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I got back from DC last Saturday night. I worked about 70 hours in the subsequent 7 days, and I leave for San Diego on Wednesday around 4:30 am.

So, naturally, after spending a few hours working this morning (fortunately, curled up in the loveseat in the office, with a blanket and a cat), I spent the day doing chores.

I picked a broiled chicken clean so that we have a box of chicken in the fridge for salads and sandwiches.

I made meatloaf, mac and cheese, and garlicky spinach and mushrooms for dinner.

I washed three sinks of dishes (cooking makes a mess!), and turned over three loads of laundry.

I helped Justin move in Grandma’s kitchen table, the chairs from Deb’s kitchen, and my new rolltop desk, and transferred the stuff from the one to the other, then helped carry the other table downstairs, and the desk… well, maybe Will can help carry it to the garage tomorrow.

I ruthlessly harvested an out-of-control aloe plant and froze the flesh, then declared “we can get a new aloe sometime”, and also discarded and cleaned up the remains of the peace lily I killed a few months back. (oops.)

I weeded out my cookbook collection, boxing up extras for donation to the public library book sale, and reorganized my favorites.

I moved the bookcase the cookbooks had once been on, and negotiated with J over where it should live.

I vacuumed the kitchen, and washed the bathroom and kitchen rugs.

I wiped down the stove and the countertops.

I filled my vitamin and pill tray for the week.

I put away all of the clean laundry in my bedroom, and put away all my jewelry, too.

I found and organized the paperwork for some health insurance stuff, and stashed it in my purse where I can’t forget it.

I played Castleville about 10 times, and looked through the outline of my presentation later this week a dozen more than that, always turning it over in the back of my mind.

I laughed with J as we closed the cats into the glass-fronted bookcase, declaring “we’re starting a museum!”, giggling at how very nonplussed both cats were at this.

And, at 11:15, after doing crunches and pushups and some stretches for my neck and shoulders, I remembered the last cooking thing I’d meant to do, and I cooked half a pound of breakfast sausage for morning food the next few days, and did another load of dishes.

And now it’s midnight. I’ve checked my work email and my calendar, made a food plan for tomorrow, conferred with J about what errands need running, and given a brief bit of thought to what I’ll wear tomorrow. It’s bedtime now.

And while, given my week last week and the one upcoming, this wasn’t what I *wanted* to do today — knitting and watching Grosse Pointe Blank sounded nice, as did going to a movie with J, or playing Mass Effect 2 so I can finish it before Mass Effect 3 gets to the house — it was what I needed to do today. I feel calmer, more centered, and more capable for having done it all. I feel like I’m in control of my life and my needs and my expectations, and like I know what steps come next and how to do them.

It was worth it. Not precisely fun, but worth it.

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Huh. With the exception of the food poisoning at New Year’s, I haven’t gotten really sick in a while. I mean, I take the occasional sick day for headaches and back pain, or for I-feel-really-crappy-and-need-to-sleep days, but it’s rarely a major illness.

I came home early on Friday, after spending two days drinking that godawful effervescent Airborne stuff, because by Friday at lunchtime I felt like walking across my office to get a water bottle was the equivalent of swallowing sandpaper while climbing a mountain.

Yesterday, I sounded like a frog. Or, as J put it, “like you should have man hands”. Breathing too deep led to unproductive and painful coughing… but I had some energy. I didn’t feel like I’d been hit by a truck, really, just sort of bleh.

Nope, the truck was for today. I woke up around 10:30, and didn’t manage to get out of bed until after 12, except I wasn’t reading or listening to the radio — I was just… lying there. J rubbed my feet for a while, and worked out the big painful spot, and I started coughing again, but this time my lungs started to clear. So I got up, showered, and felt pretty okay… could breathe, was feeling sort of decent… and went to make us breakfast (lunch!) smoothies. One banana-pineapple-coconut smoothie later, and I was lying on the couch, curled up, radiating pathetic. “I can feel the heat coming off of you,” he said. Except I was freezing. So. Yeah. Hello, low grade fever.

He went off to campus to do some project work with classmates, and I emailed the college president to extend my regrets for missing a reception this afternoon — there is just no way I was going to put on grown-up clothes and go socialize this afternoon, no way, no how. Instead I pulled the red flannel comfortor over me and Miles. And then it was 3 hours later. I don’t really feel much better for the nap, unfortunately, but the Excedrin I took when I got up helped with the headache that replaced the queasiness.

Miles gave me a seriously disgruntled meow as I rolled over and dumped him onto the floor… that cat has no limit for how much time is too much time to be plastered to my body. Ever since he was a teeny tiny kintten, he’s wanted to be ON me. He rode home from Hudson Falls not in the box I’d brought for him, but on my shoulder. He spent his youth lying on my lap, just stretching himself out longer and longer to make the lap work for him as he got wider. Now that he’s a 16 pound dude, he just doesn’t understand why this is a problem for me.

But when I’m feeling pathetic and bleh and just want comfort, there’s nothing quite like settling 16 pounds of purring contentment onto my ribcage and covering us with the blanket that I’ve curled up in since I was 18.

Now: to the bathroom to find out what my body temp is. I’m betting 100, 101.

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I have a tshirt that says that. I also have one that says Self Rescuing Princess. And one that says Wrex Is My Wingman, which is an in-joke about Mass Effect that, in essence, indicates that I’m Shepard, and gonna save the fucking world.

I read this, just now, from a romance novelist talking about herself, and about her two best friends:

“Which may be why I write such overwhelming heroes and such vulnerable heroines. My heroines have a lot of what I feel inside and cover up. I’m a kick-ass woman — I don’t need to explore fantasies of kick-ass heroines. I’m my own. So part of me really really loves the fact that Jenny and Lani protect me, and I was already thinking about that when they rushed in later because they perceived someone was being hostile.”

There was a time not so long ago when I would have wept, reading that, with recognition and a sense of loss that my partner in life didn’t ever try to protect me when it mattered, but did try to “protect” me from the things that made me feel kick-ass. Instead, I grinned.

Because I’m still my own hero. But now I know I have a real wingman. Even if he isn’t a giant sarcastic Krogan.

 

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I pulled into the athletic complex before my tai chi class tonight and discovered that we were hosting some sort of sporting event — the parking lots had attendants, and chaos reigned. I pulled into the faculty/staff lot behind a black car, and when it drove past an open space, I pulled into it. As I locked my door, the man in the car backed up, rolled down his wife’s passenger window, and shouted at me.

“That was messed up!”
“Excuse me?”
“That was messed up. I was backing into that space.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize. You drove past, so I assumed you were pulling into a parking space up ahead.” I kept walking toward the gym, and my class. He drove slowly alongside me until he ran out of lot.
“You are messed up, doing something like that.”
“Sir, I apologized.”
“It’s messed up, that’s what it is.”

My fight-or-flight kicked in when he wouldn’t let up, and flight never crossed my mind. I walked around his car to the driver’s side.

“Are you faculty or staff? Because that’s what this lot is.”
“Are YOU? Who are you? I want your name, right now.”
“I am. I’m the Director of Libraries, and my name is Jenica Rogers. And I’d point out that you’re the one yelling at me.”
He was indignant. “I’m not yelling. I’ve never raised my voice. And that’s some attitude from a school employee.”
“Fine. You’re not yelling, but you’re being aggressive. I apologized, I have a right to park here, and I’m going to my class now. Feel free to report my behavior.”

++++

I walked into the dance studio in full adrenaline high, said hi to Amy, and joined in the already-ongoing raucous joking about how bad parking is tonight.

++++

“You’ve all done the Twenty One enough times now that you know the movements, and the breathing, and you can let go of the anxiety about doing it right, just feel the breathing. Try to find the same feeling you get from the standing meditation we did last week.”

++++

As I moved through the Twenty One, trying to push down the adrenaline, pull in the calm, I thought, “That guy’s just a bully. That’s what happens to bullies when they hit 50. They scream at women in parking lots. His wife just sat there and stared at anything but me or him. This is who he is. That’s sad.” I breathed.

++++

We practiced Grasping The Sparrow’s Tail and Single Whip, and talked about blocks and throws and issuing force, and did it all in the slow motion that is tai chi. I breathed.

++++

Tom closed class with a recitation of aphorisms from his tai chi teachers, and their teachers.

“Moving a mountain is easy. Changing a man’s character is much harder.”

“There is no perfection.”

“Learn to lose. Let go of being right.”

++++

As I walked to my car I thought about how hard it is to change someone’s character, and acknowledged that by walking away instead of standing and arguing with a bully, I had, in effect, lost. And thus won.

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Today, I laughed out loud twice while I was working on an assesment report — I had a stream of comments from friends running in a different tab. The two that got me:

— A cartoon-o-vision image of a friend wandering through a conference wearing a sandwich board that says “HATE YOUR JOB? CHANGE OR QUIT. YOUR ONLY SUPERPOWER IS CHOICE”

— A description of someone’s pet peeve as “People who revel in abandoning their agency in favor of helplessness”.

Amen to both of those. Bad things happen for reasons, most of the time. There is very little serendipity in this world. To quote another friend, “It feels a lot better to think that things are happening to me for circumstances beyond my control rather than, I can control how this shit goes down and how I react to it”.

We all get to make choices. They aren’t always easy, or comfortable, or painless. But they exist. We have agency over our lives.

 

Choose. Act. Respond. Move on.

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Tired and energized are a strange combination, but I’ve got both today. So I’m aimiing for style and grace, with a little ambition. And I’m wishing I’d worn heels today.

To steal from the songs chasing through my head today…

At 31 she was wheelin’ and dealin’, kept on hittin’ that same glass ceilin’
She was never gonna one of the boys, no
She coulda gave up on her ambition, and spent the rest of her life just wishin’
Instead she listened to her mama’s voice sayin’

“Hold your head high. Don’t ever let them define the light in your eyes.
Love yourself, give ’em Hell, you can take on this world.
You just stand and be strong, and then fight like a girl.”

Oh, with style and grace, kick ass and take names

[Bomshel, Fight Like A Girl]

And

Big mountain, wide river
There’s an ancient pull
These tree trunks, these stream beds
Leave our bellies full

They sing out:
I am going to stand my ground
You rise to me and I’ll blow you down
I am going to stand my ground
You rise to me and I’ll blow you down

[The Decemberists, Rise To Me]

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Friends,

I know you want to help. I know you think that chronic mild sinusitis, sneezes, and itchy eyes sounds like unnecessary torment. I know you think you know what my problem is.

And you’re right. You do. It’s allergies.

Here’s the thing, though. You all usually sagely suggest one of two things as the cure to my problem.

Thing one is that I stop eating so much dairy. In horrified tones you tell me that heavy cream and manchego and goat cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches are clearly the cause of my issues. Adult humans don’t need that much milk, you say. Your system clearly objects, they say. If you just stopped putting cheese on your pasta, sour cream in your chili, dairy in your body, your head would clear. Your authority and confidence is compelling, and I wonder.

Thing two is that I stop eating grains and sugar. Oh, it’s the processed carbs, you say, with a knowing tone. We’re all allergic to processed carbs. So much corn and wheat in our diets, we should all be more careful. We’re not meant to eat refined sugars like that. If your body wasn’t constantly trying to process toxins, you’d feel so much better. Your argument has merit given my own reading into food history and metabolic science, and I am intrigued.

The only problem, friends, is that I hear this so very often, as though my sneezes and my love for fettucini alfredo are somehow offensive to the world around me. I begin to wonder who’s really the problem here… I mean, I sneeze, and I get over it. I don’t do a lot of complaining. I buy sudafed and tissues, and I eat what I like. And you all tell me again and again how wrong I am for doing so.I begin to feel picked on, not helped.

But you know what? I listen anyway. I’ve heeded the advice of so many of you. My New Year’s project for 2012 was a diet adjustment. I’ve now spent 11 days not eating a single grain or refined sugar or dairy product. Not one. I feel good — I’m eating great food, my body seems happy, and I’ve lost 4 pounds. There’s something to this notion. Your advice, though unsolicited, on a whole, was sound.

Here’s the thing, though. I’m still sneezing like it’s my job when I wake up in the morning. I still have itchy eyes when I go to bed at night. I’m still struggling with sinus congestion.

You know why?

It’s because I know what I’m allergic to, and it’s not wheat, it’s not cheese, and it’s not sugar.

It’s my motherfucking cats.

Jack

So now you know, and you can stop telling me otherwise.

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THAT was a productive weekend. So totally worth it.

Craft room = exists now. Rock on. Spaces for both of us to create and store and shelve and do and make.

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Bedroom = unfucked. (If you’d seen the Before pictures, you would think this sounded dirty in a totally different way.) We moved furniture, and I cleaned, organized, and put away my piles of clutter for two solid hours. An audio version of Eve Dallas and Roarke kept me company, while Justin arranged things in the craft room next door.

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And there is now a special corner called The Larp Closet, which holds all the major bits of our hobby when it’s down-time. Thank the baby jeebus and all his manger animals, we needed this.

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So very worth it. All of it.

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I took and posted a photo of myself on 342 of the 365 days in 2011. I did it because my friend Kathryn Greenhill challenged a bunch of librarians and friends to try it out. She had done it once before, and said she learned interesting things about herself and about how people responded to her. So I gave it a shot. I am not precisely camerashy.

I did pretty well — missing 23 days out of a whole year isn’t bad. And I did learn some things.

  • Vanity is a bitch.
  • Webcams are a saving grace for this kind of thing.
  • Good cameras are a miracle when compared to webcams.
  • My smile is more appealing to others than my resting face.
  • Did I mention that vanity is a bitch?
  • Daily pictures make it easier to remember more than I might otherwise about my year.
  • Any daily project is a commitment.

So as I entered 2012, fresh off a bout of food poisoning, christmas travel, and a late night of board games with friends, I thought, tiredly, “Am I going to do this again?”

And I decided that no, not precisely. I don’t want to worry about days I miss and counting and “what day am I on?” so I’ll just be posting and numbering sequentially, misses be damned. And I don’t want another 350 photos of my face. Or, strictly of my face. What I do want is to set myself on a path that has intentional purpose, and value for me. So in 2012, I’m going to take a photo every day. Of something, or someone. I hope that what this does is give me the structure and pressure that I need in order to learn more about my camera, to relearn the principles of photography I once knew, and find the joy and beauty in my daily life.

I started, intentionally, yesterday, with my lunch.

Lunch

And who says the internet isn’t full of profundities?

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Books

Goodreads tells me I read 91 books this year. That’s close to what I expect — about 100 a year. My move to integrate ebooks on the ipad made this possible — via publisher freebie sites and purchases I now have the backlist of a bunch of my favorite authors on my ipad, and can reread things like the Honor Harrington series at my leisure and whim. I also dove into audiobooks this year, as part of my daily life — when driving, while I’m cleaning, or knitting, or just feel like it. And I still love and read in print. Consuming written story in these three modes means I read more, consumed more, learned more, enjoyed more. I am a big fan of living in the future.

Goodreads tells me that I read:

22 audiobooks (largely J.D. Robb, Terry Pratchett, and fun nonfiction like Stiffs)

4 graphic novels

7 nonfiction works (half what I call Fun Stuff, half work books)

33 print books

35 ebooks

I feel good about my reading this year. I have no illusions that I read high-quality literature with any regularity. I read for pleasure, for learning, for enjoyment, for enrichment. And to those ends, I read what I like. What I like is, most often, readable light nonfiction, genre fiction across the SFF spectrum, romance novels, and crime/suspense/mystery novels.

Next year, I hope I hit 100. I suspect I will.