Something’s gotta give

Something’s gotta give and that something is this blog. This blog will be moving to a once-a-week update. New posts will publish on Thursday mornings starting next week.

The discipline of writing regularly, if not every day, has been good for me. The problem becomes the limitations of time itself. I spend too much time trying to come up with a topic to blog about on the days that I don’t have a hot topic burning in my brain. Those days are usually “I talk about the knitting I don’t do enough of” days.

Those days are usually “I talk about the knitting I don’t do enough of” days and they’re as much of a drag to write as they are to read if you’re not a knitter. Sometimes they’re “pictures of the dogs” days and I Can Has Hotdog does that better. I’d rather put out one high-quality piece of writing than a week of mostly drivel with a chance of something more meaningful.

I’d rather put out one high-quality piece of writing than a week of mostly drivel with a chance of something more meaningful. Also, If I’m going to make real progress forward on my other writing, I need to take time out of writing that isn’t giving me progress toward my goal. I need to put it on the goal itself.

 

on my to-do list from December

I still have items on my to-do list from December:

  1. Listen to Christa’s Mix Tape
  2. Send Christmas cards

I know. It’s terrible. I just can’t let either of these items go.

Christa’s mix-tape is the more pressing of the two. She sends it out around Festivus and I usually listen to it somewhere between Christmas and New Years Eve, often when the roommate heads off to spend holiday time with her family. This year I just didn’t manage to find the private time to listen.

The mix-tape is a private listening event. I know she sends it out to The Usual Suspects, the people on the invite list to the Annual Escape from your Family Christmas Party, but it always feels like it’s meant to be a special event. It’s a mix-tape, after all, a carefully curated list of songs that the giver wants to the recipient to experience.

Obviously, I need quiet time with just me and my headphones to devote to experiencing the music. Maybe a glass of wine and the fireplace going and a fluffy blanket pulled up to my chin to complete the setting. I haven’t found the right time to devote to that just yet. I will, I keep telling myself, and the mix-tape will be there.

It’s not like it will spoil. Christa’s musical memory of 2016 will stay fresh until I decant it. Maybe this weekend, even.

The Christmas Cards are another story. It is well past time to send Winter Holiday cards, even ones as generically non-committal as the ones I buy. You know the type. They have evergreen trees, snowflakes, and cardinals and a non-religion specific greeting:

Wishing you and yours
Peace and comfort in this
Very best Winter Holiday Season
And the Happiest New Year.

At this point, if I were to get any sort of card in the mail, it should be green and St. Patrick’s day themed (because somehow turning a de-canonized Saint’s day into American National Drink Green Beer and Promote Irish Immigrant Stereotypes Day isn’t offensive?) or I have to go for the spring holiday and there’s no “Happy Spring Holiday” card despite the fact that several holidays happen in the spring. Holi and Passover come to immediately to mind.

Apparently, winter is a time for generalities and spring is the time for specificity. Maybe I should hold off and send Fourth of July cards instead.

Seems like a plan to me.

The cultural experience

The Paramount before the Marsalis In Iowa concert

I got us tickets to the Marsalis in Iowa concert because I wanted a cultural experience. I was hoping for some orchestral jazz. I thought maybe I’d be able to expand my ability to enjoy jazz in general and support the local orchestra.

What I discovered were the limits to my ability to appreciate sound for its own sake. I could not get past my thoughts about what music should be just because I heard it an artistic performance venue. In particular, the selection that did me in and made it impossible for me to sit through yet another listening of Copland’s Symphony #3 (which I don’t particularly care for because I think people overplay it) was this number: Saxophone Concerto No. 2, “Under the Wing of the Rock”.

It is a technically difficult piece for saxophone. Branford Marsalis played it brilliantly. I could not understand it as music, only as an intellectual exercise.

It struck me as the sort of thing composers write to prove that a particular instrument is capable of atypical sounds when in the hands of a true master. As the roommate put it, it’s the sort of thing that’s written on a dare.

It’s the sort of composition that true masters learn while cursing the name of the composer. When/If you learn to play it, it shows both the true range of the instrument and your skill as a musician.

Oh, the cursing!

I could hear the technical difficulty of the piece, but I realized I was supposed to believe that I heard music, too. I looked at the beautiful venue. I looked at the intensity of the performers. I tried to internalize what I heard as music.

I failed.

I could not make my brain recognize the music of the piece. All I heard were technically difficult sounds to make. All I saw were people performing their hearts out and making nothing but noise.

We left at intermission because I couldn’t make the mental leap required to make the experience anything more than a cultural experience that I didn’t have the combined experience and education to do more than appreciate on an intellectual level at best.

At least the piece allowed me to learn something. Recognizing my limits gives me greater insight into my own biases.

The other N word

I have trouble saying “No,” especially at The Day Job. This has led me to a point where I’m working enough overtime that I’m finding it physically taxing. 

It’s bad enough I can’t compensate for (read: hide) it anymore. The roommate has taken me aside to talk to me about the fact that I need to take care of myself. I need to say no to things.

I don’t know how to do this. No is treated like a dirty word, especially when it comes from a woman. I don’t think it’s intentional. People say “you should say no to things,” but when you say no to them, it’s a different matter. 

I want to say:  No, I really can’t take on one more task for the program right now. I’m not eating lunch. I can barely get away from my desk to go to the bathroom because I’m so busy. Exactly when am I going to get just one more thing done? Staying late? You know I’m already here late, right?

I say: Just put it on my desk. I’ll figure out how to get it done. When do you need it by?

I read an article in Fortune that said women in leadership who say no are seen as cold and ruthless, but men who say no are strong and capable. It’s not just women in leadership. Saying no at work hurts a woman’s image, no matter what her role at work is.

I want to say: No, I don’t want to do anything tonight. This was planned last week and I’m just now hearing about it? I have other plans. Curling up on the couch with a cat and a book and drinking tea is a plan. It’s a mighty fine plan at that.

I say: I’ll dump more caffeine in the system to keep it running. Rest is for the weak anyway. 

Hell, I should be sleeping now, but I can’t. I’ve got a migraine because I’m so tired, but I can’t sleep because I have a migraine and I’m afraid to try to take a naproxen for it because naproxen is hard on the kidneys. 

For the past three nights I’ve been using the heating pad on the small of my back and Biofreeze at the base of my skull because I’m terrified of doing anything that might tax my kidneys too much.

It’s my kidneys that have me trying to sort this whole “No” thing out in the first place. It’s disheartening to feel like I’m living my whole life around protecting my ability to process the toxins out of my body. 

My roommate is right, of course. I need to say no to things in order to get the rest and recovery time I need to maintain my health.

It just feels like I’m Kryten trying to swear when I try to say no.


Damn you, kidneys. You’re not playing fair. The fatigue gets crushing far more quickly than it ever did. I can’t run on borrowed energy anymore. I don’t have any energy to spare.
If you need to find me, I guess I’ll be sitting in the canteen with flash cards practicing saying the other N word. 

Nnnnnnnnooo.

I bring you now the weather

My favorite song that’s been “The Weather” on Welcome to Night Vale.

It always strikes me just how mercurial the weather can be in Iowa.

The weather tonight has been amazing. First, there was the lightning light show and the rolling thunder. Then the wind kicked up. I walked inside mere moments before the sirens started, announcing straight line winds gusting up to 90 mph.

The cover for the gas in grill blew away in the first gusts. The hail and rain came mere minutes later. Tonight’s game was already over by this point, called so we could go outside and watch the lightning show. Everyone stayed until the worst of the storm passed, which was really no more than 20 minutes beyond when people might have normally left.

Five. Thirty. Old.

Wednesday was the five-year anniversary of my father’s passing. I’ve been particularly heavyhearted about it and wanted to take the day off work so I wouldn’t have to subject anyone at The Day Job to my mournful mood. Someday, I’ll be able to do something like that, but I have too much to do at work now to take a day for such a self-indulgent reason. Daddy would have never taken a day off unless he were on Death’s door.

This attitude is how I ended up with Chronic Kidney Disease in the first place.

I should have figured out how to take the day off. While I worked and I got many things done, what I didn’t get done is taking care of myself. That’s something that has to be a priority. I love what I do for pay, and the people I work with are great people, but if I don’t take care of my needs, I’m going to work myself into an early grave.

Just like my father did. I have apparently learned nothing.

My youngest sister said that the last coherent thing Daddy said was, “it’s not. fair.”

“What?”

“My life.”

He worked through disability and constant pain because the alternative was worse. Poverty. The same poverty we fought anyway because the iron industry collapsed in the 80s. He always deferred the things he wanted because he was trying to take care of all of us, to be a good provider, and a good dad.

He wanted to travel someday. Someday never came. He took early retirement because he became too sick to work and passed away at 67. He never got to travel. He never got to do any of the things that he wanted to do.

I’m doing the same things to myself. It needs to stop.

Amongst my contemplations tonight, I realized this year is my thirtieth high school reunion. I’m not planning to attend. I haven’t attended any of them. Why break a perfect record?

And yet I have a dark sort of melancholy that kind of wants to go. I have no idea why. High school was, in fact, the most miserable time of my life, and that’s counting the root canal without proper anesthesia, ex-fiance number two trying to kill the both of us in a fiery crash when we were breaking up, and learning that I have kidney disease. Apparently, I’ve hit the level of pathos that needs the bolstering that the schadenfreude from the fact that everyone has the same general level of bathos as my life can bring.

I almost gave in and bought a ticket. I split the difference by Facebook stalking the reunion group and website instead. So few people are attending this year. The MIA list is several times longer than the confirmed attendee list (and includes me.) I’ve intentionally stayed off the radar.

Most of the people I’d want to actually see are on the MIA list with me. Birds of a feather I guess. I hope they’re doing well.

So much time has passed. So many opportunities have been missed? So what am I going to do about it?

I don’t know, but I have never felt so old.

The birthday dinner

I am writing this while sitting up and waiting for my mild tummy ache to subside enough to go to sleep. Gluttony being what it is, I should feel shame, I think. 

I don’t. Just mild regret for overfilling my poor belly with garlic fries and and tasty Stroganoff I didn’t have to make myself.
Today was my friend’s birthday, the one who makes me write this blog. We went out to dinner with his girlfriend, my roommate and best friend. We ate too much.

Not intentionally, mind you. It’s just that I didn’t manage to get lunch today and we went to the Pig and Porter here in town. I can’t resist their garlic french fries. We ate three bowls of them. On a normal day, we might have ordered a fourth appetizer to split and called it good, but it was his birthday and the food hadn’t quite hit my brain, so we ordered dinner, too. 

I mean, it was his birthday. It would have been bad form not to celebrate a little, right? We laughed, and talked, and ate ourselves silly. All in all, I rate it a glorious birthday evening.

I wish I had the tapeworm my friend apparently has. He’s got a natural runner’s build, tall and lean, and by all appearances he can still eat anything without actually gaining weight despite being well into middle age. He ate his own meal of bangers and mash (it looked delish!) and half of my roommate’s burger on top of it (also quite tasty-looking) with great gastronomical gusto. 

He, too, spent the evening with mild regret for the amount he ate.

Only the roommate escaped mostly unstuffed. She stopped eating at half her tasty looking burger. I’d take her restraint to go with that imaginary tapeworm (or vastly improved metabolism.)

My meal came with a petite bite of chocolate pie with orange wedges and salted caramel whipped cream. It amounted to three perfect bites, exactly the right end to the meal. It was satisfyingly sweet, but not cloying, and just enough to satiate the desire for something sweet without overpowering the whole meal.

It probably had a billion calories. It was completely worth it.

If I had it to do over again, I would only change one thing: I would eat fewer garlic fries. They were tasty but eating fewer fries would have made the whole meal better. I would still eat the garlic fries, though.

They were amazing.

The moments before bedtime

The moments before bedtime are my favorite moments of the day. The roommate and I sit together in our pajamas like teenagers at a slumber party and talk about whatever strikes us about the day before I wander off to my bedroom and put myself to bed. Sometimes we talk about nothing at all and just sit together and read. It is companionable and sisterly.

It is the best part of the day.

Tonight we talked about the Iowa Games. The indoor paddling event is this weekend and the roommate and her boyfriend are planning to particpate. I’m going to watch. I’m not sure what Indoor Paddling actually entails, but I’ll find out on Saturday.

I do know it involves smaller kayaks, like play boats, in an indoor pool. Beyond that, you’ve got me what they’ll be doing. My experience with kayaks is pretty much flat water only. Maybe a few accidental type 1 rapids, but nothing intentionally white water.

Okay, that’s not precisely true. We took a white water trip up on the Menominee and I screwed up my knee so badly on day one that I didn’t feel comfortable trying to do the second day’s white water rafting trip. Day one was fun, even if I did map most of the rocks in the Pishtago with my bottom for a good portion of the day (prior to slipping and twisting my knee exiting the inflatable “Fun-yak.”

Ultimately, I’ll probably end up trying white water, thought I can’t imagine I’d want to do anything even close to a category 5 rapids. I mean, the videos of people doing it look like they’re having an amazing time. They also look like they’re just a little hopped up on adrenaline in a way that I’m not sure is healthy for anyone, let alone me.

Still, until I really try it for myself, who knows? Maybe I’ve got some kind of inner maniac that’s just waiting to be unleashed on the water.

Or not.

Headless

One way to refer to a computer without a monitor is “headless.”

I mention this specifically because at The Day Job I’ve been asked to house a headless computer which we use for automated metrics runs under my desk since I’ve got “plenty of room” at my desk. The person who currently houses the Metrics Computer is moving to a new area, so the metrics computer needs to be moved to a new home.  

Apparently word of my frequent refusal to allow my desk to be used as a storage area has gotten out. It’s the reason I have plenty of room at my desk: I don’t allow people to use my tiny cubical as a storage area for miscellaneous items and I keep my desk tidy.

The fact that the computer is headless was promoted as a bonus to me because it wouldn’t suck up as much room. That wouldn’t have mattered. If it didn’t fall under my rule, I would have protested it being stored at my desk. My rule is only “reasonable” items may be stored at my desk. 

I classify the metrics computer as reasonable because I use the metrics the computer generates for my weekly metrics publishing tasks, so I surprised the co-worker who was trying to convince me to take ownership of the headless computer by saying, “Bring it here. I use it’s metrics. I should have it,” before he finished his well thought out arguement to convince me that it wouldn’t be any bother.

“Just one condition. It may live under my desk so long as we call it Marie Antoinette.”

“Marie Antoinette?”

“Because it’s headless. Like Wednesday Addams doll and the historic French Monarch.”

“Oh. Okay. Whatever you like. But why not Icabod?”

I shrugged. “Icabod Crane wasn’t headless. He was chased by the Headless Horseman, who didn’t have a name in the story.”

My coworker looked amused. “Then it’s settled.”
“Yes. Marie Antoinette shall live under my desk starting as soon as it’s convenient for you to move her here.”

The new person popped her head around the corner. Apparently she only heard the last of the story. “That’s a really odd thing to hear over the pod wall.”

I know. Dear coworker. I know. And that is why I gave a name to Headless.