heart of the room, and dreams

12.2014 table

On the day after Thanksgiving, my father & my brother loaded up the truck and spent their day being delivery men for the beautiful farmhouse table that my father built me. My mom painted it with a driftwood grey wash and sent two matching antique straightback chairs and my grandma sent a care package with some owl tree ornaments. It was like Christmas came early.

I draped the table with a spangled green velvet runner and made a bad decision to haul up a small antique dresser from the basement. (I say a bad idea because I really had no concept of how heavy this piece was until I’d wrestled it halfway up the basement stairs. Then I started second-guessing myself about whether I could manage it the rest of the way, and had horrible visions of me falling with it, tumbling down the stairs with a heavy dresser, being crushed like an egg, bones broken, begging Emmett to ‘…bring….mommy….the phone…’)

Anyway, the dresser had been languishing in GB’s man cave workshop since we bought it, shortly before Miss L’s birth. I’d intended it to be her dresser. It was refinished a lovely shade of pale blue but had an admirable pedigree of history behind it.
However, shortly after we bought the piece, my mother asked me in passing if I’d checked it for lead-based paint, because it was so old. Of course, I hadn’t even considered it, and it created a swamping wave of anxiety on my part and a lot of Internet research that left me cold with dread and wanting the dresser, innocent before proven guilty as it was, nowhere near my infant. So it was relegated to the downstairs kingdom.

Now, however, my anti-anxiety meds have fully taken hold, and Miss L is six, well old enough not to chew on furniture.
Anyway, set with candlesticks and a teapot, the little dresser makes a fine sideboard companion for my beautiful table, and stands next to another antique chair that I refinished with milk paint and glossed with tung oil. For the first time, I am really pleased with my dining room. The table is my favorite possession in the world.

I have lots of things handmade by my parents. Dad carves us funny little Santa ornaments every Christmas, and Mom paints their wizened faces and gives them intricate Scandinavian designs on their suits & caps. They do decoys together, and I have a couple little tables that they’ve done, too, a footstool with a grey cat looking at the stars. However, the table is a massive work of art. Having something that large that was made for me by my own parents is like having a little piece of them in my house all the time. The wood has a heart that glows out and makes me smile and feel loved every time I see it.

12.2014 table 2

Having this room be perfect has, however, has the downside of making me incredibly dissatisfied with my living room. I hate everything in it except the couch. I’ve been trying to save my money so that I have a rainy day emergency fund, but I do not think I can stand that living room for another six months. I want to paint it a perfect pale gray and I have ten shades saved on Pinterest that I pore over daily (they are going to drive me crazy). I want a new cabinet for my television and books, and am constantly looking for a template that I can send my dad so I can twist his arm into making it for me and having mom paint it the same color as my table. I want to haul the old cheap Home Depot rug out into the driveway and set fire to it and throw the Ikea sleeper loveseat out there too, hard as a rock and has Miss L’s marker scribbles on it. I want to kick the Target torchiere lamp down the street. I can’t wait to gut it and start all over.

**

The holiday season is in full swing, I’ve joined my Fitness Accountability Group, and there have been the usual minor seismic shifts in my life, as reflected in a pair of strange dreams. The other night, I dreamt of cardinals attacking my house, coming in through the windows in a perfect Alfred Hitchcock fury, as I raced down to the basement to hide in a bathroom that I then horribly realized was my work office, made of glass windows that wouldn’t protect me from their onslaught. I mean, cardinals, of all birds – symbols of love, relationships, hope, compassion. What the hell does THAT mean? I went to bed last night feeling very unsettled and anxious, and had another dream that seemed to be the counterpoint to that. I dreamed of work again, and being relocated to another office (which is actually happening) and filling it with protective boughs and garlands of herbs and flowers. Then an old friend of mine from childhood and high school, who is over ten years deceased now, was walking with me down the hall. I recognized her more by her very distinctive striding walk than her face or her voice, but she was there, and then I was looking at my own self in the mirror and telling myself in a very strong and convincing voice that God never gives us more to handle than we can bear. I woke up feeling much relieved – ‘oh yeah, I forgot, I’m not alone, and there are reasons for things that I may not understand at the time.’ I’m not sure what is going on in my head or my dream symbolism these days, but it’s good to know that my subconscious is now capable of sending me a strong reminder to have faith.

catch up

 

I always sort of hate when I haven’t blogged for awhile, and I have all this stuff to catch up on, and no idea where to start, and so I just put it off even longer. Sigh. Anyway, I survived Turkey Day without my little chickadee, we were joyfully reunited, and then I had to turn around and fly to Miami for three days on business, which neither of us were pleased about.

The boys weren’t happy about it either.

12.2014 miami suitcase

Miami was rainy and overwhelming. The sheer number of people pressing in on me every place we went was completely daunting. The traffic was beyond anything I’d seen. The hotel lobby was packed full of men (soccer convention?) in tight shirts, reeking of cologne and yelling at each other in some beautiful language. And staring. I’m unaccustomed to being frankly stared at and it had nothing to do with me being any sort of beauty, they stared at every woman in the same assessing, flirtatiously challenging way.  I commented on FB that it was like ‘Night at the Roxbury’ in a hotel lobby and before a person is properly awake and had coffee, it is extremely off-putting. I did not make eye contact with anyone and pushed through for the toaster projecting an air of ‘don’t fuck with me’ which is kind of difficult when you’re clutching marmalade and a slice of wheat bread.

The chickadee & I have been trying to slide back into our normal routine. She likes adventure and she has done awesomely well with dividing her time between my house and her dad’s, but it can take its toll, too, when she has traveled and I have, and things aren’t consistent. So the past few days have been lots of this.

12.2014 fireplace

Alex, the Elf on the Shelf, has made his reappearance. He was absent last year, as in the years before that, Miss L, as a toddler, understood only that he was a spy for Santa. “I hate that elf,” she said thoughtfully. So Alex took some time off and triumphantly came down the chimney a few days ago and Miss L is alternately charmed and apprehensive. It was funny when she found him wearing a Barbie skirt and leading a parade of her My Little Ponies; however, this morning, she came to find me in bed and said urgently, “Mommy – there’s something creepy in the bathroom, and IT’S THE ELF.” He was ziplining down some toilet paper unrolled between the top of the bathroom cabinet and the sink. I understood. Alex has kind of pointy legs that seem a bit spidery, and the glazed grinning face…yeah, I get it. However, once the lights were turned on and she saw him properly, she found it hilarious, but there is definitely still some lingering terror over the elf’s purpose and whether he uses his powers for good or for evil. I’ll have to make sure that the elf’s adventures are completely innocuous and nothing she could stumble onto in the dark, thus inflicting psychological trauma in the vein of evil clowns, dolls that come to life, etc.

black friday

I always look forward to sleeping in, especially after a great Thanksgiving spent with my folks & sibs & nephews (I have two; one has golden curls & the other has a big nose and furry paws). However, this morning at six I heard something being dragged up the stairs.

(drag….thump…slither)

I think most women who live alone would be alarmed to hear unusual noises at night or in the early morning but they don’t live with Emmett and Sarge. If I’m ever murdered in my bed, it’s because I assumed a violent home invasion was one of my crazy cats, rolled over, and went back to sleep instead of dialing 911.

So anyway, at six, I flopped over, put the pillow over my head, and then felt Sarge pounce up on the bed and commence to chewing on something. I peeked out and saw him gnawing contentedly on the half-knitted sock project I’d tucked into my bag yesterday. Luckily, the knitting needles were still in place, and he hadn’t dropped any stitches, but he’d only dragged the sock upstairs, and the ball of yarn was still stuffed into my purse. He’d dragged the sock around the house, tangling the yard around chair legs and into the Christmas tree before proudly bringing it upstairs, so it required some unwinding and untangling. At six.

11.2014 emmett christmas tree

As far as Emmett goes, this is a common sight these days and I am thinking of starting a pool in my family to place bets on when the whole tree goes over.

He is also upping his game in his assault on the fish tank.

11.2014 emmett fish tank

In other news, it is Black Friday and I am contentedly tucked up in bed doing a bit of shopping online and watching the sun come up pink in the neighborhood trees. One of my purchases, carefully researched and saved up for the 20% Black Friday discount, is a new running jacket, which I’m really excited about. I’ve been running trouble-free for the last couple of weeks, albeit on a treadmill, and am looking forward to getting outside this weekend in the cold. I am participating in the Brooks Holiday Marathon, which is a virtual challenge to log 26.2 miles between Nov 24 & Dec 26 with some fun weekly prizes. It’s more of a motivator than anything else as I never win anything, but I certainly wouldn’t turn down a pair of Brooks shoes if I won them.

 

embrace the new reality

Thanksgiving is now, officially, my favorite holiday. It used to be Halloween, but over the past couple of years, I’ve changed. I love the time of the year, the bleak brown and grey landscape, the quality of the light. I love the harvest time, the concepts of feeling gratitude and giving thanks. It is a simple holiday of being appreciative and being with people you love, taking time off from your daily routine and celebrating with eating. It can get a little lost nowadays in the rush before the consumptive, expectant madness of Christmas, but it is a holiday worthy of much love, I think.

It’s my first major holiday without Miss L (I don’t count smaller holidays like Labor / Memorial Day, July 4, etc) and as such it requires an adjustment for me. I have to stay more focused on the many things that I am grateful for and be present in the moment rather than feeling sad or lonely and filling it with “I wish” and “if only” thoughts.

My boss has gone through a terrible year. We don’t always agree on everything at work and that’s okay, I still have a healthy respect for her, especially after watching her experience and process her personal tragedy. It’s odd, because I look at what she has gone through, and my own trials and tribulations seem small in comparison. Yet she seems to view me with greater kinship and compassion as well, and references, occasionally, my experience, and draws parallels about the reconstructions that have occurred in both of our lives, as if to say that we both understand things about each other that others in our department don’t. This is alternately awkward and comforting.

Today, the managers came through the halls and let people go at 3.00; I had a teleconference so I lagged behind, and ended up putting on my coat and packing up my gear when the building was all but empty, the last cars streaming out of the parking lot. As I put my scarf on, my boss came around the corner, and we stopped and chatted for a bit. At the end, we said our goodbyes and she kept going down the hall; then, a few steps away, she changed her mind about something, and turned around. She gave me a gentle hug, which is unlike her, and, smiling and looking sad at the same time, she said, “Let’s both embrace the new reality.” And nothing more needed to be said, and I started my holiday with a feeling of gratitude for that simple act of kindness.

May we all experience many simple acts of kindness, and pay them forward.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve. xoxo

 

how steadfast are your branches

I decided to put the tree up a bit early this year so Miss L could enjoy it before she went to spend a few days with her dad for Thanksgiving. Although I had considered getting a real tree, the logistics of it seemed a bit overwhelming to accomplish single-handedly, so I brought up the good ol’ prewired tree from the basement (in sections because that sucker is HEAVY). It all fit together and although a few of the sections didn’t light up, most of it looks pretty good. I’m not entirely sure how to trouble shoot the light sections that aren’t lighting. I think there are entire books written and tools developed to test Christmas lights and I have very little interest in getting this detail oriented and anyway, if you squint, the whole thing looks good.

Every ornament we have on our tree is something pretty special to us. Maybe someday I will have a lovely immaculate home and do a themed Christmas tree but for now the Miss Piggy ornament I’ve had since childhood is just fine, rubbing shoulders with Miss L’s popsicle stick reindeer.

Emmett, faux Bengal that he is, was extremely interested in every step of the proceedings and had to thoroughly immerse himself.

11.2014 xmas tree 3

Caught mid-meow.

 

11.2014 xmas tree 2

11.2014 xmas tree 1

It looks peaceful, but immediately after this picture was taken, Emmett knocked the lamp over and Miss L almost pitched into the tree.

We turned on the radio station that has been playing nonstop Christmas music since Halloween and I sang along. Typically I’m not a huge fan of this radio station as I find Christmas carols somewhat grating, except for the old mellifluous religious ones, but I thought Miss L might enjoy it. She did at first, and then, when ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ came around for the second time in an hour, she said tactfully, “Do you think we can turn that off?….”

I had to laugh, girl after mom’s heart.

 

Great Times.

When you have a blog, even a small, not-widely-read blog like mine, you have to be cognizant of privacy and common sense. I try not to exploit Miss L by smearing her face or stories all over the blog every day, for example, although it’s tough to keep her off altogether simply because she’s the biggest and most important part of my life. Most of my close personal friendships and relationships are similarly left unplumbed, because the relationships are more important to me than the writing material they might represent.

And, of course, work. No one at my workplace knows about my blog and I prefer to keep it that way, so I don’t blog much about my job or my colleagues. Of course, this leaves a LOT of my daily life unblogged, which is okay. I get by.

As usual, I point out my basic rules in order as preface to an exception post.

Widget Central* has employed me gainfully since 2002 and I really love it. It isn’t my passion, but my job and my coworkers have been the most consistent, stable part of my life for 12 years over 2 continents. Every bit of energy and joy I’ve put into my job has come back to me threefold in the form of financial independence and amazing, supportive friends, a second family. Not everyone can say this about the place where they make their living, and I am utterly, completely grateful.

Two of my great friends at Widget Central are currently interviewing candidates for an entry level position in their department and their stories are gratifyingly hilarious. MC Granola put the kaibosh on a football player from a major university because, as he said witheringly, “That dude is six foot seven. I’m going to tell him to do my data entry? MAYBE NO.”

The other day they pulled a resume out of the pile. At the bottom, the kid’s extracurriculars read as follows: “Football. Soccer. Sports. Family. Great Times.” For some reason, everyone except MC Granola thought this was the funniest thing they’d ever read and they just HAD to bring Great Times in for an interview, which MC Granola declined to attend. “I was right,” he told me. “That kid showed up in a polo shirt and the first question he asked was what his hours were going to be.” Someone, it seems, needs to school Great Times in the do’s and don’ts of interviewing.

I was reminded how much I love my job by today’s Thanksgiving potluck, sponsored by the Engineering Department. This potluck is hands down the absolute best work-sponsored event I’ve ever attended. The company provides the ham and the turkey and the engineers, once they are vigilantly discouraged from signing up to bring soda, cutlery, napkins, or rolls (we mark those easy categories off) do a thorough job of putting the remainder of the menu on a matrix and formulating grim assignments. There is nothing that makes me laugh harder than hearing them confer over the sign-up sheet when they think no one is listening. “Okay. We have two salads – a broccoli salad and a green salad. Clearly no one is going to eat THOSE. Who can do one of those sweet potato things? Dale? Okay. Now, it’s gotta have the little marshmallows cooked into it.” Dale: (offended) I KNOW! MY GOSH!! WHO WOULD BRING A SWEET POTATO THING WITHOUT THE LITTLE MARSHMALLOWS?!” “Okay, okay. Now. What else? Anyone up for something au gratin??”

We end up, perhaps not surprisingly, with an entire table of traditional American Thanksgiving items, and another table, which is inevitably the most popular, of gourmet Indian cuisine, from the other well-represented group amongst the engineers, and most people will say, as they are standing in line, confidingly, “Don’t waste your time on the turkey. You’ll get that next week. THE BUTTER CHICKEN IS WHERE IT’S AT, MAN.”

JD is a small, unassuming engineer who wears an Indiana Jones hat and drives a battered black van, which has earned him some suspicious glances from the other Widget Central employees who automatically associate ‘van’ with ‘creeper’. However, JD’s double life is not as a perp, it’s as a wedding singer, and the van is essential for hauling his musical gear. At our Thanksgiving potluck, he sets up his keyboard and regales us with tunes. It is one of the happiest days of the year, to sit and stuff oneself with samosas and pecan pie, and see a table loaded with the previously unforeseen talents of the Engineering Department. Who knew that T-Mac could whip up that Tupperware of homemade whipped cream? (“That’s not butter?” “No, Dale, not butter.”) Who knew that Dale himself could make a ciabatta that could make you cry? Who knew that JD could sing with an Irish lilt in a traditional ballad and then smoothly shift gears, with the appropriate snappy patter, into “Rambling Man”? I could sit there all day eating and listening, and looking around at my Widget Central colleagues and feeling like these really are Great Times.

 

“If clouds are blocking the sun, there will always be a silver lining that reminds me to keep on trying.” ― Matthew Quick, The Silver Linings Playbook

11.2014 whiteout

**warning – this post is full of utter misery and feeling-sorry-for-myselfedness. you’ve been warned.**

For the past year and a half, I have tried to focus on the silver linings, and choose good cheer and optimism over being glum, but some days are just plain bad and there’s nothing you can do about it. For example, yesterday.

Yesterday, Miss L woke up sad before she was even out of bed, still all warm and cuddly and sleepy and – sad. Cheerios cheered her up, as did her new fur hat that makes her look like a teddy bear, but when it came time to drop her off at pre-care, she just didn’t want me to leave. And there were tears, and there was her visible struggle to be brave, which is a terrible thing for me to witness, watching her draw her six-year-old self up and face things when I wish I could just take her home and put her back into pajamas and save her from having to face anything. Then there was me crying in the car on the way to work and being late.

My boss told me that I have to give a presentation to the same committee that saw me fail horribly a couple of months ago, and although I didn’t even twitch, just stoically said, ‘No worries’, on the inside I was stamping my foot and screaming “WHAT?!!” I just wonder what the fucking point is. I know everybody has to do things that they hate and fail at and despise every day of their lives but DAMN. You would think blatant, visible failures would at least have the silver lining of not having to do it AGAIN but I guess the universe has a little more humiliation and degradation to expose me to, so I will turn the other cheek, dress up, and get my ass kicked by my own self YET AGAIN.

Yesterday, my stomach felt a little unsettled before lunch but I thought it was just the lingering aftereffects of an emotional morning, so I went and tried to work out anyway. I gave up running after a pathetic mile and got on the elliptical with a roiling stomach and my friend came in and got on the same treadmill and busted out many miles at a sprint pace with no visible strain and I wondered how I can possibly call myself a runner.

By 4.00 I was full on nauseous and had my space heater on full blast, but still found myself shivering. Outside my office window, the snow scoured the bare lot and the polar vortex came down inexorably, and there was a whiteout on the drive home. I got home, and after having only juice and an apple all day, I dumped some Cheerios and toast into my protesting stomach and climbed into the hottest bath I could stand.

My bathroom is sunny and is the home for most of my houseplants, partly because of its exposure and partly because it has a door I can close to keep Emmett and Sarge out. This weekend, one of them got into the bathroom and chewed up one of my plants and barfed it back up and made an enormous mess; I’d blamed Miss L for leaving the door ajar. (“WHAT!!” -Miss L. “You must have, the boys can’t open the door themselves!” – Me. “Sarge can open the door!!” – Miss L. “That’s ridiculous.” – Me.) Well, as I shivered in my bath Sarge meowed violently at me from the hallway, and then proceeded to open the bathroom door and saunter in. (“WHAT!!” – Me.) This is a bad thing, Sarge figuring out doorknobs.

I was in bed by 6.30, freezing and sweating, and by 8.00 the Cheerios and toast had come back up (sorry, graphic, but true.) Emmett had knocked another picture off the wall so I’d locked the cats out of the bedroom and Sarge opened the door at 10 and brought up a section of the rubber basement flooring to gnaw on contentedly. I had fever dreams of being in Paris and then getting ready to run a race somewhere wind-torn and barren, and not wanting to see someone that I knew would be there; I woke up soaked in sweat but finally warm.

I suppose the silver lining is that I am home today and after a mostly liquid diet, broth and ginger tea, I was able to brush my teeth, which is a huge improvement, and it looks as though I will finish Tana French’s “The Secret Place” today as well, which has been a really great book. (I love Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad.) And maybe tomorrow will be better. No, tomorrow will definitely be better.

11.2014 duck stream