Great minds don’t really think alike

I’ve thinking about my Baroque Violet Hanten and how to steal a few more hours in the day to work on it and get it finished. Right after I started that, I was reading Fringe Association and Karen’s latest idea log, where she talks about her gorgeous indigo fabric and wanting to make a kimono jacket out of it. Then my Pinterest feed was brimming with Japanese inspired jackets and straight up traditional Japanese clothing. 

It stuck me how many times it seems like when you’ve got a new idea that idea seems to be cropping up all over the place at the same time, as if there’s some universal unconsciousness feeding everyone. That sensation is the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon (aka: frequency illusion). Simply put, you’re seeing it everywhere because you’re more aware of whatever it is in the first place because it’s been on your mind.

Before I learned about it, whenever I had a creative idea that I was mulling, if I saw something like it anywhere else, I’d abandon the idea completely. I’d really beat myself up over it. What a stupid, ordinary idea it must be, I’d tell myself. It’s everywhere. It’s already been done to death.

But it hasn’t.

The thing is that while I might be thinking “Blue Japanese Inspired Jacket” and someone else is thinking “Blue Japanese Inspired Jacket” how I go from idea to execution will be completely my own.

The same is true with writing. You could give a room full of people a random, three word, writing prompt (bar, diver, lipstick), tell them to write about whatever comes to mind, and no two people in the room would write the same thing. You could give a more specific writing prompt like “Start with the first line ‘The snow is my business partner.'” and there would still be no two stories alike. 

Life is complex. Each of us brings our own unique experiences and worldview to the table. One person writing might be a gun-toting, vegan with a passion for live-tweeting Project: Runway and see through that lens. Another might be a trans-man, Christian, hoping to move to the Caribbean and start a dive charter business and see through that lens. 

Tapping into what’s unique in each of us is where the real originality in any creative effort lies.

What I learned this week: 20170226 – 20170304

  1. Trust no one, especially not politicians. I should have learned this from the X-Files, but apparently not so much.
  2. On the other hand, don’t blame me that the current batch of politicians isn’t any different from the last batch. I wanted Bernie Sanders.
  3. I probably should have clarified: Believing in God and the saving grace of Jesus and identifying as Christian are two different things. I learned some time ago that organized religion, in general, is basically politics that puts on a religion cloak and then walks through the mud in it.
    Politics and religion are not like a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup: They are not two great tastes that taste great together.
    Also, the Religious Right seems to have intentionally been mixing politics and religion. Since I’m not involved in that movement, I find it’s better not to call myself by the names associated with that movement.
  4. Chickens ARE the best. Please go watch Wednesday’s video again if you don’t believe me.
  5. I need to grow a pot of cat grass for Sully-cat to sit in because he’s crushing my potted herbs. Damn it, Sully-cat!
  6. I miss Dad.
  7. Early Saturday morning is the worst time to have to go into The Day Job to babysit database archiving. There’s not enough caffeine in the world.

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.”


“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.

Who watches the watchmen?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? When you stop inviting the press who questions you and asks you to prove your position? No one.
– Me, via @skhoot on twitter

A friend of mine (who lives here in town, and whom I will call M) responded to that twitter post I made via my Facebook. He and another good friend of mine (B) had a discussion there, and both made several good points. It’s very easy for me to agree with B. The current administration is the current problem with how it’s handling the press and facts in general. Bringing up the past administration, no matter how wrong it was, only feels like it does one thing: it takes the focus off the current issues.

It distracts from the now.

Ultimately, though, I feel I need to respond to M’s real question, which is this:

Not to condone the current but where was the outrage 6 yrs ago?

Indulge me a moment, while I try to help people see where I’m coming from. I find both parties distasteful at best and full of self-serving scoundrels at worst. I am registered as an Independent. I used to be a Republican until I saw what I consider to be the Party of Responsible Government becoming the Party of the Far Right Extremist Bringing White Supremacy and the Christian Version of Sharia Law to Government. I find the Democratic party to be more in line with my social justice concerns, but also Usually As Far Left As The Republicans are Far Right.

Both groups of politicians seem only interested in how to stay in power and look like they’ll say anything to sway the middle.

I skew liberal on social justice issues. I believe you should be able to Be Who You AreTM. Gay/Straight, Trans/Cis, Ethnic group (and white is an ethnic group, too), polyamourous/monogamous, Star Trek/Star Wars, whatever. As long as you’re not cruel to animals or abusing or killing humans, society should stay out of it. There are still discussions to be had around what constitutes harming or killing people, but that’s a discussion for another day. See also: pro-life vs. pro-choice (and how those two groups talk past one another.)

The way I see it, your right to religious freedom is like your right to swing your arms wildly in a circle: It ends at my nose. You swing your arms and hit me in the face, that’s no longer freedom of expression, that’s assault. You no more get to tell me I should follow your religious beliefs than I get to tell you that you should have certain religious beliefs. (or not have religious beliefs at all.)

I value scientific inquiry and rational thought. I do not always succeed at those. I also appreciate spiritual exploration and believe emotions can bring valuable insights into a conversation. I usually don’t identify as Christian anymore because I tend not to think what most people who use that method of identification believe. I consider myself a humanist because, in everything I do, my first thought is “Does this help humankind? Does it make people’s lives better?”

I skew libertarian for wanting the government to be smaller and less invasive. I believe that personal liberty is social justice issue. With more personal freedom, I think there are more opportunities for people to pursue happiness.

This combination makes me a libtard snowflake to some people, a wingnut whacko to others, and a sellout to still others when they realize that I believe that compromise and balance are possible between the two extremes.

If someone doesn’t like who you are, they can politely shuffle off. In person, I will likely word this more strongly to you, indulging in curt Anglo-Saxon words.

The key word is this: politely.

Say what you about political correctness, it’s politeness that’s the most important thing to a civilized discussion.

On the one hand, sticks and stones, baby. I don’t give a dive a damn what you call me. I do, however, think less of you for resorting to ad hominem attacks.

On the other, slurs of any kind are just plain rude, and I refuse to condone this type of rudeness. Freedom of speech says you can say what you want short of yelling fire in a crowded theater that isn’t on fire (which constitutes a public hazard), not that what you say has no social consequences.

Life is lived in the middle of the road, dodging traffic. It’s messy, and you don’t always get what you want, and that’s just the nature of life. The goal is to try to balance things, so the majority of people get what they need and as few people as possible fall through the cracks.

It’s a teeter-totter: someone’s left dangling and someone’s in danger of falling off when you overbalance to one side. It’s this balance that I find important.

I want balanced press coverage and some of the presidential abuse of the press is very much news to me. Balanced press coverage should be “news.” Not liberal news. Not conservative news. Not libertarian news. Just news. Report the facts and don’t editorialize all the time. By the same token, if you’re in public office, you’re subject to public scrutiny and that means that sometimes, maybe even all the time, the press should be asking you tough, uncomfortable questions.

Which brings me to M’s question: Where was the outrage 6 years ago?

For myself: I didn’t know about it six years ago. Because the previous administration wasn’t as obviously ignoring social justice (or actively working against it IMO), it flew under my radar. That’s my ignorance (possibly naive trust). I’m learning more about the historic problems as well. I can’t change the past, though. I can change the present and the future.

That said, in my opinion, the current administration is looking at the past one and saying “I can be even more authoritarian and people will love me for it, too. Hold my beer.”

I don’t care who did it first. Nixon? Roosevelt? George F-ing Washington? It doesn’t matter. Throwing out everyone who disagrees with you and only questioning people who ask “friendly questions” is wrong no matter who does it.

I’m now aware and if I’d known about it in the past administration I’d have cared about ending it then, too. I’ll say one thing for the current situation: It’s brought out an older breed of journalist who believes in integrity and finding truth, vs just saying whatever will ‘sell papers/generate clicks,’ which I think will revitalize journalism in general.

Ultimately, I’d hope people who are saying “It’s been happening all along” could be happy that people are waking up to the excesses of both the government and the press.

Permanent Deferral

This week I learned that I can no longer donate blood.

I have B Negative blood. It’s reasonably rare in the general population: rare enough that in the past when I’ve mentioned I faint when giving blood, it’s been considered not a problem for me to donate. 

Someone donated B Negative blood and because of that, my Gran lived for me to know her. For the longest time, I was the only one who could donate for other people to pay back that gift of life that someone else gave to us. Gran was diabetic. Aunt Net had Hepatitis. Mom’s veins were too small to hit reliably. 

You can drive a cardiac needle into my veins. They’re that big. So what if I always fainted? I was giving someone else their grandmother or their child. I can’t do that anymore and it’s a bigger blow than I expected it to be. I hadn’t realized how much of my identity I had wrapped into that act relatively simple act.

They were willing to put up with me fainting if I was willing to donate. Stage three chronic kidney disease, on the other hand, is a permanent deferral. Put simply: I need my blood too much to give it to other people. Blood flow influences kidney function and I have to protect my kidneys.

In theory, if I get better someday, I can donate again. Chronic Kidney Disease does not get better. 

You maintain where you’re at or it progresses. That is how CKD works. CKD is the other health problem that has been in the background, the one that I haven’t wanted to mention. The one that I’ve been fighting without really telling everyone about it. It’s the one that I don’t want to be real, but it’s all too real.

Many people maintain for decades without progressing. My doctor says I shouldn’t obsess or worry about it. I just need to be proactive in protecting my kidneys.

Proactive. That’s a polite way of saying “obsessive,” because this situation cannot be allowed to progress. Progressing means medication and dialysis and a sitting on waiting list for a transplant. That’s not even an option. It can’t be allowed to happen. That means everything is now about my kidneys. 

I can’t take ibuprofen anymore. It’s hard on the kidneys. Naproxen helps when I have a migraine. It’s hard on the kidneys, so it’s limited to migraine use only. My liver function is great, so I may have up to 500 mgs of acetaminophen to treat normal pain, like a normal headache. Anything beyond that needs a call to my doctor to get approval to use it because it might be hard on the kidneys and I no longer have kidney function to spare.

Currently, every four months I get to have my Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) done to make sure my kidneys are still maintaining their current level of functioning. My next test is in April. If I hold steady for long enough, I may be able to go down to testing twice a year.

I have to start trying to get the flu shot every year and treat my reaction to the flu shot. I  cannot afford to get sick. My kidneys have to be protected. I cannot allow this condition to progress.

And now I can’t donate blood. I can’t be the person who gives other people their loved ones. I’m too sick for that now. Unless someone comes up with a regenerative therapy for renal damage, I always will be too sick to donate blood. I have to figure out how to live with that.

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.

It’s a dog’s life

Sophie-dog leads a hard life.

Whenever my roommate leaves the house, Sophie-dog, Labradoodle-in-residence, flops over as shown in the photo above and acts as if all will to live has left her body. The roommate is Sophie-dog’s favorite human in the house. Without the roommate, there’s just no reason to exist, apparently.

Oh, eventually Sophie-dog will become desperate enough to seek out my company for cuddles, pets, and scratches. Not for a long time, though. First, there are several hours of “I’m wasting away. I’m dying by inches without my human. There’s no point to any of this anymore. This breathing I’m doing? It’s just for show. There’s no purpose to any signs of life in this fuzzy body.”

Finally, after she’s bored both herself and me to tears, Sophie-dog will haul herself to her feet with great effort and trudge over to my chair (or the couch, depending on where I’m sitting.) She’ll push her muzzle under my hand and then drop her chin into my lap.

“Pet me now. It’s been days since I had any sign of affection. Days.”

“I recall petting you just this morning, Sophie-dog. During breakfast. You remember breakfast, right?” I tell her, scratching behind her floppy ears. Sophie-dogs like being scratched behind their ears.

“Days. There’s no love for Labradoodles in this house. None, I tell you.”

“None,” I confirm, petting the top of her head. She could really use a trim. I can barely see her eyes under her shaggy eyebrows.

At this point, Sophie-dog flops down at my feet. “I’ll just keep your feet warm until the entropy of the universe takes its inevitable course. It shouldn’t be long now.”

“You’re probably right, Sophie-dog.”