Looking for translation software? You're in the wrong place. But. If you think you might be interested in the musings of a cranky forty-something learning to follow her dreams, live without fear, love herself, and look good doing it, well then, hell, come on down!

Friday, March 31, 2006

Karamu, fiesta, forever
Come on and sing along!
All night long! (all night)
All night long! (all night)
All night long! (all night)..."

Dancing back to BabbleFish from the party over at GirlBomb's place (party, Karamu, fiesta, forever...) I may not enjoy that good old TGIF esprit de corps anymore, but I can sure take advantage of others'joie de vivre (come on and sing along...)

Good thing, too, as there's not much to joie my vivre around here today: it's cold and gray and windy and JT no longer works for Maytag.

They finalized the deal, signed the papers, and "Maytag ceased to exist as a stand-alone company" an hour or so ago. I'm surprised to feel a little sad about that. Does this mean no more Ol' Lonely? Also known as the Maytag Repairman, the character survived the deaths of Jesse White and Gordon Jump, saw the coming (and going) of the Maytag Apprentice, but will it survive the buy-out?

All this talk about the merger is bringing me down. I might have to cha-cha back over to GirlBomb for more margaritas.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


That whole Maytag-Whirlpool thing? No news. JT is okay about it, at least in the face of no specific news about his continued employment status. Probably should have mentioned it earlier. But?
I wanna talk about me
Wanna talk about I
Wanna talk about number one
Oh my me my
What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see...

--"I Wanna Talk About Me"

A Day Off

Today I'm doing nothing. Well, almost nothing. Well, only things that have to be done. At any rate, I've done nothing so far but sleep in (until 6:45!) and read other people's blogs. Oh, and, feel anxious about the doing-nothing thing, even though I decided last night that I deserved a day off.

Except, you know, for that proofreading job that has to be finished by 9:00 am Monday (400 pages of slow cooker recipes) and I still have nearly 100 pages to go plus the 15-page cross-referenced-by-ingredient bitch of an index. Oh, and learning lines. Because rehearsal last night totally sucked because I hadn't looked at my script for three days and, as JT says, even though I'm not getting paid I do have a responsibility to the director and the Playhouse and the other actors. Being, like, you know, the star and all that and it wasn't for lack of interest but lack of time that I ignored the script, being all busy applying for scholarships at Antioch, scholarships for which I had exactly 8 days from notification to when the 500-word essays had to in hand, no fax or e-mail. In California. So it's not like I could just crank them out at the last minute and drop them by on my way to rehearsal (and all this for a school I may not even go to), and then the winter writing workshop ended on Tuesday and the spring session starts next Tuesday and what was I thinking, not taking a break? and there's a shit-load of handouts and nametags and details to prepare and what was I thinking, wanting to do the smells exercise at Saturday's prison workshop when a nice first-lines exercise would have been just fine and required no preparation, unlike the smells exercise for which I had to come up with a suitable list, submit it, come up with alternatives for (Vicks, bubblegum and nail polish), find film cannisters, and now I'll have to fill the damn things...

Okay. Okay.


Breathe, Hannah, breathe.

One of the downsides of working at home is the loss of the traditional lines of demarcation between work and home. 5 o'clock? Yay, time to go home and leave all this behind. TGIF? Yay, time to go home and leave all this behind. For two days. Yeah, yeah, I know that many people work many more than 40 hours a week. And that they take work home. (Why do you think I quit working for someone else?) But here's the thing: the stuff I'm working on? Is always with me. Particularly since I persist in ignoring the perfectly good guest bedroom that I insisted we turn into an office (what? I can't get anything done in there.) I prefer to spread my junk the length and width of our dining room table, and the so-called office is basically just a place to shove all my papers and projects on Tuesday nights when my writing workshop meets.

I can't remember the last time I had a day off, or even a day when I wasn't careening from one thing to another. Oh, yeah, maybe it was March 1. They're calling for strong storms here today. I can't wait. It will make me feel more virtuous about all this doing-nothing that I'm not yet doing.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

And the Winner is...

Whirlpool, apparently. You can read about it here. And here. Or here. Or wherever the hell you want. I don't know what it all means, but Whirlpool execs will meet with the Maytag engineers next Monday. Probably no specific news then, either. I find I'm feeling a "skosh" (as they say in these parts) less sanguine. Bah. I have a big book of slow cooker recipes to proofread. I can't sit around and kvetch over the virtual fence.

Sittin' on the Corner, Waitin' on the DOJ

Things have been a little tense around here lately. Any day now the DOJ (Department of Justice) will announce whether it will approve a merger between Whirlpool and Maytag or fight it in court as a violation of anti-trust laws. JT works for Maytag. He's hoping the merger doesn't go through. He's afraid that he would lose his job, or, at best, be transferred to Benton Harbor. He likes his job, and we're really not interested in moving to Benton Harbor. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Particularly when it's taken me seven years to feel at home here.

As zero hour approaches, my calm, generous, steady JT has become a little testy. Most people wouldn't even notice, but he's got this little noise he makes when he's frustrated. It's kind of a cross between a snort and a huff, a quick Snrrf that is usually reserved for things that interrupt his sleep. (Sleep is very important to JT.) Because he is so even-tempered, I don't hear that little snort-huff much, but when I do, I typically wonder what inconsiderate thing I've done to provoke it. (No, really. I know how that sounds, but, truly, I can be very self-involved.) And what I can do to fix it.

Almost from the beginning (and we can no longer just when all this began, but it's been months and months and months), I've had the strongest feeling that things are going to be fine. I'm sure that the fact that it's not my job that's on the line contributes a great deal to my peace about the situation. Caught up in a whirlwind of graduate school applications, last-minute scholarship applications, the play and writing workshops, it never occurred to me that not only did JT not share my optimism but that his anxiety has increased as March 30 approaches. (See what I mean about self-involvement?) Lately we have a lot of conversations that go like this:

JT: Snrrf.
Me: You okay?
JT: (not very convincing) Yeah.
Me: Really?
JT: (still not very convincing) I'm fine.
Me: Really, really?
JT: (giving in) Well, as okay as I can be under the circumstances.
Me: Oh.

And then, having succeeded in forcing him to admit that he's not fine (he doesn't want me to worry), I feel an overwhelming urge to try to make it better. To reassure him. To talk him out of worrying. All because I don't like it when he snorts. I finally realized that I need to let him feel what he's feeling. Whatever he's feeling. No matter how uncomfortable it makes me. It is, after all, what I ask him to do when I'm unhappy. So for now, we wait. God, I hate waiting. Snrrf.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Rules are Rules

On the agenda for Saturday's workshop at the prison? An exercise using the sense of smell. The sense of smell is our most evocative sense. Doing an exercise based on the sense of smell takes us right past the internal critic to writing that is strong and powerful and true. It's one of my favorites, and never fails to elicit great responses.

I submitted a list of potential smells (which would be contained in empty film canisters--Walgreens has been good about donating them but they are inexplicably short right now) for approval and got the following reply:

"The institution does not allow the following items.
Play-doh, nail polish and bubble gum.
Play-doh and gum can be used to make molds of keys and nail polish can be sniffed for a high. "

Yeah, okay. I didn't know if nail polish would work, anyway, as it tends to smell most strongly when it's wet, and there's no way to keep it in that condition. And, not being in the know about these things, I have no idea whether you can sniff dry nail polish for a high. (I'm guessing not.) So, yeah, whatever. And I didn't bother to say that the amounts of bubblegum and Play-doh would have been so small, so tiny, nearly infinitesimal, that they couldn't have even been used to make molds of even a baby tooth, let alone any kind of key that would have done a devious-minded inmate any good. Rules are rules, and it is their game.

On the plus side, we did not have our recently-acquired volunteer IDs revoked for failing to notify the Control Officer of the three no-shows last Saturday. When I asked the volunteer coordinator if Ms. So-and-So had notified Control, she said, "She's not allowed to notify Control. She's an inmate." Yes. I know that now. It would have been helpful to know that ahead of time, but yeah, whatever. See previous comment about rules. I'm just grateful they didn't flat-out squelch the smells exercise.

By the way, I'm happy to see that I am not older than Play-doh. It's bad enough, being older than Rudolph and A Charlie Brown Christmas and the Superbowl. But I bet that even if you scoured every byte of the Hasbro site, you wouldn't find one word there about Play-doh being used to make molds of keys.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pen Pals

When I left the house yesterday morning I said to JT, "I'll see you around 11:30. Unless I get taken hostage." Wouldn't I have felt stupid if I had been taken hostage? Oh, sure, I'd have felt a lot of other things first, but eventually stupid would have put in an appearance.

I'm pretty sure that feeling stupid would look a whole lot like the photo on my volunteer ID. All of the excitement over having an official prison badge--lemony yellow, with the words CREATIVE WRITING just above the official State of Iowa Department of Corrections seal--is pretty much mitigated by how bad the picture is. My eyes are closed, my head is back, I look like I was forced to stand against a prison wall while someone said, "Turn to your right. Now your left." I am used to taking bad pictures. I am not photogenic. But this is bad, even for me. It might be the worst picture ever. Certainly it's in the top five. Even JT, who is extremely biased, laughed . He looked at it for a long time. I could tell he was trying to find something good to say. He finally shook his head and said, "It's not a good picture." Lucky for him. I'd have smacked him if he'd said it was good, or even "not that bad." Bah. It's bad. Very, very bad.

But the stupid-looking thing gets me into the prison, and even more importantly, out. I didn't realize we would need to show identification in order to leave. What, the CO (correctional officer--see how fast I pick up the prison lingo?) couldn't just look at us and know that we weren't inmates? Hmph. The only other times I've been to the prison have been with groups accompanied at all times by a staff member who had keys and a radio and was known to the CO. (And still, now that I think about it, had to sometimes say, "Hey, gonna open this door, or what?) And the other reason I didn't know that we'd have to show our badges to get out is because when I tried to ask the Volunteer Coordinator some very specific logistical questions, she said, "Oh, So-and-So, who works for me, will meet you and she can answer all your questions." Well, okay. Even better.

So we get to the prison, show our Drivers' Licenses to the Control Officer through a little window. He asks what we're there for and do we know what room we're in. I thought, "Don't you have that information written down somewhere so that you always know where volunteers are at all times in case of a riot or other situation that might be dangerous to the citizens of the community?" but just said, "Uh, 202. I think." Giving up my last piece of concrete information. He handed our badges and DLs through the window and then, after we stood for a long time outside the door, a CO came up behind us and radioed the Control Officer, "Hey, Davis, are you going to come let them in or what?" There was a mumbled squawk from the 2nd CO's radio, and then she unlocked the door for us. Maybe the Control Officer can't leave his bulletproof pod if he's the only one in there. Maybe he can't leave it if there are inmates coming and going. I wouldn't know, because apparently the logistics of how to get in and out of the prison are covered in the 257 more hours of training that staff get. (We had three.)
We knew how to sign in, both of us having been in a class that went to the prison to write with the inmates. No Ms. So-and-So in sight, so we just stood around in the entry. Apparently, Control Officers don't like people just standing around, because he told us we could "go on up." It took us a couple tries to get the sequence right: First the buzz, then you pull on the door that leads into the prison proper. Fortunately, again, we had both been in the Admin Building where the classes are held--which looks, by the way, just like an old school building from the 50s or 60s. (Which it apparently is. One of the important things we learned in Orientation was that the facility used to be a state training school for girls, where families sent "incorrigibles" to have the individuality squelched out of them. ) We figured that Ms. So-and-So would find us.

Which she did. Or we found her. Sitting on the floor in the upstairs hall. Wearing dark blue pants and a light blue shirt. And a...was it? Yes, it was. She was wearing the white badge of an inmate. Apparently my definition of "meet" and the Volunteer Coordinator's definition of "meet" didn't quite...uh, meet. We'd have waited forever for her downstairs. Ms. So-and-So introduced herself and stuck out her hand. (RULE #9: ANY PHYSICAL CONTACT BETWEEN INMATES AND VOLUNTEERS IS PROHIBITED AND VIOLATES STATE LAW.) I shook her hand. So that was one rule broken.

Although there were 12 names on the roster, by 9:00 am, our official start time, there were only 2 or 3 women present, all of whom had to sign in with Ms. So-and-So. Typically, a CO makes an announcement about the start of an activity or class, and none had been made. Ms. So-and-So went down to the control office to rectify that, and then a few more women trickled in. At 9:15, we started with the 9 women who were present, and a few minutes later, Ms. So-and-So left. (RULE #14 IF AN INMATE LEAVES THE ACTIVITY SITE, NOTIFY THE CONTROL CENTER IMMEDIATELY. This also means we're to notify the Control Center if someone scheduled for the activity fails to appear.) I assumed that Ms. So-and-So would notify Control of the MIAs, but I probably should have done it, too. So that was another rule probably broken. And it never even occurred to me to check for a phone in the room so that, RULE # 15 IF AN INCIDENT OCCUR[ED] IN MY AREA THAT IS DISRUPTIVE, [I could] NOTIFY THE CONTROL CENTER IMMEDIATELY BY TELEPHONE (DIAL 0). So I suppose it was fortunate that there were no incidents and that the only disruptions came from periodic announcements, voices from the yard, and a stray inmate who knocked on the locked classroom door and asked if I had called for her to come to the admin building.

We had to provide a list of materials ahead of time. We were also supposed to make sure we took out of the prison everything we brought in. I'm pretty sure we didn't leave anything behind (or that anything was confiscated by a devious inmate), but, uh, we didn't do an exit inventory. Which might have been another rule broken. It was a very good first meeting, and I can't wait to go back next Saturday. Assuming, of course, that they let us go back.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I'm So Excited!* And I Just Can't Stand It!

*Excited. Not manic. Not hypomanic. Even though...

an'I'mgonnahavelunchwithJC, myprison-writing-workshop

I've got a legitimate excuse to go to Office Max and spend money on paperan'pensan'inkan'stationeryan'...I love love LOVE Office Max/Depot/Staples and their ilk. Every time I go in an office supply store it feels like gathering new school supplies in September. Ah...pristine denim-covered 3-ring binders, unopened packs of loose-leaf papers, unsharpened pencils with unsmudged erasers, reinforcement rings for the loose-leaf paper, a new pencil case...ah, geekdom, you hit me early.

I keep trying to convince JT to just give me office supply gift cards for significant gift-giving occasions. No luck so far. Which means I have to spend my own money. Bummer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

H, My Name is Hannah and When I Go to Prison...

I'm gonna take...handouts. And, uh, a buncha other stuff.

Had to submit a list to the volunteer coordinator at the prison today of all the stuff we're planning to bring with us on Saturday, when we have our first meeting of the writing workshop.

15 pieces of heavy paper/card stock
4 magic markers (red, blue, green, black)
3 handouts, 14 copies each of:
-"My Name," from The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
-Guidelines for writing together
-"When I Met My Muse," by William Stafford
14 legal pads
1-2 pens each (the facilitators, not the offenders)
2 bottles of water
1 pad of Sticky-Notes "flags"
expandable folder for hand-outs
drivers' licenses
volunteer badges

And yes, I had to be that specific. I have to submit a list every week of the items we will be bringing in and, by extenstion, taking out--the taking out is pretty important. We can't leave items around for inmates to find, because there's no telling what devious uses to which they might put ordinary items like cough drops, paper clips, gum or, heavens, a spring-loaded pen. It's a whole different world, and volunteers are warned to be on guard against prisoners eager to con them.

I'm sure there's truth to that, but it's counter to everything I belive about teaching writing, most of which comes from the Amherst Writers & Artists method developed by Pat Schneider through her work with low-income women in Chicopee, Massachusetts nearly 20 years ago. One of the most basic tenets of AWA is creating a safe environment in which writers are free to explore their creativity. Think that can't be done in a correctional setting? Think again. Read this. And this. And I have my own experiences from two years ago when I took a class called Community Writing in which college students wrote weekly with inmates. When we bent our heads over our notebooks, we had two things in common: we were all women, and we were all writers. And that was what mattered most.

It's not therapy. It's not even about rehabilitation or redemption. It's about offering the disenfranchised the opportunity to find and develop their own voices. So if the administration wants me to provide a list of everything I plan to carry on my person into their facility, I'll do it. If the Department of Corrections says I have to leave my cell phone and handcuffs keys in my car, I'll do that, too. And should I be taken hostage, I'll know that trained officials will be doing everything in their power to secure my release.*

*according to the training coordinator for the prison, they've never had a hostage situation. And did I mention that staff gets 260 hours of training while volunteers get 3? I did? Okay.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

It Was the CAT!*

We have this cat, Bubba (not his real name).** He's 21-and-a-half-years-old and I've had him since he was a day shy of eight weeks old. (Much longer, actually, than I've had my husband.) Although perhaps not as cute to strangers as this or this, he is the light of my life. He's also been in a state of compensated renal function for the last three years so I guess you could say that he's...uh...a little spoiled.

So, when Bubba wants to sleep with us, we let him. Even though he takes up more than his fair share of the bed.

He's not a big cat. In his heyday he might have weighed 11 pounds, but now he's down to about 7.4 (hey, that .4 is important! We're pretty proud of holding him to the same average weight for over three years). And yet, he manages to end up with half the freakin' bed to himself! And we don't move him. Oh, no, he's too fragile for that. Fragile, and stubborn. And talented. Even asleep, he does a damn good imitation of an immovable lump.

Last night he slept just slightly on JT's side of the bed, about knee-level, so that JT had nowhere to put his long legs. Except on my side of the bed. He's a foot taller than me, and so has a tendency to sleep on a bit of a diagonal anyway, but last night, by the time he got his legs situated on the Hannah side of Bubba, I kid you not, I was sleeping on the freakin' edge of the bed! And every time JT moved, I woke up. Every time. He would sigh, and groan, and move his legs incrediby sloooowly. I was just waiting for him to tell me he didn't have any room, and then I was going to point out, self-righteously, who really didn't have any room. Because usually? I'm as much to blame as the cat for crowding JT.

The only one who got any sleep last night? Was the cat. Which is really unfair, as he sleeps all day anyway. In fact, he's asleep right now.

*flashback to a production of Stuart Little in the children's theatre, where the audience tends to talk back to the actors. When Mrs. Little said, "Why, how did Stuart's jacket get over here by the mouse hole?" a little girl said, loudly enough to be heard backstage, "It was the cat!"

**psudeonyms all around. The last time we were at the veterinary acupuncture clinic, the vet's wife/receptionist/world's friendliest woman called him Bubba. (Yes, she knows his real name. She should. We've been spending many dollars there on a monthly basis for 3 1/2 years now. ) It was a nickname. An endearment. Trust me, it was cute.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Desperately Seeking BabbleFish

I don't know what the deal is, but many of my visitors seem to find their way here by typing "Babblefish" into a search engine.* What are they looking for? It ain't me, I know that; most of them breeze through, staying no more than a second, viewing no more than one page. As far as I can tell, most don't make return visits, and Canadians seemed to be over-represented in my totally-unscientific and self-selected sample. Perhaps, if I were a little more interesting, a little more provocative, a few of these lost souls would take off their coats and sit a spell instead of just dropping by to say, "I can't stay. I've only got a minute." Maybe nekkid pictures of celebritites would up my stats? Sigh. Isn't that the way it always is for writers? Poor us, always having to choose between flash and substance.

But hey, if any y'all looky-loos want to take a moment to tell me what it is you were really looking for, I'd appreciate it. Hear?

*Gotta love MSN, which puts me on the front page of a search for "Babblefish." Thanks, ya'll.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

But Honey, I'm Doing This for POOH!

Why is it that I can do the right things for someone (or something) else? I mean, I'm not a stupid person. Despite what you might think upon spotting me in the grocery store checkout line with a pint of Dove's Unconditional Chocolate ice cream, I do know how to eat right. I do. And I also know that, to lose weight, I need to eat less and move more. I know the right things to do--I just don't do them. And I don't understand that. I know that being overweight increases my risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain kinds of cancers. I know that if I lost weight I'd both look and feel better. I want to weigh less. I just don't want to have to do the work.

Ah, but put me in a play where I have to scoot through a rabbit hole, run around the stage as though pulled by a kite and climb up a bedpost, and suddenly I'm motivated. I actually dug out my Pilates DVD today and attempted the 20-minute workout. I couldn't tell you the last time I did Pilates.

Whatever gets me moving is good, right? But. But, but, but...why am I not enough on my own? Why do I need some sort of external motivation in order to make the healthy choices that I should be making anyway? Why am I not reason enough, all by myself?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Pooh Reason to Exercise

We had our first blocking rehearsal last night, and oh. my. God. am I old. They've got me climbing up on stuff and jumping off and wrestling a hall tree and dancing and I am so far out of my comfort zone. And I don't mean just psyche-wise. I was achy and overheated when I got home--and we haven't even gotten to the part where I have to roll around on the ground to get dirty so that the bees will think I'm a little black rain cloud. Can you say out of shape? I knew you could. I am seriously going to have to get more exercise. I'm thinking biking. And pilates. Gotta stretch those muscles. A middle-aged woman playing Pooh? Pfft! Whoever heard of such a crazy thing?

On an unrelated note, I was doing some proofreading this morning and went downstairs to take a load of clothes out of the dryer. They seemed abnormally staticky, and I heard a voice in my head go, "Did I not PUT any fabric softener in there?" Whoa. Where did that tone of thought came from? And then I remembered. I'd just been reading about Bing cherries. Could I BE any more suggestible?

And explain this to me: In Blockbuster today there was a whole section for The Brothers Grimm, which got mediocre reviews, and all but one copy had been rented. But of Crash, winner of the Oscar for Best Picture, they had only two copies--and both of them were in. Oh, and? The Brothers Grimm? A two-day rental, while we can keep Crash until next Monday. Does that make any sense? Is the answer Heath Ledger? (If so, I'm not sure the question matters.)

La la la, I'm off to watch movies and eat banana split ice cream.

Piglet: I thought you were going on a diet.
Pooh: I am going on a diet. But not now.
Piglet: Why not?
Pooh: Because right now I'm hungry. That's not a good time to go on a diet.
Piglet: Oh. I suppose tomorrow--after a good night's rest?
Pooh: And a good breakfast.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Note to Self

I found this in some miscellaneous papers yesterday. It's a note I wrote to myself when I thought I was on the verge of a manic* episode:

To Hannah, Who May Become Manic:

You can't do everything. If it's not already on the list (or not already promised), you can't do it.

There's a 24-hour moratorium on purchases over $20.

You are not a genius. JT is not an idiot.

Slow down. Breathe. Take time to do nothing.

Stay in bed even if you're not sleepy; your body needs the rest.

Lower the volume.

This shall pass, and when it does, remember that it was all chemical; it's not a sign of weakness or personal failure.

Drink lots of water.

Try to get some exercise.

*Okay, okay, it was just a hypomanic episode. As it turned out to be a false alarm, we'll never know whether this would have made the least bit of difference once the hormones took over.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

They Like Me! They Really, Really Like Me!

So I get this call yesterday. "Hannah, this is [published author and faculty member so-and-so] from Antioch University in LA, and I'm calling to say that we love your work and would love to have you join our program." Holy crap! I've been accepted to graduate school! I immediately called JT at work, said, "Listen to this," and played him the message. And then I cried.

Y'all may remember that I put off working on my application, then put on a big burst of speed and got it all done at the last minute? Totally worth it. Not the procrastination part, but the getting it done part. Because I, Hannah B. of the poor undergraduate showing and myriad self-doubts, has been accepted to graduate school.

And for those of you keeping track, I did not procrastinate on my second application, which is actually to my first-choice school. Their deadline is not until June 12, but I submitted it this morning. That's right: I got accepted to one school yesterday and applied to a different school today. It feels surreal, and more than a little ungrateful. I have this nagging urge to call Antioch and say, "Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!" Before they come to their senses and realize they made a mistake in accepting me, know what I mean?

But I'm too smart for 'em. I saved the message, so I've got proof. (No, I'm not kidding. Of course I saved the message!) Now they can't take it back. Mwwwaaaa-haaaaaaaaa!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Doing the Right Thing

Yah know, taking care of business and doing what I should is pretty damn boring. Nothing to complain about. Nothing to write about. No way in hell I can be funny about finishing my creative submission for my second MFA application, let alone mildly amusing or even the slightest bit entertaining. Who wants to read about me changing sheets and litterboxes, emptying the trash or making good progress on a long proofreading project? Anyone? Anyone? Yeah, that's what I thought.

So, I'm reading this book, I Can't Believe She Did That! : Why Women Betray Other Women at Work. I don't know why I'm reading it; I don't even work. Not, as they say, "outside the home." This business of being self-employed is relatively new, however, and I'm gaining new insight about both a toxic work situation in my not-so-distant past and a personal relationship that unexpectedly blew up.

It's a good read, and the author, Nan Mooney, has a blog. Gotta love the title.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Where You From?

The answer to that question often depends on context. If I'm at a conference and think that the questioner wants to know from where I traveled, I'll say that I'm from Des Moines. If they're asking where I was born, I say Detroit. If they want to know where I call home, the answer is Virginia. But if they say, "Where you from?" suspicion dripping from every word, I assume that they either want to know why I have a southern accent--or why I don't. And then I have to say that I was born in Detroit, but lived most of my life in the south. And that I consider myself a southerner--southern by inclination. Which is why I was pleased to score 78% Dixie on this test, which I found on Mrs. Moody's site.

So, where y'all from?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Pooh Bear, Prison Bars and Unrequited Love

And the last shall be first...

Yesterday I watched an episode of 7th Heaven that aired several weeks ago. Ruthie, the Camden's youngest daughter, is broken-hearted over hunky Martin, and her whole family not only knows, they comment on it. How sucky is that? On the other hand, they're concerned about her, and her father even holds her while she cries. And tells her she'll get through it. I can't even imagine what it would be like to have that kind of open family relationship. The only conversation I had with my mom about a boyfriend when something like this:

Mom: What's wrong with you?
Me: CK and I broke up.
Mom: Just as well. He was too young for you.
Me: (runs off in tears)

Thanks for the sympathy and understanding, Mom. Yeah, okay, CK was too young for me, and probably using me, but I was crazy about him, and the two months we were together were...heaven. I spent a very long time pining and yearning and crying and writing bad poetry and I did my best to keep my feelings to myself. I'd learned long before to keep everything inside.

According to Geneen Roth in When Food is Love:
Food and love. We begin eating compulsively because of reasons that have to do with the kind and amount of love that is in our lives or that is missing from our lives. If we haven't been loved well, recognized, understood, we arrange ourselves to fit the shape of our situations. We lower our expectations. We stop asking for what we need. We stop showing the places that hurt or need comfort. We stop expecting to be met. And we begin to rely on ourselves and only ourselves to provide sustenance, comfort, and pleasure. We begin to eat. And eat.
Which might be why I'm in the shape I'm in. A shape that, it appears, resembles a small, round bear named Winnie the Pooh. I've never seen myself as Pooh, so I think it must have been the lack of height and the profusion of belly that got me the lead role. The lead role! I'll get to be in the publicity photos. Looking all roly and poly. Lovely. That thing in my profile about "look good doing it"? A complete and total lie. Wonder if I can lose enough weight between now and opening night that some people might think that my roundness is due to padding?

And on a completely different note, I had orientation for prison volunteers the other night. It was mostly pretty boring. Three hours of lecture on the history of the prison, barely enlivened by a cheesy video called Lockup USA in which we learned, in great detail, the devious uses to which an inmate could put the handle from a soup ladle. "What they do, see, is they break off the ladle part, and then this handle here, they can sharpen it on the floor and then they'd have a weapon. This is good, sturdy metal right here, and you could just run this right through someone." Yeah, yeah, we get it: don't leave any soup ladles lying around.

The most exciting part of the evening was when we had to list what person we wanted the prison to contact should we be taken hostage. "Guess what, honey?" I said to JT when I got home. "If I should be taken hostage, the prison will call you. Actually, they'll send someone out to tell you in person." JT thought that was the least they could do.

I should be grateful for the training. Three hours, and then we're turned loose with the offenders. Staff members get 260 hours of training, and for the first three weeks on campus, they have an escort. They are not left alone with offenders. Volunteers get three hours and the knowledge that, should be taken hostage, "trained individuals will be working toward my safe release." As long as the hostage-takers don't want drugs, prisoner exchange, or release. In those cases, I'm out of luck.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

With Apologies to Tommy Roe

Busy, I'm so busy my head is spinning*
Like a whirwind it never ends
And it's adrenaline makin' it spin
It's all keepin' me busy...

In the last seven days, I have:
  • applied to graduate school
  • led 3 writing workshops (#4 is tonight)
  • proofread two magazines (and turned down three)
  • written a proposal for a writers group I'd like to start at the local women's prison
  • attended orientation at said prison
  • auditioned for Winnie the Pooh (no word yet, but I think I'd make a smashing Kanga)
  • been doped up on codeine and antibiotics and generally felt crappy but had to keep going because I had so freakin' much to do

As if that wasn't enough, I also felt the first stirrings of a manic episode. Which is seriously not a good thing, particularly when my physical reserves are already depleted.

I had my last--and only--episode a few years ago, and at the time, I had no idea what was going on. I just thought I was in a really great mood. Well, I also thought I was a creative genius. And that I'd finally become The Person I Was Meant To Be, a woman who had finally learned to speak her mind. Loudly. And, according to The Engineer, very, very fast. And funny, Lord, I was funny. (Everyone thought so.)

But then it all came to a crashing halt. What happened to my tremendous energy? What about all the amazing personal insights? My life-altering epiphanies? Gone. Lost in a crushing haze of depressive fog. Which, in comparison to the glitter and glee of the manic period, seemed even more oppressive than usual. I wasn't sure I would survive it.

Months later I was reading Jane Pauley's memoir and recognized my own behavior in her description of a hypomanic episode. What? Hypomania? Like in...bipolar? I'd had depression all my life, and mild mood swings, but nothing like the euphoria of mania or hypomania (mild mania). How could I, all of a sudden, be bipolar? Realizing that I'd had a hypomanic episode made me feel better about the depression that followed. It wasn't that I was a bad person. It wasn't that I couldn't hold on to all that wonderful progress. I was depressed. It was chemical.

In case you're wondering, I did not engage in "risky behaviors" or buy a house (which is what Jane Pauley did). I did spend quite a bit at Office Depot, but I don' t think that's a sign of anything sinister. I can spend lots of money in there at any time, for any reason, and keep trying to convince The Engineer that a gift card would be a really cool gift. (I love office supplies! And notebook paper! And pens! And highlighters! And paperclips! And notebooks! And sorters! And! And! And!)

At any rate, if I was, in fact, feeling something more than what The Engineer calls "wound up," it seems to have passed. Either that or the codeine has drugged it into submission. All I'm feeling now is tired. Who knew I'd find that a relief?

*Yes, there is dizziness. And nausea. But so far none of that spinning and vomiting I was worried about.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Who Writes This Crap?

Finally went to the doctor yesterday. Diagnosis? Bronchitis, an inflammation of the bronchial tubes. Well, yeah, since I've been coughing for six weeks, I'd say inflammation is pretty much a given. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic, which, let me just say, I don't tolerate well. That I'm willing to take it should pretty much tell you right there how sick and tired I am of, well, being sick and tired.

But apparently it's not just the new drug plan that is incomprehensibly convoluted. Stapled to the little white bag, so that I had to ask a child under the age of 8 to remove it before I could get to my medicine, was one of those Patient Advisory Leaflets, or PALs, as one pharmacy likes to call them. Like a good friend, they tell you how to take your medicine, and what to expect.

"IF YOUR COUGH CONTINUES for more than 7 days, or if you develop a high fever or persistent headache, check with your doctor." Uh, I've been coughing for six weeks. That's why I went to the doctor. Duh.

"CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY if you experience swelling of your hands, legs, face, lips, eyes, throat, or tongue; difficulty swallowing or breathing; hoarseness; fever; chest pain or sore tongue." Hoarseness? Are you kidding me?! I'VE BEEN COUGHING FOR SIX WEEKS, of course I'm hoarse. Just reading about swelling of the face, lips, eyes and tongue scares the shit out of me. What kind of PAL gives you a pill that will do that?

[You're probably wondering what kind of friends I had in high school. The goody-goody kind. You wouldn't have liked me. Hell, you might not like me now, either.]

But this is my favorite part:

"SIDE EFFECTS that may occur while taking this medicine include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, or constipation. If they continue or are bothersome, check with your doctor." If they become bothersome? I'm dizzy and vomiting, I'm bothered. Particularly if that combination results in my vomiting in places not designed for easy disposal of said vomit. Add in constipation, and now I'm really bothered.

But I'm telling you right now: if I experience sudden weight loss, they'll have to pry these pills from my cold, dead, skinny hands.

Friday, March 03, 2006

How I Know That God is Not a Woman

Pre-menopausal night sweats. Seriously.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

One Potato, Two Potato, Couch Potato, Four

I had a very few things that had to be done today, and with one exception, they're taken care of. I'm going to spend the rest of the day cocooned on the couch. The cat is pretty much in favor of people lying indolently about all day, but he's not a fan of all the preparations, and followed me from room to room, talking. I'm sure he was saying, "Will you just light somewhere already?" But it takes time to get things just right.

See, your basic nest has your blanket, your pillow, box of kleenex, maybe some water and cough drops and aspirin. But the deluxe models, popular with power nesters, is chock full of other attractive features: you got your computer for blogging and e-mail and checking 43Things; your remote control for watching bad daytime TV and taped prime-time offerings; books; a journal, pens and a lap desk; the telephone(s). I am here for the duration, y'all. Tomorrow I have places to go, people to see, but for today? Stick a fork in me. I'm done.

I'll Huff and I'll Puff

And I'll get it all done. But y'all, that ain't no way to live. Trust me.

Part of the why I procrastinate is that, put off, some things just poof, disappear. They go away, they no longer seem important, someone else does them. Reinforcement for the bad habit. Another reason is that I have, time and time again, put on a big burst of speed right before the deadline, huffed and puffed and gotten it all done. I'm afraid of heights and can't imagine bungee jumping or, heaven forbid, jumping from an airplane that's not about to crash, so I get my adrenaline rush from procrastinating. I obviously get something out of procrastinating or I wouldn't keep doing it (wait--is procrastinating something you can do or only something you put off doing?), but like I said y'all, ain't no way to live. (Listen to me, being all "Do as I say, not as I do," like you're going to take my advice. Y'all don't even know me!)

Anyway, the first of two graduate school applications is on its way, signed, sealed and delivered, through the miracle of technology that is the Internet. I have spent the last few days doing little else, even though I felt crappy. (Again. *#$^ cold.)

But it's done and I can stop saying that I'm going to apply to graduate school "someday," as I am now officially An Applicant. The next deadline isn't until June 12, but I promise, I'm not letting this next one go down to the wire. I am taking today off, though. I'll work on it tomorrow.