprised me. It was almost like something inside me had been slightly misaligned and the prospect of teaching again set it all back into place. I didn't even know there was something off kilter until it clicked back into place. I had just assumed all this time that I was content with just my own practice and I believe that I was... for awhile. But I was made to teach yoga. It is part of who I am.

When Chris died, I lost my bearings. I started to question everything about myself and who I was. Who am I without Chris? This was the question that I was continuously asking myself. For so many years I had only seen myself as Cindy and Chris, Chris and Cindy. We were a unit and when he was gone, I fell to pieces. I was left with putting pieces of me back together and oh so often, I wound up putting those pieces back in the wrong way. Through trial and error, I have been working to set those pieces as straight as can be straight. Along the way I started to find the pieces of myself that make me who I am. The question is no longer 'who am I without Chris?'. The question is 'who am I?'. I didn't become me the day I met Chris. I have always been this girl. Brave, yet insecure. Creative and practical and at times philosophical. Chris just enhanced all of that. He pushed back those insecurities that might have kept me from being my best self. The pieces of my best self are still there. They've just been stuck in the wrong orientation.

Things are falling back into place. 

My therapist left me with this for Thanksgiving. It's a quote from Immanuel Kant.

Rules for happiness: something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. 

It sounds very simple and funny really considering the length we all go through to find happiness, all the self help books we've read and projects we've started. I have all of the pieces required to fulfill those rules for happiness. My job fulfills my brainy side. Teaching yoga fills me with joy. Michael has been around through some of my trials and errors in fitting those broken pieces back in place and surprisingly, he's stuck around. He sticks around. We're making plans for our future, working together on finances so that we can pick a day to gut our kitchen. Michael's been using the IKEA kitchen planner to build our new kitchen and we futz and tweak it just about every night. We have many things to hope for. This makes me very grateful.

I am thankful for all of those pieces. I am thankful for my friends and family and the time we will have together over the next few days. I am thankful for you.

SNOWFLAKES

The Cabbage likes science, which is great and awesome. It makes me feel very good about my life choices, but we don't do any science like stuff when she's at my house. She'll ask me what I did at work that day. I always try to tell her something in simple words. It's just that it is really hard for me to explain something complicated in simple terms. I'm just not good at it. Ideally, I'd like to do silly science related craft projects with her all the time. Like make sugar crystals or swab the house to streak on agar plates to see how many kinds of things will grow. I'd really just like to do that with her hand. Press her whole hand into an LB agar plate and see what kind of grossness grows on the plate. She will never forget to wash her hands again. The reality is that I lack the energy to deal with all the things involved with crafts, particularly the mess. I'm good at keeping my own mess under control, but keeping my mess under control while containing the mess of a seven year old is why people drink.

I came across this craft for making snowflake Christmas ornaments and thought we could give this one a try. It looked relatively easy and the mess is contained in Mason jars. I bought some Borax and pipe cleaners. Then I cut the pipe cleaners into lengths that allow them to fit into the jars without touching the sides. I got the jars all ready by adding the Borax and I put together a couple of snowflakes so I had an example to show the Cabbage, who was excited about the project until she had to twist pipe cleaners together. Then came the complaining and whining and the "ugh! I don't even know what you're doing!", because twisting pipe cleaners together is hard (?). Finally I looked at her and said "This was a bad idea wasn't it." She replied with a "what?" and I said "asking you to do this with me." She shrugged and I said "Why don't I twist together all of the pipe cleaners and then I'll come get you when it's time to add food coloring to the jars." She was happy with this plan and came back to the project to add three drops of food coloring to each Mason jar of boiling water and Borax. 

The snowflakes were the first thing she wanted to see when she woke up the next morning. We all stood in the kitchen oohing over the crystals that had formed on the pipe cleaners and in the bottom of the Mason jars. Now I want to dip everything in Borax solution. I've thought about making enough crystallized crap to make into a new Christmas wreath. Sure, my snowflakes didn't turn out as nice as Martha Stewart's, but I learned enough from this attempt to do better on the next. I'm thinking big bowls of Borax solution for the next go around so I can make larger snowflakes. And what if I make snowflakes out of something other than pipe cleaners? Will crystals form on paper or cardboard? What if I twist red and white pipe cleaners together and make candy canes? The possibilities are endless! 

Who cares about entertaining the seven year old. I'm entertaining myself! 

MANAGMENT

I have mostly stopped posting news articles about the daily atrocious behavior of this administration to my Facebook timeline. Some of you who agree with my views may have the impression that I have given up or I'm not angry. Oh...I'm angry. I'm angry a whole lot of things: gun laws (as in we do not have any and the human population has shown that they're too stupid to own a gun), tax reform that's going to make it even harder for young adults to pay for college and graduate school, the constant threat of so many people losing their health care, outrage at the men accused of sexual harassment and the lack of outrage over a president that sexually harasses and is generally horrible to women, the Russians, the science denial and now...the elephants. All of it makes my belly burn with rage. I think it's the hypocrisy of everything that frustrates me the most, particularly with the sexual harassment cases. One of the worst men notorious for sexual harassment and the general awfulness in how he treats women is currently sitting in the white house as acting president. 

Women voted for that man. I can't see the logic in it and it hurts my brain to try to figure it out.

This country is pretty ugly right now. We were watching Sarah Silverman's I love you America on Hulu recently. She was talking about all the sexual harassment cases to come out and how we need this to happen even though it is painful and ugly. She said it was like excising a tumor. I felt that her words applied to everything happening in America right now. We are in the process of excising so many different kinds of tumors and it is ugly and it is messy. I know from personal experience because one of my research jobs involved removing tumors from mice so we could study them. It was the worst part of that job and that job, in itself, was awful. America has some pretty ugly awful tumors that have been festering for some time like sexual harassment and racism and just general hate for the sake of hate. These tumors are not easy to remove because they have become twisted into the infrastructure of America with filopodia reaching deep. We have to be prepared that excising these kinds of tumors is going to be difficult and painful and we might not even get all of it in this go around.

Through all of it, I have been wondering what roll I play in the ugliness of today's America. The Cabbage loves watching that show called Brain Games and we watch episodes while eating dinner some times. On one episode, a man dressed up in a suit and tie and hung out at a mall with camera man and mic. He told people he was with the National Geographic News and then he would ask a question like "The congress just passed a bill that would limit people in the poverty level to one child. What do you think about this?" None of the people he talked to questioned the source of information or whether or not this was even true information. They went right on in to outrage mode. I looked over at Michael and said "the first thing I would have asked for before answering any of his questions was for sources." This is how rumors and hearsay become 'news', but because the man is wearing a suit and tie and says he's from the National Geographic News, people felt they could trust what he was saying. Then it dawned on me what it was that I could possibly do to help with removing America's tumors.

My job is to question everything and encourage others to question everything. I can post factual news stories, but it doesn't do any good if the people who needs to read them are not reading them. And those people do not trust my news source. So I need to encourage them to question everything they hear or read. Look it up! Do your research! Don't rely on Facebook feeds for your news. Don't take my word for it or your BFF's word for it. YOU do the research. My second job is to be compassionate to others even if that other person makes it so hard to be compassionate to. I think that's the hardest job, but the one that will pay off the most. It is my hope that compassion and kindness becomes more contagious than hating people because of their skin color, religion, or sexual orientation. It is my hope that this compassion and kindness leads to empathy and respect.

Most of all, I want this country to heal.   

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

The other day I was looking for a particular picture in my Instagram feed. I ended up scrolling all the way to very bottom of my feed, all the way back the very first picture I posted on May 5th 2012. Chris had been dead for three months. My hair was long. A few days later in my feed, is a picture of Hooper. Scrolling up from the first picture, you can watch my life unfold as I deal with grief and live a life of a single woman. I lose weight and buy new shorts. I eat salads out of serving bowls. I visit Talaura in New York. I cut off all my hair, back to my normal self. I visit Chad and Jess in Atlanta. I spend my first Christmas with out Chris and with out Hooper because by this time I've had to say goodbye to him too. There's a picture of my luggage all stacked up in the living room with the caption of "home". I came back from Oklahoma that year to a truly empty house. 

As the next year scrolls along, you see me go to Lindsay's wedding and not so much catching the bouquet, as picking it up from the floor. I get my first mammogram. Various friends and family members visit and then I go to Amy's wedding. By this time, I've met Michael but he doesn't show up in my Instagram feed for over a month and then he becomes a regular appearance along with the Cabbage. Eventually Josephine shows up in the feed, so tiny and then Albus. I forgot about how he was such a tiny little kitten when he came to us. There are plenty of pictures of my travels alone, but just as many pictures of our travels together. At some point in there you see a shift in the quality of my images. My Instagram feed starts to look a little nicer. I don't know if that's just me making an effort or a reflection of my life becoming a little nicer. 

The next thing I'm going to tell you might sound a little selfish, but one of the things I love about my Instagram feed is that it does not include Chris. I started the account after Chris died. Sure, there are pictures of places where I have left Chris over the years, but there are not any picture of Chris being silly or looking at me in the way he used to look at me. It does not bring me physical pain to scroll through these images, which is not the case for some of the other places I store images. It's not that I don't want to remember that time. I have pictures of Chris and I up in my (our) house now. I just don't want to drag myself through all of it every time I want to look up an old picture. But also, my Instagram feed is a testimony to my resilience and strength. It tells me that there is life after Chris and I am thankful for this reminder. I am also thankful for all of the good things I see in that feed. 

I have a good life and that's something to be thankful for. I am also thankful for you. 

DOING ALL OF THE THINGS

Robin and Summer were in town over the weekend. They actually came into town Thursday evening. So I took Friday off to run around town with the two of them. We were moving around slowely Friday morning and I opened my email to discover that Margaret and Philip were also in town. They wanted to know if I could meet them for lunch. I told them we'd all meet them for lunch! It was one of those nice surprises where the Universe aligns the planets in a unique way and we were all together again. For those of you who don't know, I worked for Margaret. Robin worked for Philip. Our labs were right next to each other and there was lots of collaborating and scientific shenanigans. These people are my scientific family. We all squeezed into my car and I drove us to the Nelson. We ate lunch in the cafe, which is in a very loud courtyard and we ended up yelling our conversation to each other. Afterward, we all tooled around the museum. Then I got Margaret and Philip tickets to the Picasso exhibit and we parted ways. It was nice.

I then showed Robin and Summer my favorite things at the Nelson. They still have the Dorothea Lange photography exhibit up, which is my most favorite exhibit. It's a display of her (and few other photographers) photographs taken during the Great Depression, when she was a photojournalist for the Farm Security Administration. Her images and the notes she took for each one not only gives us a history of that time, but tells the stories of people displaced by a dust bowl and job loss. Deep personal stories. You can see the stress and hardships etched into the lines of all the faces, even the children. I am fascinated by her images as much as I am fascinated that we had a government who hired photographers to document our history. There was a time we intentionally hired artists to tell our stories. The images she captured of that time are equally beautiful and sorrowful. You can feel the grit of the dirt blowing in the air. Dorothea Lange is the kind of photographer that inspires me. She was the first woman to be awarded a Guggenheim fellowship. 

After dragging the girls around the Nelson, we spent the rest of our time together eating and drinking and talking and laughing. Michael and I introduced them to IKEA. We ate famous Kansas City BBQ. It was a much needed visit and I am so happy they came up to see us. I spent the Sunday after they left, moping around a cemetery with the boys. One of our friends, Tom, is involved with the historic society in some way. He took us all on a tour of two historic cemeteries in Kansas City. The first one we went to was Elmwood Cemetery, which is on the list of National Registry of Historic Places. It was designed by George Kessler, the same architect behind many of our parks and boulevards. Many of Kansas City's founders are buried in this cemetery and it is filled with beautiful headstones and mausoleums. We traipsed around the cemetery while Tom pointed out note worthy graves and told us the history around this person and that. I learned that guys who founded Cheeze-its and Post-it notes are from Kansas City and are buried in this cemetery. 

I took my fancy pants camera with me for the tour partly out of being inspired by the  Dorothea Lange exhibit, but also in hopes of just spending some time with that camera. I didn't really expect much out of the shots I was taking mostly because the day was gray and overcast. I assumed that I would end up turning everything into black and white images. At one point, while switching back and forth between the fancy pants camera and my phone camera, Wilson (I know a guy named Wilson...he's fabulous) asked me what the difference was in using my Nikon vs the phone camera. I looked at him and said "Honestly? Not much." Both cameras have about the same megapixals sensors. Both cameras take similar photos when using automatic settings. The Nikon takes better quality images under ideal lighting situations. I prefer the phone camera for low light situations when I don't want to use a flash. The Nikon takes time. I tend to be more mindful of how I look at my surroundings when I look through the view finder on the Nikon. The pictures from this camera have to be transferred to my computer before I can upload them. The phone is like an Instamatic, meaning your pictures go straight to the internet. 

I did not explain any of this to Wilson when I answered his question. I think I said something about like "it just depends on how I'm feeling as to which camera I'm going to use." That's kind of true. If I'm feeling lazy, I reach for the phone camera because my phone is always on me, but after really thinking about his question, I knew that the answer was more complex. I like using my fancy pants Nikon when I actually get it out and use it because it makes me feel like I'm doing something special. Even if I just end up take a bunch of crap pictures. I've been thinking a lot about photography projects for the next year and how I would like to find a way to sell some prints. I'd like to do another 365 day project that focuses on my body, in hopes that will help me see a better version of myself that I am having a hard time seeing these days. I have also gotten lazy with lighting. I end up doing a lot of editing and filtering that I shouldn't have to do. I tweak here and there is one thing, but I've been doing more than the usual tweak. I've had several people ask me for camera advice lately and I'd like to be a bit more knowledgable in my answers.

Really, my biggest plan for the new year includes more actual doing rather than wanting to do. Yes, I realize that some might think it's to early to be talking about New Year plans. I think it's too early to put up Christmas decorations, so we're even.  

LITTLE BLUE BOXES

I have a thing for Tiffany's. I don't know why or how it happened. It might have had something to do with the 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's, which is still one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies. Maybe I have a secret passion for really expensive jewelry. It's probably both of those things. I have always been drawn to that signature Tiffany's blue. My scooter and my bicycle are close matches to that color, as well as our couch. I remember attending a wedding shower with my mother once and we set our present down on the gift table next to a large Tiffany's gift box. I remember looking at my Mom because she had gasped at the sight of it and then she turned and looked at me and said "Someone has spent a lot of money and the bride is going to get a really nice gift." I was a pre-teen and this was my second hint that there was something special about Tiffany's. The first was hearing Marilyn Monroe singing about diamonds in Gentlemen Prefer Blonds. Tiffany's represented something classical and sophisticated, beautiful and durable. Things from Tiffany's became family heirlooms. 

One of the coolest things I have ever done was to have breakfast at Tiffany's. On my first trip to New York, Talaura picked me up from the airport and asked me what I wanted to do while I was in New York. I said "I want to have breakfast at Tiffany's." Talaura knew exactly what I was talking about. You can't, or at least at the time could not, have breakfast at Tiffany's. I mean that there was not a restaurant at Tiffany's. Breakfast at Tiffany's was standing outside with a cup of coffee and a pastry of some sort while gazing at the beautiful, sparkling window displays. Just as Holly Golightly would do on mean red days. This is what Talaura and I did one morning on that first trip to New York City. We picked up everything bagels with everything cream cheese from the Bagel Boyfriend and two cups of coffee. Then we rode the subway down to 75th and walked the few blocks to Tiffany's. We stood outside drinking our coffee and eating our bagels while people walked by, mostly tourists. Occasionally we would hear someone say in an excited whisper "they're having breakfast at Tiffany's" and Talaura and I would give each other a sly look and a slight nod as if to say "yeah...we know we're the coolest."

I did not go inside the store on that trip. I admired a pair of sunglasses in the window display, but I did not go inside. I was still intimidated by the idea of walking into a store where I knew that I would only be looking. I was still under the impression that I would never be able to buy something from Tiffany's, that it would always remain a representation of the kind of sophistication that I would never be able to attain. Later on, I would and do walk into Tiffany's to look at all the pretty things and I would even purchase something. I bought a very sturdy sterling silver chain that holds mine and Chris's wedding rings. The chain, I feel, was a very practical purchase and worth the price. It has held up well with the weight of those rings. That opening scene of Holly Golightly standing outside of Tiffany's looking at the window displays is so much more than just a girl hoping for a diamond. She's looking at things that for right now, are unattainable, but some day...some day she's going to have all the money and confidence to buy the whole store. Really, in the end, it's not the money she gains, but the confidence to open herself up to another person, to be herself. It's a girl hoping for bigger and better things and we've all been that girl. We are all a little bit Holly Golightly, struggling to find a place in this world where we are accepted, yet still able to maintain a unique quality of self. 

Tiffany's has updated their flagship store in New York City and have released a line of products they call "everyday objects." The everyday collection is beyond ridiculous with a replica of a plain old tin cup, this one made of sterling silver. It is the most expensive tin cup for panhandling or holding pencils you will ever see, costing you about $1000. The everyday object I find most annoying though is the crazy straw. The crazy straw ranges from $250-$350 depending on your choice of metal and I wouldn't call it 'crazy' as much as I would call it 'bendy'. At $250, I'm not even sure if it's meant for drinking or looking. Along with the release of these everyday ridiculous objects, Tiffany's also announced the opening of a new cafe on the fourth floor of the store. For $29, you can now have breakfast at Tiffany's as well as a $39 lunch and a tea for $49. I have to admit that I am slightly tempted by the luxurious menu offerings, but I'm not paying $29 for a cup of coffee, a croissant and a slice of avocado toast, nor will I ever again stand outside drinking my coffee while eating a pastry. The things inside Tiffany's are not so much unattainable to me now as they are unwanted. 

With the exception of that really cute elephant charm they have where the proceeds go to save elephants. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Well...it's happened. It actually started weeks ago. The weather thing. It's cold. Some parts of Kansas City even saw snow on Halloween. Coming from a place where you might, just might, have to wear a jacket over your costume on Halloween, the idea of having to wear a coat and gloves and mittens is boggling. I kept thinking that it was just a fluke, that we'd get some kind of warm front and an Indian Summer would settle in, but it's just gotten colder. Sunday, I helped Michael winterize and cover the camper and then we spent the rest of the day pouting about putting the camper away for the winter. We all know how I feel about winter. 

Here's the upside to the cold weather:

  • The cat, who is not a particularly loving cuddling creature (October was squirrel murder month), will curl up or stretch out in my lap. The dog will either stretch out alongside the cat or sit on the cat. They'll stay this way for as long as I will let them. 
  • Josephine sleeps under the comforter curled up next to my side. In the mornings, she will go outside and do her thing and then run right back in and dive back under the comforter. If I leave the bedroom door open, the cat will follow her and then curl up in the bottom right corner of the bed. 
  • The other night, I was cradling a hot bowl of ramen in my hands and I said "this is all I want to eat all winter long." Many people might be thinking that I'm talking about the ramen noodle packages we all consumed copious amounts of in college and feel a little sad for me. This is not the ramen I am talking about. I still use the dried ramen noodles because Michael doesn't like the fresh ones, but I make my own miso broth. I sauté green onions with shitake mushroom and bok choy and maybe some shrimp or a white fish in a Hoisson/Tamari sauce. Then I cook the noodles in the miso broth and when they're done I pull them out and place them in a bowl. Sometimes I poach a couple of eggs in the miso broth. I top the noodles with my sautéed vegetables and fish and poached egg and then I pour the miso broth on top. It's not as cheap as a ramen noodle pack, but it's cheaper than eating out and it is delicious and easy. 
  • I can touch Michael's bare arm with one finger and make him yelp like he's been hit with a cattle prod because my hands are soooo cold. 
  • I think about (but only think about) starting some sort of knitting/crochet project. I don't even know how to crochet, but I feel like I need a new winter hat and I've been seeing some really cute crocheted stuffed animals. 
  • The sun has shifted so that now when it comes in the window at work in the mornings, it reflects off the glass of my cubicle and makes rainbows on the walls. 

Here's what I am learning about myself. I am a doer and a mover and a shaker. I am usually the first to deny all of that because I don't think I do, move or shake enough. This is why I am never still. The cold weather makes it easier for me to be still. Not mentally easier, but physically easier. It's hard to pry those animals off my lap.  They are also warm. It's like having my own personal furnace. Actually, most of the benefits of the cold weather all have to do with warm things. I am thankful for warm pets and warm bowls of ramen noodles. I probably shouldn't be thankful for the sadistic joy I get out of torturing Michael with my cold hands, but it's something that makes me laugh and therefore worthy of gratitude. I am thankful for inspiration and I am thankful for that shift in the sun. Because..RAINBOWS at WORK. That's pretty special. 

I am thankful for you. 

 

IF WORDS WERE ARROWS

I started it. I pushed and needled. I can never tell if he's just in a mood or he's in a mood because of something I did or said. My tendency to be bluntly honest doesn't work in this relationship and I do a lot of back peddling of "I don't mean to...." and "it wasn't my intention to.." It just means that I don't say a whole lot any more. Better to say nothing at all. As a result annoyances and frustrations go unsaid and they sit and fester. He is the opposite. He says so much that he can't even remember what he's said. He is not careful with his words, at least...not the way I am. Then he said it. "I am never going to make you as happy as Chris made you." He didn't say it in spite or malice. He just told the truth and the truth of those words hit me like a million arrows, piercing every inch of my skin. 

It was like losing Chris all over again and I crumpled. It's not that I had been lying to myself all this time, but... 'never' is such a finite word. I will admit to missing a relationship that I had, wishing at times that this one could be more like that one. I missed the confidence I had in myself. I was more relaxed then, less afraid of stepping on toes. Less worried about keeping Chris entertained, interested, and happy. There was an equality to our support of each other's endeavors. There was an ease to that relationship that I don't think Chris and I truly understood. Other couples would look at us and ask if marriage ever got any easier. Chis and I would look at them like they were crazy. It had never been hard for us. We didn't have to work on our relationship the way other couples tend to. I just expected that was how all relationships were supposed to be and at times I get frustrated and annoyed that I have to work at this one. So yeah, I miss the relationship I had. But that wasn't the worst part about the truth of his statement. The worst was the shame I felt for dragging him into this and how unfair it is for him. Why would he even want to be here if he knows he's never going to make me as happy? What a totally crappy position to be in, knowing that, believing that. I hope it's two sided, that we were both happier with other people and we are now forced to make do. Though, there's something sad about making do with being just happy enough and something selfish about asking for more. 

I remind myself that in the grand scheme of things, this relationship is still new. We're still learning how to navigate. In this case, the path isn't as clear and smooth as normal. There are more rocks, boulders even. We still have the usual growing pains of a new relationship. We are still learning how to share the same space even though we've been working on it for four years. I don't think we're slow learners as much as we are both stubborn and set in a particular way. I've started not trying so hard to make this relationship resemble the one I had. I'm working on being less careful with my words and falling back into my old skin. For someone who doesn't really care what the general public thinks of her, I see the irony in caring too much about what he thinks of me and it's time to put a stop to it. It's time for me to relax into this relationship and stop tiptoeing around. Easier said then done, I know, but just because I miss something I had once doesn't mean I can't be happy in what I have now. 

I've got a list of things forming in my head for the new year. I feel the crunch and rush of the shift from this year to the next more keenly this year then in previous years. Maybe it's because I feel like I haven't been my best self this year, particularly the last few months. If I had to sum up this year in one word that word would be 'struggle'. It's been a struggle for me to look around with a mindful eye, which is something I had always thought just came easily to me. I don't know why this year has been one of such internal fights for me. I would like an extra month between November and December just to get myself organized for the next year. Myself. Not the house or our schedules or the finances. We've actually been working on the finances together once a week, which has made a world of difference. I want that extra month to get ME organized, scrubbing my skin with salt and clearing away the negative goop that has started building up in my joints. 

I want to be more settled and care less in the next year. I want to be selfish and take more rather than just make do. 

747

CBS Sunday Morning had a segment about the 747 airplane being retired from commercial use last week. It's not the first story I've seen or read on the subject. The New York Times ran a nice article about the Early Days on the 747 back in October. The segment on CBS Sunday Morning also talked about the early days of this plane and how no one believed it would be able to get off the ground. It talked about different airlines competing to have the most interesting lounge in the upper deck with bars and even a piano on an American Airlines 747. The 747 was the cruise ship of the skies. 

Way back when I was little and we took that first trip to Hawaii, we flew on a 747 across the Pacific. The memories of that trip are hazy, particularly the actual travel parts, but I do remember being really excited about flying in a 747. I was wearing my nicest church dress. It was one Mom had made for my sister as a Christmas dress and had a layered ruffled skirt. As would be the case with most of my clothes, the dress became mine after my sister out grew it. Mom replaced my sister's dress with a matching dress of the same style, just a different color. Dress clothes were required attire for flying on the stand-by list because you never knew if that open seat was going to be somewhere in coach or up in first class. This was the late 70s, early 80s. People still dressed nice in first class and people still smoked on airplanes. Airlines started phasing out the lounge part of the 747 in the late 70s in order to make room for more seating, but this particular plane still had it's lounge. 

I have fuzzy memories of my sister holding my hand as I followed her down the long isle to the spiral staircase that led up to lounge. The stewardess standing at the bottom of the stairs looked at the wings pinned to our pretty dresses. We always got new wings whenever we flew, even though pins were only meant for first time flights. There was always someone working on the plane who knew Dad, either a pilot, co-pilot or stewardess. Dad knew everyone. There were benefits to that, like wing pins and extra peanut snacks. One time while traveling in first class, my Mom admired the salt and pepper shakers and the stewardess wrapped them up in a napkin and gave them to my Mom. The stewardess on this trip bent down to eye level to talk to us and then pointed up the stairs. She was letting us take a peak. I trailed behind my sister up the spiral stairs and we peaked through the rails. I only remember seeing feet. Shiny loafers. Black dress heels. Fancy cowboy boots. The lounge was dark and filled with cigarette smoke. I remember hearing music and the clink of glass. All of these images where absorbed in seconds before we hurried back down the staircase, giggling, running back to our seats. 

Really, I don't remember a single thing about our flight back home from that trip. I only remember the flight over and I don't think I ever again flew on a 747. The plane Mom and I flew on from Chicago to Heathrow was a big plane, but it was not a 747. It's a shame to see it go. It's a shame they got rid of the lounge. I don't miss the cigarette smoke though, but the whole idea of a lounge on an airplane seemed to make travel a decadent treat. Not the hassle it has become with long lines and very little leg room and the feeling of being squashed into a tin can. The 747 is one of those planes that made the traveling to the destination part of the adventure. I wish I could have ridden on one just one more time. 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

One evening this week, as I was getting ready to wash my face before bed, I noticed something sticking out of the drain in our bathroom sink. I plucked the thing out only to find that it was a pumpkin seed that had sprouted. I can only assume that the seed ended up there when the Cabbage washed her hands after carving our pumpkins. The drain in the bathroom sink is a modern drain and it's easy enough for something the size of a pumpkin seed to rest undetected just under the the drain cover. That's what happened. The seed sat hidden for almost three weeks, getting plenty of water and minimal sunlight, until it finally started to grow. It sounds like a title for a great children's' book. There's a Pumpkin Growing in My sink! I should tuck this idea away to go along with the egg that has four yolks. 

Sometimes, I will be floating along through my days while either feeling not much of anything or the weight of all that is wrong with everything everywhere and I will forget to notice the little things. This week it started with a seed sprouting in my sink. It was as if the seed had been purposefully planted there for me to find, to be reminded of the simple beauty of cell division. This was followed with a simple text from a phone number I did not recognize that read:

"I know this is hard on you. just wanted you to know that im praying for you too. Darwina."

At first, I racked my brain trying to remember if I knew anyone named 'Darwina'. Then I wondered what Darwina knew that I didn't. "I know this is hard on you." What? Life? Breathing? Trying to be happy when half the time I feel nothing? Yeah...Darwina, it is really hard. How did you know? 

Of course I knew that this had to be a text sent to the wrong number. I don't know a Darwina, nor did I have a clue really what she was talking about. I replied politely to her text and we had a brief exchange of pleasantries. So often something like this happens and the person on the other end of the line turns angry and hostile. Just earlier this week, I called a number that had called me three times in a two hours. I didn't answer it because I didn't recognize the number, but after three attempts to contact me, I though maybe I should see what they wanted. I called the number and the man who answered was rude. He said he hadn't called me and asked me how I got his number. I explained that I had just hit the return call button on my phone, that it was this number that was listed in my missed calls list. It was a far different exchange than the one I had with Darwina, that's for sure. Then I thought "why can't all exchanges be as pleasant and polite?" 

This week I am thankful for seeds that sprout even in the non hospitable conditions. I am thankful for this reminder that I am a lot like this seed, sprouting and growing in adversary. I am thankful for unintentional words of support from complete strangers. I am thankful for the reminder how things are just better when we respond to each other with kindness and understanding.

I am thankful for you. 

 

A HOUSE ON FIRE

Last night Michael stepped outside and noticed flames shooting up from the roof of the house across the street. There was a small group of teenagers standing next to a parked car, looking on in awe. Michael yelled at them to ask if any one had called 911. One girl yelled back that she was on the phone with them now. I ran to my room and threw on some shoes and a coat. Michael did the same. We stepped outside and could hear a guy banging on the door to the house yelling the owner's name. Michael ducked back inside, ran to the garage and grabbed our sledge hammer. Then the two of them took turns busting open the door, while yelling for the owner. They finally managed to bust the door open, but had to shove the door because of all the stuff pilled up around it. The house was thick with smoke. It was determined that the owner wasn't home, but no one felt it was safe enough to go inside and check. 

The firetrucks started to arrive (seven in all) and we all stepped back out of the way. Many of us stood on the sidewalk across the street, watching the firefighters work. The owner, thankfully was not home at the time of the fire. Michael said that from what he could see, he suspected the man of being a hoarder. There are five cars parked in his driveway and none of them are in running condition. The roof was still visibly smoldering an hour later. I fell asleep to flashing red and blue lights reflecting through the window and dancing on the ceiling. When I left for work this morning, it was still dark. The house, still over grown and shadowed behind trees, didn't look any different than usual. The street was quiet and all of the cars still lined the driveway. The hint of a charred wood smell was the only indicator that the fire had even taken place. 

When I was a kid, we'd hear the firetrucks and Dad would say "hop in the truck! let's see where they go!" The firetrucks never led us out to a house fire. We always ended up in one of the many rolling fields that filled up the spaces between towns. Grassfires. Someone said to me today "Oklahoma just seems to get all the weather. Ice storms and crazy tornadoes." She forgot to mention the grassfires and the burn bans. I remember the time we were all sent home from high school early because there was a grassfire a field over and the winds had shifted. The high school sits just on the outskirts of town. As you drive east on Highway 20, the first thing you come to is the Collinsville cemetery on the right. As soon as you pass the cemetery, the high school is there on the left. Fields and farm land lead up to it all. Watching the grass burn is as a familiar of a sight as watching the clouds swirl in the sky. 

But a house fire? That was a new sight. I have seen burnt out shells of homes and buildings, but never the actual fire until last night. I felt an urgent need to do something, had even ran across the street prepared to help drag anyone or anything out of the burning building if need be. I was also really worried that once Michael and the neighbor busted down that door, that both of them would head inside the house, searching for life. Just as they got the door open, part of the roof caved and this was what we were seeing from the outside. There was no telling about what was happening inside the house. In the end, all of us came to our senses and backed away from the house, but there was the tiny fraction of a moment where I would consider our actions to be unsafe if you think house fires turn out like they do in the movies. 

This house fire, thankfully did not turn out like a house fire in the movies. 

OUT OF CANDY

I ate four caramel apples over the weekend. Really...it was more like three and a few bites of one. They had them in the cafeteria on Friday and I was super excited about it until I bit into a mushy brown apple. This made me real sad. I scrapped the caramel and peanuts off the outside and then threw my apple part away. Saturday night, we met the gang for pre-party drinks and then all headed over to a party in a fancy old three story house in a really historic Kansas City neighborhood. We all headed straight back to the kitchen (as one does at a party) and there, sitting on the kitchen island was a bowl full of caramel apples. I immediately picked one up and took a bite. It was a perfectly crisp and sweet apple. No mushy brownness. Bradley looked at me and started laughing. He said "look how happy you look with that caramel apple!" And I was happy. It was a great party, but the best thing about it was the caramel apples. I took two on our way out the door, ate one when we got home and the other for a pre-dinner dessert the next day. I have no regrets. Except for that first one.

The hosts of the party we went to had their whole house open (except the basement) and encouraged everyone to go on a tour. Michael and I picked out rooms on our way through the house. On the second floor, there's a room attached to an enclosed porch. It used to be the sleeping porch. They had filled this room with house plants. Michael and I chose this room with the attached room for the Cabbage. The third level held a bed and a small living room. There was a bathroom and small alcove that held a tiny stove like the one I had in the first apartment I shared with Amy and Chris. I declared that this room was mine and started planning out the room to hold a small office and yoga space. Then we went back down stairs to join the rest of our gang and came to our senses. There is no way ever that we need a house that size. Michael has a ten year plan that has us buying a new house in nine years. We will be fifty years old and should be considering downsizing, not upsizing. The new house will really be for income anyway, as we plan to rent my house and the new one while we travel around the country in a RV.

Something really interesting about the house we went to for the party is that it has only had three other owners before this couple purchased it. One of the owners hung himself in the basement. One of the owners had a book of all the house history and the whole story behind the hanging in the basement. Terry spent the evening running from room to room trying capture EVPs on his phone. As Michael and I were saying our goodbyes, Terry popped through basement door. I have no idea what he discovered down there or if had to get special permission, but I did hear someone else say "there's some weird shit happening down there." As you would expect with it being so close to Halloween and there was death in the basement and alcohol consumed and Terry. I spent the whole next day in my pajamas and mostly on the couch. Every time I got up to do something, I had to peel an animal off of me. It was just easier to do nothing. 

So today, even though it's two days later, I feel like an inflated parade float and thinking that I should have skipped a couple of meals if I was going to eat all the caramel apples. It is Halloween. I screamed three times while watching Stranger Things on the exercise bike in the gym. We will probably watch the most recent Walking Dead episode. I do not have any candy for trick-or-treaters. I am not too bothered by this because I have had maybe four trick-or-treaters the entire time I have lived  here. Also I have a wreath with a sign that already tells people I am out of candy. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

I've been fighting a patch of poison ivy on the inside of my left elbow for three weeks. I didn't think it was poison ivy because I hadn't done any actual yard work in ages. I did wrap my arm around a few trees while hanging lights on our camping trip. I assumed they were oak mite bites. This is the Fall time pest that usually attacks me, except the usual remedies that work on oak mites was not working on my elbow. I haven't really slept that well for the last two weeks. I just lay there, scratching. We were in IKEA on Sunday and I walked up to Michael as he was waiting in line at Smaland to retrieve the Cabbage. I pulled up my sleeve and started scratching away and he grabbed my wrist, yanking my arm out and said "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO YOURSELF?" This caught the attention of the woman standing next to us who was also waiting to collect a child. She leaned over my shoulder to get a closer look as Michael said "you need to go the doctor. That woman thinks so too." 

I turned to look at the woman who was making a face at my arm. She told us she was a nurse and that, yeah...I should go to the doctor. I went to the doctor on Monday and got a steroid shot, which is a first. Usually they give me the pill pack. The first thing I noticed was not an ease in the itchiness, but extreme anxiety. I have been anxious about ALL. OF. THE. THINGS. this week. I have just sat at my desk tapping my feet with anxiety. I even started picking at the skin on my thumb, something I haven't done since I stopped playing my cello. I was fretting about how we were going to pay bills and where we were going to live when the sea levels rise and the two bags of donation clothes that I have yet to donate. Speaking of donations, I was also having anxiety about not being able to give enough money to help all of the hurricane people and the refugees in Syria. Because I'm broke. And holy crap, the lights in Suzanne's lantern will not turn off.

Michael and I had a come to Jesus talk about finances where we came up with a plan to fix the debt hole we've slowly been digging. Then I had a really good talk with my therapist and Thursday morning, I woke up to discover that my anxiety had been replaced with a case of hyperactivity. I danced around in my underwear while getting ready for work, listening to an Arcade Fire inspired radio station. I hit my 10,000 steps early in the day and did six miles in way less time than what I usually do on the bicycle. Then, a coworker asked me if I liked Arcade Fire and I rambled on and on about all the songs she should listen to and oh my god, how did she know I had been listening to that station all day!!!? Today, my arm hardly itches at all and my hyperactivity level is down to about that of a squirrel who is fully prepared for winter: still a little edgy, but not panicking. 

One of the things I talked about with my therapist this week was on the list of things that make me anxious. This would be time. In all aspects. I get anxious about being late. I get anxious about not having enough time. And mostly, I get frustrated in not having the time to do the things I want to do in a day. I told her about how I have lost my meditation practice and that I have half finished writing projects that I want to work on but can't seem to get my time managed appropriately to do those things. She knows that I get on my yoga mat every day and she asked me if I take a moment during my practice to be grateful for being on my mat. I told her that I always ended my practice with a moment of gratitude for the time I spent in my practice. She said that little moments of gratitude like that are like little pats on the back. It's like telling yourself 'good job!' What if I applied a moment of gratitude into those moments just when I sit down to work on something? Whatever that something might be. I am thankful to be sitting down for meditation today. I am thankful for this thirty minutes of writing time. That sort of thing, but to not limit gratitude to tasks you are attempting. Be grateful for the things I did accomplish.

I am thankful for the tasks I have accomplished at work this week. I am thankful for small tasks I have accomplished at home this week. I am thankful for a new perspective on my gratitude practice. I am thankful this poison ivy is mostly gone. I am thankful for you.

(This post is so long! Can you tell I'm on drugs!??!)