Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Know Thyself A Little Too Well

My kindergarten teacher called my parents to a conference.  They did not know what to expect and they were a little surprised -- what sort of trouble could I be making? I was chatty but I had an easy disposition as a child.  Mrs. Compton revealed something amazing: "I think Colette is psychic."  Every day after lunch I would announce what we were doing for the rest of the day. "I don't know how she does it," confessed the veteran teacher.

My mother does not suffer fools.  It is one of her chief qualities and the one I respect her for the most.  When wronged, she is formidable.  When it came to raising her children, she loved us and has proved (and continues to) that she would do anything for us, but she was realistic about our abilities and shortcomings.  When my oldest brother made the honor roll in spite of failing English, she single-handedly got the district to change its policy that only factored GPA when calculating its honor roll.  The principal had never had a parent complain that their child made the honor roll and was curious why she was so pushy about it. "It's not an honor if you don't do your work," she replied.  She won.  Corey was demoted.  He continued to skip his English homework but aced his tests and never made honor roll again.

This instinct of hers clued her in that something else was up.  Later that day she asked me how I knew what was going to happen.

I cheerfully replied that I read the teacher's schedule on her desk.

My mother followed up with the teacher. "You do know Colette can read, right?"

Mrs. Compton did not.  Allegedly, I took cues from the other children and did not disclose that I, in fact, read quite well.  I moved to the first grade at Christmas time. 

Despite this early brush with supernatural abilities, I have always felt a little prescient about events.  Maybe I have good intuition, maybe I'm good at reading people and situations and reading patterns, but when something big happens, I can usually see it coming from a distance.

Our well-laid plans for my husband leaving his job have just shifted.  All I can say about it is that I'm relieved.  2018 is off to a rocky start a month ahead of time, but the whole thing feels right and it's a long overdue change.  Last week I made a list what we needed to do to get things ready and I didn't do any of them.  I had this feeling that I was jumping the gun so I put it off, citing the holiday weekend. 

What to do with such a gift?  I fear becoming a Cassandra, spouting prophecy but never being believed. (A total aside: sexism is ancient.  By spurning the advances of Apollo, Cassandra's own words are forever mistrusted.  I wish I had time to run with that idea right now.)  Likelier I don't often speak up because mistrust my own judgments or get frustrated that I have trouble putting my whys into words.  Intuition is hard to explain but it's usually based in experience.

My intuition tells me that holidays mean sickness and car trouble.  Just when I thought we were in the all clear, and that maybe, just maybe I was wrong, we heard a clanking in the wheel well.  The car was sent to the shop, a Zipcar was ordered, and we waited for the diagnosis.

The good news: it was a walnut!

The bad news: our brake calipers and rotors are shot, along with a host of other things that are rattling on the underbody of our increasingly decrepit car. 

Bah humbug. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Only Open Chiropractor in Quackton

I have mentioned how our holidays usually involve some level of strife.  This Thanksgiving did not disappoint!

It was a beautiful day on Friday and I was antsy.  I had already walked the half mile of my brother's driveway and was feeling restless, useless. "Give me a chore," I asked him. "I guess you could pull my carrots, if they're still any good," he replied. "Great," I said. "I'm going to get a drink of water and then I'll be out."

I took one, two steps up to his house when I felt it pinch.

When your back goes out, instantly you are aware and grateful for the countless years you haven't even thought about how weird it is that your spine and nerves are all wrapped around each other and how extraordinary it is that it doesn't happen more often. That instant quickly passes and is replaced by choice words and hobbling.

I flung myself upon a yoga mat and began to cat/cow.  Cat was okay, cow was torture. I queued up some Pilates and cursed my tight hip flexors and my faulty SI joint.  The last time it went out like this it was 2014.  My scolding at Urgent Care back then was so effective that it caused me to take up Pilates the very next day.  I couldn't believe how good my back felt after that first class.  Later, frustrated with the breathing patterns I couldn't quite get down, I paid for an individual session where I learned what I was supposed to be doing during the Hundred.  I asked why I was getting so light-headed during some of the poses.

The answer was so nonchalant and free of judgment it nearly knocked me over with its truth. "You're anxious.  You're holding your breath along with your back muscles."

Not much has changed since 2014.

It was 4:30pm on Black Friday.  Time was wasting.  Brian furiously called any chiropractor Google could find within a 30 minute drive. None were open. "This place has more chiropractors than restaurants, and no one's working today?"

Finally one answered, replying that although they were open until 7:00pm, they were booked. Could I come back on Monday?

"Booked?  It takes 5 minutes to see the chiropractor.  There is no way they're booked."

"We're going," I grimaced. "I'm going to hobble in there and get my back cracked."

Fifteen minutes later we found the place. The lights were on, there were no other cars in the parking lot.  I limped in. There were no patients, just two people tapping on their computers. I inquired about an adjustment.

"Maybe you could come tomorrow at 9:45?"

Here's something to know about me: I am not a pushy person.  I will go out of my way to avoid conflict.  I am much craftier at finding a loophole than persuading the other party.  But on that rainy Friday evening I was willing to pay triple for someone to twist me up like a pretzel and body slam me. I stood there and blinked at the receptionist.

"No. I need to be seen tonight."

For a moment we all looked at each other and the only sound in the room was their oil diffuser bubbling while it blew vapor into my face.

"...how about you come back in an hour?"

The lack of patients notwithstanding, this was a win and I knew it. I drove back to my brother's, nursed the kid, and went straight back to the clinic, which was now crawling with people. The chiropractor massaged my glutes and seemed genuinely surprised when he exclaimed, "Wow, those are tight. What did you do?"

Three cracks later and I could walk without wincing. I got some potent Icy-Hot type gel.  I was encouraged to come back the next day for another adjustment before I had to endure a two hour car ride. I learned to be thankful for Disney World, as the only reason this business was open until 7 on the Friday after Thanksgiving was because he had just spent the previous week in Florida with his family and needed to make up time.

"How was the only open chiropractor in Quackton?" my husband teased when I got back.

"Lovely," I replied. "But I think we're in the wrong business.  I'm giving that guy $90 for 10 minutes of work."

"Too bad he's so booked."

"I'm starting to think that's a marketing scheme.  At least he was open."

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Salty, Sweet

If I had written a hastily-composed post last night, it might have looked like this:

ARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH

When you think of difficult times in theory, there are many ways to tell yourself, "I won't act petulant.  I'm going to be an adult about this and do my duty.  There's no reason to throw a fit."

I wouldn't say I threw a fit, but what I'm noticing about myself is that the right kind of bad news can put me straight into a funk.  I am an over-thinker, so my brain shifts into overdrive and immediately wants to parse out every. little. detail.  I made myself a perfectly useful and do-able list on Monday.  What I did not factor in was a Tuesday full of not-great news. (Also not factored: the ability to keep watching season 2 of "The Good Place", a delightful comedy that derailed plans I had for Monday night.)

So: we're not packed to leave for the holiday and we may be losing our health insurance sooner rather than later. Oh, and my graduate school department covered up decades of sexual harassment, blamed the victims, and has, according to an consultant's report ran by a group outside the university, a "legacy of sexism" bolstered by a "good old boys" mentality.  And my house is a mess. A couple of these are my own fault, but they're certainly all related.

Let's list some positives. It doesn't fix the negatives but it sure gives me some perspective. Tomorrow is by far my favorite holiday and I recognize that we have our health, a roof over our heads, a decently strong social support network, plenty of resources at our disposal, and I have never truly known hunger.  Last night I made a fabulous-looking pie, I am looking forward to more cooking tonight, my brother is excited to host us and spoil us silly with food, I have amazing friends, ten years ago over this holiday break I sent an e-mail to this guy I had a giant crush on and he replied within the hour (and four years later, I married him), and Obamacare is still kicking.  My life is rich and full.  Thank you, powers that be.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Morning Strategy

This morning in the car on the way to daycare and work drop off* we did a lightning round of gratitude. What's there to be thankful for on a Monday morning?

A snippet of our list:
  • it's a three day work week
  • my mother is not hosting Thanksgiving
  • our colds could be worse
  • bourbon will be flowing at my brother's house, where we are staying over the weekend
  • it's sunny today
  • today will be arguably warm
  • our kid is amazing and chatty and we're still in that halcyon period, so don't burst our bubble quite yet
  • only a few short weeks until Brian is done with his job! 
But, as my dreams reminded me last night**, holidays mean more work.  If I want this week to go decently, I need to look ahead. Right now I'm supposed to be working, but my brain is being slow on the uptake this morning and I've got daycare until 3, so I might as well plan. Here we go:

Monday
  • Dinner: pumpkin polenta with black beans and chorizo
  • Passive-ish activities while I work from home: cook pumpkin, laundry
  • After daycare: library, park time before sun goes down, get cat food
  • Evening: order Christmas presents online, order photos of Reed for family, fill out application for part time job, wipe down bathroom, make list of things needed at store, meal plan ahead for when we come back through the end of the month
Tuesday
  • Dinner: falafel, tahini, and salad
  • After I work from my boss's house: drop application off, go home and vacuum
  • After daycare: park time before sun goes down
  • Evening: make pumpkin pie, send husband to store for ingredients for Wednesday's cook-a-thon, pre-pack
Wednesday
  • Dinner: leftovers
  • Work from library in AM during daycare time
  • Evening: make rolls, make vegetarian dish for Thanksgiving, last-chance laundry, wipe down kitchen, pack
All week:
  • Don't trash the house
  • Pilates on Tuesday and Wednesday night

* - We are a One Car Family, much to the chagrin and perplexment of our parents, my boss, and almost everybody else over the age of 40.
** - The premise was that we were going on a cross-country bus trip with friends. The bus was leaving at 10:30. I started packing at 10:29 and had to tell Brian to stop mowing the lawn, because for some reason we were at my parents' house. And then, once we were on the bus, I had to figure out the wifi because I had an assignment due. Come to think of it, this was no dream. Stress packing and I'm still in school? That's a nightmare. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Voice

I wrote for many years.  Journals, mostly, and some short stories.  Poems sometimes, but I mostly leave those to the professionals.  My college years were accompanied by LiveJournal and Xanga, giving a public outlet to so much real and imagined angst.

My memory is long.  I remember what I wrote and the predicaments where it got me.  When a particularly humiliating event comes to mind and I think no one's looking, I'll indulge in a physical cringe, squeezing my eyes shut and balling up my fists.  I'm not sure whether it's a helpful act, but what else do you do when your brain doesn't let you forget?

I was a mediocre college student who really should have majored in something other than Spanish, and most of those years were spent learning some sorely-needed social skills and recovering from full-blown trauma -- my dad nearly died on the job two months before I started college and my brother nearly died while I was studying abroad my junior year.

After I graduated, despite years of promising myself I'd wander the country for awhile, I stayed put and did a couple of years of AmeriCorps. I meant to write through that experience, but around the same time my voice dwindled out.  I was in situations where I felt less sure of myself, less willing to speak out.

Who will set a guard over my mouth, and upon my lips an effective seal, that I may not fail through them, that my tongue will not destroy me?

I've been attempting to write every day this month and so far it's surprised me how difficult I now find it to share what's on my mind.  I do fear destroying myself to some degree and my inner critic is strong.  Am I afraid I'm wrong or am I afraid I won't be able to defend myself?

Recently a friend of mine spoke out about some rampant sexism she'd been experiencing about her workplace.  Today the local paper ran a cover story about it.  She had tried to go through the regular channels to address it but kept getting roadblocked.  So she sought out a journalist.  I'm immensely proud of her for speaking out, but even more so for trusting her voice after so many people told her she was being too sensitive or that she should just get used to it.

I think about being in her position.  Would I have been able to find my voice as the others tried to drown me out?  I like to think of myself as someone who doesn't care about the opinions of others, but I spent a large part of my twenties silencing my own.  I'm trying to find my voice again.  Bear with me if I wobble; it's been awhile.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

It wouldn't be the holidays...

...if we didn't all get colds.

My husband came down with the man flu last night. We all have the same bug, but he's the kind who gets sick and suddenly exhibits a mood and symptoms that would have you think he just had a round of chemo or outpatient surgery.

I like to grouse him about his cold habits, but it's a gentle poke. He is credited with getting me through eighteen weeks of morning sickness, four of which were spent in Morocco, a wonderful place where my stomach refused to accept anything other than fruit, bread, and Western fast food.  I can cut him some slack for wanting macaroni and cheese when his nose gets stuffed up.

In our nearly 10 years together, we tend to keep track of holidays by what calamities befell us. The sickness came a little early this year -- usually one of us comes down with something around December 27th and we pass around germs until our anniversary in early January.  Another tradition is our car acting up the day before we are scheduled to drive across the state.  We have walked into the house to be met with shrieks of "Did you get a new car for Christmas?!" multiple times.  Then, we engage in the time-honored calming down of the mothers as we explain -- "No, it's a rental. Do you really think we'd buy a Jeep?"

This is reminding me to take the car in for an oil change this week.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Five For Friday - 11/17

1. Doing

  • Not enough Pilates
  • Getting a cold
  • Binge watching "The Good Place"
  • Doing the first two pages of Everyday Watercolor, telling myself I'll pick it up again
  • Mentally preparing for Thanksgiving
  • Mentally preparing to buy Christmas presents
  • Mentally preparing to anticipate January
  • Not actually preparing for January
2.  Reading

3. Listening

  • Should I be embarrassed to admit it's mostly ASMR videos at this point? They help me work, what can I say? 
4. Making
  • Fake pierogies. Holy smokes, is this ever great. Saute some onions, garlic, mushrooms, and a cabbage for a long time. Use butter. Use lots of butter. Throw it over some egg noodles. Add some plain yogurt or sour cream if you want to get it creamy. Shake pepper flakes over the whole thing. I poured guacamole salsa over it to reheat this afternoon and it did not disappoint. 
  • Bakewell tart
  • Lemon drizzle cake (I really should not have made this, but it was fantastic.) 
5. Thinking
  • Not much and too much, as a rule
  • Which is to say, some of the stuff on my mind for Thanksgiving is better left unblogged