08 January 2011

Good people, I am alive.

Among other gifts which amazed me and did make me feel known and loved, Noah and I received FOUR blankets for Christmas: two beautiful crocheted blankets from his aunt, in light and dark browns and oranges; and two down-filled throws from my parents, one of which is also lined with long-pile fleece. Noah gave me new slippers among other things; they are amazing, with their nice tassels and rubber soles that keep me from slipping. I bought myself a new down vest a bit before the holidays; it also keeps me very warm.

This is all to say, I am warmer than last year. It involves a lot of blankets and down, but I am indeed warmer.

There's been knitting, editing, some consideration of possibly writing again, great joy in helping a dear friend settle into Seattle, much meditation on apartment-tinkering and furniture rearranging. A lot of cooking. Does anyone else cook between 6-10 servings of food three times in three days and then not cook for many days onward? I'm a little tired of the vaguely New Orleans-spiced Hoppin' John, but it's still here, and I have been eating it, along with the curried lentils with raisins and the garbanzo-potato-spinach soup thickened with tahini and cream. But I made a broccoli frittata yesterday ANYWAY, and a rosemary olive oil cake with dark chocolate bits today ANYWAY.

Also job searching, reflections on injury and pain levels (on that front: things are better than they were at the worst, but they are very much still nerve-damaged, nerve-impinged, inflamed, and muscle-weakened, and none of that seems to be changing of its own accord or of my own accord). For a while I had a bit more pain relief from a medication I was taking for post-shingles nerve pain, but that medication also gave me brain fog, typing errors, heavy distraction, and effectively cut my editing pages per hour rate in half. Working twice as slow is a different pain. The whole process made me very aware of how extremely detail-oriented and demanding developmental editing is--I love doing it, and my clients say I do it well, and I'm glad for that, but man, I didn't really understand how much of my focus it takes over. It takes it all over, because I'm simultaneously thinking about the word, the clause, the sentence, the paragraph, the section, the chapter, the whole manuscript, and the writer's stated goals, all at the same time. While copyediting as well. Self, I give you more credit than I used to. However, this is also why brain-fogging pain meds will never work for me.

In closing: I have been thinking very often of my friend Ryan, from college, who died suddenly this fall of a brain aneurysm. We hadn't been in touch for six years when he found me on Facebook in August and wrote me a quick note to say hi. We wrote back and forth a little; it was absolutely wonderful to be hearing from him, this person I'd been very close to a very long time ago. Then my grandmother died, and I went to St. Louis, and after a few weeks, I found out he had died. He died a week after he and I wrote each other for the last time. It's still shocking, the way it unfolded.

The highlight reel of our friendship goes like this: we meet the first day of college and proceed to begin scheduling classes together; he gets me to start listening to more bands than the Grateful Dead and Counting Crows; we give honest feedback on each other's writing; we start a knitting group with other mutual friends because we are first-year students and we are so cool that we make dinner and knit together in the dorm lounge on Saturday nights; I cut his hair a few times, and so begin my years of free, untrained haircuts for men; he loans me a suit and hat so I can cross-dress as James Joyce for a presentation in my modern lit class, complete with an eyeliner moustache; we go on a giant road trip with nine other people to Colorado for four and a half days in late February, two of which we spend driving nonstop, and at the end of the trip, we try to go through a car wash and get his convertible stuck spinning out in the Iowa snow for what seems like forever; we go see his friend's band the night of my great-grandmother's death, and I dance my heart out, because that's somehow the right thing to be doing, and he gets it; when I'm grieving for her hardcore and don't know what to do with myself, he convinces me to go on walks and drives in the Iowa hills; we dance a lot of swing together with friends; we fight; we grow apart; he tries to get us closer again, and I push him away for reasons I will always regret; I wake up to how dumb I've been and try to make it up to him, and he accepts, and we find a simple peace again; our college puts on The Laramie Project, and he acts in it--Westboro Baptist comes to our campus to protest, and our college stages a counter-protest, and it's touching but very anti-climactic--his acting is amazing, and I'm so proud of him, and he's so glad to see me there, and we're just two friends again, supporting each other's creative work with fervor. Then I graduate, and we go very separate directions, and I think of him and wish him well, and I look for him online sometimes, when I have this feeling that he's having trouble with drugs and booze again, and I never find him. And then he finds me. And then he dies.

A few days ago, I dreamed that he and I were hanging out in the present time, and he was laughing. Everything was great and happy. And then I woke up, and the rest of the day was very dark. Because it will never be like that, and the world is really missing out on this person with a great laugh and talent and kindness.

And so, dear readers, all of us flung far away from each other now, I wish you well, safe, healthy, happy. I wish I could be enjoying your company up close. If you've stuck with this blog through its droughts, there's a good chance I know exactly who you are, and so--know that I value you very much. I wish I could bake us all cookies and make tea and laugh together. I want you to feel loved by the world and to know the world needs you in it. I have a highlight reel for all of you, even if there are months or years of silence between us. You matter more than I can say.

18 October 2010

What Blog?

Oh, right. This one.

I am indeed alive. I am indeed still in Seattle, steeling myself for the imminent seven to eight months of light rainy mist without sun. I am brainstorming ways to insulate this apartment, which has no insulation in the roof or the walls--thanks, 1907 home builders of Seattle--and currently those plans include that window-sealing stuff, hanging curtains and quilts strategically, and not being at home. Being at home last winter was a mistake, a horrible mistake, when there are something like six coffee/tea/chocolate/vegan doughnut shops within a half-mile radius of my house.

Seattle is a beautiful place that I am very much coming to love, though I miss insulated homes, sharp seasonal weather changes, a lower cost of living, and hills with less than 20% grade roads.

What have I been up to? Editing, entertaining various beloved houseguests, dealing with the aftermath of the death of two loved ones, traveling to the Midwest for a very hectic almost three weeks--during which I realized that I now live in a heaven of vegetarian food offerings, but I did not grow up in one or go to college in one.

Writing? Yarn dyeing? Huh? Soon.

12 May 2010

Sick Girl Eats Beans, Lives

Getting better. A little bit. Currently not so much better. But, damn it, I am going to meet up with the knitters tonight. I am. They're meeting at a chocolate shop, for god's sake. I've missed them for two weeks, which means my face-to-face social contact has been 1) Noah, 2) Noah's company party, complete with 1.5 hours of swing dancing (which I paid for with exhaustion), 3) A Mariners game with some friends, with the best seats ever, and sadly a 0-8 score, and 4) clerks at grocery stores and the yarn store where I bought wool wash.

Made a giant pot of beans yesterday. Was so excited. I cannot overstate my love of beans and crock pots.


4-6 servings, with lots of liquid--quasi-soup, quasi-consistency of canned beans. I put them over brown rice as they are. But you could eat them as thick soup. Or use a slotted spoon to get them out.

Day before:
Soak 2 cups of dry black beans. Sort before soaking.

Day of:
Drain beans. Rinse.

Put beans in large crock pot. Add 8 c. water. Add 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped bell pepper, 1/2 c. tomatoes (sauce, diced, whatever), 1/2 t. cumin, 1-2 chopped jalapenos or chipotles in adobo sauce. Or something else hot--seriously, people, this is a giant vat of beans. You can do this. Stir it.

Cook on high 4-6 hours.

Add 1-2 T. red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar. Add at least 1 t. salt. Maybe more. Salt to taste, is what I mean, and keep in mind there is no other salt in this recipe so far.

Eat it, because nothing else could possibly be as easy or delicious or cheap or nutritionally sound.

Top with cheddar cheese, or goat cheese--goat would be awesome. Or don't top it. Or top it with a drizzle of olive oil.

(No crock pot? Do the same thing, but put it in a big pot instead. Bring to a boil on the stove, cover, simmer for 2 hours.)

25 April 2010

In Which This Blog Returns to A Sole Focus on Illness

Shingles. Really? Shingles? Really. Not only did I have lice for the second time when I was 21, I now get chickenpox for the second time at age 26. (I know lice doesn't work like a dormant virus. I do know that. But it's the spirit of the thing, and the bizarre fact that I apparently got lice from riding the bus in Champaign, with my super long hair at the time.)

Anyway. The shingles has decided to take over the right side of my upper body, especially the neck, shoulder, upper chest, and right arm. Which is also where the damage from my repetitive stress injury is greatest, which is making for some weird perceptions of pain and numbness. Really weird. I had soreness in my neck and shoulder a week ago but didn't think anything of it--I am often sore there. I am getting intermittent stabbing, burning pain in my right arm--which is also not that new, just now has a new cause. And today, I woke up after 12 hours of sleep (plus a three-hour nap and 12 hours of sleep yesterday) feeling ... weak. And numb. Weak and numb enough that I asked Noah to bring me food to eat before I left the bed (yay oatmeal and blueberries!). I felt a little better then, and got out of bed, and have made it to the couch with the lappy, where I expect to hang out until I nap again and go to bed again, while taking 400 mg of an antiviral drug at four-hour intervals, five times a day.

So, knitting! Right? Not the lace knitting I've been doing, not the sock knitting either, but knitting with some bulky CashSoft I dyed for my uncle with the goal of making him mitts to wear while he does his woodworking business.

Knitting with hand-dyed bulky yarn in an easy pattern is definitely the thing for sick people to do. I mean, 3 stitches in stockinette to an inch. Really. I made one mitt over like three hours of knitting. Yay, size 10 bamboo double-pointed needles, and a nearby man-sized hand model to try them on (Noah).

Complications of shingles: inability to do anything except sit upright, sleep, and maybe knit with bulky yarn. And maybe read online. Also: contagious to pregnant women, young children, and people who haven't had chicken pox. So, now, before people come to our apartment, I ask them if they've had chicken pox. What an ice breaker. Also: Noah's company is hosting a cocktail party with jazz on Saturday, which I am/was excited to attend with him--fancy and dancing! Whee! Problem: crusted-over or weeping sores on neck, upper body, and arms, which is, you know, the realm of the cocktail dress. I'm working on that. I am hoping to feel better enough then to go. But that may not happen either.

Um, I'm going to put my head back down now.

15 April 2010

House Tour, Or, Why I Feel Like I Live on a Farm

Welcome to our home.

I thought you might need some photographic evidence of our urban-farm life.

"When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd ... "

And maybe you've never seen a chicken before?

This is a loud, angry chicken.

Angry because I wouldn't let her out in the yard to roam, catch worms, and take dust baths.

But she laid me an egg anyway. At this point, it is still warm. Like body temperature warm.

Anyway, what else have I been up to?

Dyeing yarn.

Making wild-yeast-only whole wheat sourdough baguettes.

And generally hanging out in the kitchen.

What about you?

13 April 2010

A Cautionary Tale

Looking for an (apparently) surefire way to trigger all your latent/not so latent repetitive stress injuries? Here you go.

Day 1: do yoga, including one downward dog pose (as in, put most your body's weight on your hands and bent wrists) and a few triangle poses.
Day 2: do yoga again, including one downward dog and a few modified cobra poses. Continue to do lots of dishes, yank at your sourdough starter, browse the internet, type a little, then manhandle two of the giant (3' by 2', maybe), badly made plywood drawers in your kitchen which are currently full of your heaviest pots and pans. Don't think, "Hmm, maybe I shouldn't pull on this so hard; maybe I shouldn't lift this entire plywood box of a drawer full of heavy things out." Instead, think, "It is so important that I do this right now! So important! Keep going." Reach in an odd way with your left arm. Trigger giant throbbing pain shooting out of your neck, into your shoulder, down your bicep, and down your forearm. Try again with your right arm, because you are that dumb. Trigger pain again in right arm. Breathe through it, try again, reach and fix the thing you wanted to fix, then lift the drawer back into the slot mostly with your knees (it was a weird maneuver). Collapse a bit, realize you are now in great pain in both arms. Realize the pain is getting worse.

Make a brief list of the things you can do without using your arms. Jump into a hot bath with epsom salts. Watch Project Runway. Vow to not be so dumb. Stop typing.

08 April 2010

Don't Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight

Or wear high-heeled boots to the farm, or make a sourdough starter the week before Passover, et cetera.

Welp, nobody bought yarn at the thing I went to last night. The yarn was petted by many people, however (good job, merino/silk blend!), and the colors were admired by many people, too. It became clear once I got there, though, that everyone else was selling yarn from their own stashes, yarns that were maybe 10-20 years old, commercially spun and dyed, weird old yarns, for very cheap. The woman closest to me was selling for $1 a ball. A DOLLAR.

I was not selling my yarn for a dollar. I was selling it for, you know, a real price that reflected the quality of the base yarn and my time in dyeing it by hand. So, no sales. No takers for my business cards, either.

But I will not lose hope! Okay, last night, I kind of did. But mostly because I'm not used to failure (how conceited does that sound? Goodness.) because of ... the perfectionism. I just don't do things I won't do well. Honestly. I'm working on it. I'm ready to no longer be a person who says, "I'm afraid to do that one thing I love (job, whatever it is) because I love it so much and I might not be good at it/it might not work out." I have been that person for a long time, and I feel pretty dumb about it. I mean, how much longer am I going to make myself wait before I do things, make things, try things that I want? A year? Ten years? Never?

And how much more of life is there? Segue: morbid thoughts. People die, people get hurt, people develop diseases, other life-altering things happen, and suddenly, there is no chance, there is no time, no money, no arm strength left to chop onions for dinner (remember that one last year? good times), and ... nothing to show for it.

So, new strategy: rely on the fact that I am smart enough to learn how to do whatever I want to do, stubborn enough to set my mind on a giant goal and make it happen (see: senior art show of 80 ceramic tiles made in three weeks, fired [without a bisque firing, which is beyond flirting with disaster] two days before the show opened), and good enough at translating the images in my mind to objects or words that, eventually, I can make things look how I want them to look ... that I can learn to ask for help, learn to listen to my body's limitations, learn to try and fail and try again.

Whew, that kind of turned into a manifesto. And, in the spirit of manifestos:

"Come, my friends!" I said. "Let us go! At last Mythology and the mystic cult of the ideal have been left behind. We are going to be present at the birth of the centaur and we shall soon see the first angels fly! We must break down the gates of life to test the bolts and the padlocks! Let us go! Here is they very first sunrise on earth! Nothing equals the splendor of its red sword which strikes for the first time in our millennial darkness."

We went up to the three snorting machines to caress their breasts. I lay along mine like a corpse on its bier, but I suddenly revived again beneath the steering wheel — a guillotine knife — which threatened my stomach. A great sweep of madness brought us sharply back to ourselves and drove us through the streets, steep and deep, like dried up torrents. Here and there unhappy lamps in the windows taught us to despise our mathematical eyes. "Smell," I exclaimed, "smell is good enough for wild beasts!"

(Just ignore the parts about war forever, getting rid of feminism, and hating on museums.)