Month: September 2011

J is for Junk in my Bag

I’ve seen these voyeuristic  “Junk in my bag” posts around the interwebs and I think it is interesting.  I’m being honest when I say that you won’t find bits of receipts in my bag.  I hate a sloppy bag, so I tend to clean them out almost daily.  Here’s what was lurking in my bag today:

  •  Keys
  • Android phone
  • Journal
  • Planner
  • Cotton yarn
  • Size 6 Bamboo Knitting Needles
  • Basketweave Dishcloth knitting pattern
  • Green pen for making notes on pattern
  • Curious Lists book
  • Burt’s Bees tinted gloss
  • Mini-tube of Avon lipstick
  • Oily face blotting papers
  • Lotion 
  • Raisins
  • Notebook for lists and jottings
  • Bookmark
  • Bag of pens
  • The Bad Seed by William March
  • Wallet
There you are, pointless information about my life, or more specifically, my bag.  You’re welcome.

I is for Introspection

I haven’t blogged in over the week.  I was all prepared to blog an “I is for Ink” post and showcase/discuss tattoos, but I just couldn’t get up the inspiration.  There we go, another I word.  Inspiration is certainly something I’m lacking.

What has brought on my uninspiring attitude?  What else but a big, nasty case of random clinical depression.  It probably has something to do, in part, with my lack of sleep, but other than that I have no reason to be depressed.

It pisses me off when people tell me (because believe me I’m aware) that I have no reason to be depressed.  Work is silly at times and stressful, but not too bad.  I have an understanding and supportive husband and two marvelous, happy kids.  Friends are plentiful.  Autumn is my favorite season.  I’ve baked, knitted, embroidered, written in my journal, read some fantastic books and have so many good projects going on.

I’ve tried to explain to folks before that I’ve had what I like to call Reasonable Depression (aka that depression that stems from a specific cause be it a death or sad experience, ill health, tough times, etc) and Stupid Ass Depression (the depression that shows up for no reason whatsoever).  Personally, the Stupid Ass Depression is worse; after all, I end up feeling like a screwball wondering “what the hell is wrong with me” rather than having the safety of blaming my pouting on a damned good reason.

An analogy:
On my good, normal days I feel like one of those relaxing fountains everyone has in their office.  I bubble up and give give give give give and it all cycles back.  For everything I let go of and freely give: love, time, energy, work, hugs, words, baked goods, friendship… it all comes back to me.

My depression wipes that out and leaves me feeling like a sieve: I give give give give give and …. nothing.  I’m drained, disconnected, tapped-out.  I’ve nothing left to give and what others try to give me:  love, time, energy, work, hugs, words, baked goods, friendship…. it slips away from my grasp.

Now we dust off those old “coping skills.”  The Old Me would quit bathing, working, sleeping, communicating, and functioning and engage in the bad I word:  ISOLATION.  Isolation is when I completely shut-down and give-up on life and any chance at happiness.  The New Me engages in a completely different I word:  INTROSPECTION.

i·so·lateto set or place apart; detach or separate so as to be alone.

in·tro·spect:  to practice introspection;  consider one’s own internal state or feelings. 

To me, these two words may easily be viewed as twins; but I consider isolation as being alone and introspection as something that can be done around others, but works best (at least for this introvert) when one has solitude.

Introspection means that I am constantly striving to think about ME.  Not in a selfish Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous sort of fashion, but rather I’m very attuned to what I’m feeling physically, emotionally, intellectually, etc….  Essentially, I want to fill fill fill fill fill that sieve up so much that even though things are draining away I have something to fill me back up.

Several ways I engage in my Introspection:
  • Walking:  I went for a walk — alone — to the coffee shop.  On my way I noticed everything; the smell of earth, crisp leaves falling, fabric softener wafting out of a dormitory.  The leaves crunched under my feet, I found a pretty bird feather, I noticed that sometimes pavement looks a bit like the cracked, crusty top of bread.  I didn’t hurry, or glance at my phone, or think of my to-do list.  I just observed, noted, squirreled away all of those bits of tangible life I tend to take for granted. 
  • Writing:  I’m back to journaling nearly every evening.  It is a nice end to the day, to look back on everything I accomplished, to reflect on the importance of my family, to plan my future — even it is only one day at a time — gives me a sense of purpose.
  • Hobbying:  To sit by myself and do something I love is magical.  Sometimes all this girl needs is to sit in my room alone with an owl mug filled with warm milk listening to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and organizing embroidery floss. 
  • Sleep:  Not the dead to the world terrible sleep of depression where I just sleep on and on and on and am never rested, rather it is constructive napping.  If I’m tired and Sam and the babies are amusing themselves then I dive into cool sheets and sleep a solid hour and a half.  No more, no less.  One solid REM cycle seems to set the world right.
  • Thinking of others:  I almost always think of others, but it is thinking of what I can give (what to cook for dinner, contemplating Atticus’s birthday party, signing band forms for Hope, working out my schedule so Sam can tattoo).  Instead I think of what everyone gives me:  Atticus freely cuddles, Hope tells me her aspirations, Sam arranges time for me to be alone and helps around the house…..
Looking back on this post, before I hit the publish button, I find myself dissatisfied.  I don’t think I can adequately explain my need for meaningful, thinking, solitude and how much it pulls me out of a depression (slowly, but effectively).  I’m resisting the urge to prattle on, or edit down, or delete all together, because, frankly, it has really helped me to write this all out in a place other than my journal.  I believe it is time to grab that cup of warm milk, cozy-up in bed, and think on that. 

H is for Husband

Our Wedding Day, 01/16/2010

You’d think with nearly 2 years of marriage under our belts I’d be used to the phrase, “my husband.”  I’m not at all used to it and I suppose that is because I always think of Sam as, well, Sam.  I’m still thrilled every time I introduce him or I’m talking about him and I get to say “my husband, Sam.”  Although we have our times of frustration and annoyance, being married to Sam is great because he truly is my best friend.  I thought I’d share several tangible reasons why I love him:

  • Every time he goes to the coffee shop without me he always brings me back a coffee or tea 
  • On Sundays he helps with house work and plays with the kids so I can have “mom time.”  When I’m stressed and feel like I need to stay home and do something like scrub the basement floor he kicks me out of the house with strict orders to read a “giant Victorian novel.”
  • Sore back, scoliosis, and a bum knee… and he still gets on the floor with the kids to play. 
  • He tolerates the profusion of owl knick-knacks and books spilling out of everywhere at home 
  • Even when I fuck up a recipe he eats every bite and tells me it is wonderful.
  • He is the absolute best person to give the “Mystery Science Theater” treatment to movies, television, and coffee shop clientele. 
  • He is super-cuddly, he doesn’t mind the fact that I need gobs of non-sexual physical attention.  In fact, most of the time HE asks to cuddle.  
  • I’ll say that he’d kill me for writing the above statement, but he won’t.  He’ll just roll his eyes, shake his head, and tolerate Ye Olde Blog.
  • He draws stuff for me, embroidery patterns, tattoos, logos for the knitting group.  He takes his art time to do stuff for me (because he knows I’m hopeless at drawing).  He is endlessly talented.
  • OMG he is handsome.  Super-tall, broad shoulders, golden brown eyes, and he has a turkey dinner and a maniacal monkey tattoo… hotness …. he is most certainly my Mr. Darcy (a.k.a Inky Darcy)

Alright folks, enough sappiness for now.  I’m off to go smooch my husband.

Fragile Things — Week 2

A Bluebeardesque picture from my Alma Mater (late 1800s).

I really enjoyed all of the stories in this week’s Fragile Things read along.  Click here to see what everyone else thought about this week’s reading. 

“The Hidden Chamber”

This is a Bluebeard poem and I simply couldn’t help myself from comparing it to Angela Carter’s short story “The Bloody Chamber.”  I’ve always been fascinated by Bluebeard (I even wrote my own Bluebeard poem for my college thesis*).  On one hand Bluebeard is a nefarious man, luring women and keeping one secret room locked away and then virtually taunting them to open it so he has an opportunity to punish (i.e. slaughter) his brides.  But if the story isn’t tangible, it there isn’t a literal room and if there isn’t actually murder committed the story shifts.  As a deeply introverted person, I understand the need for something that is a haven for oneself, be that a room, a journal, an hour in the day.  And I can’t stand that some people feel the need to grope and pry one’s entire life, space, thoughts. 

What I’m trying to convey is that one can interpret Bluebeard tales on a spectrum.  The grisly murder of one’s bride is obviously a Bad Thing, but what if you’re simply pissed off and emotionally distant because your bride read your diary (or in Sam’s case that would be like me going through his Spawn action figures in the man cave).  In Gaiman’s poem I feel as if this is an emotional locked room and the Bluebeard has an inability to emotionally connect.  Try as she might, the bride will never be able to figure out his secret, his self locked away in his own loneliness.  I thought the last lines particularly beautiful:  “The world flutters like insects.  I think this / is how I shall remember you, / my head between the white swell of your breasts, / listening to the chambers of your heart.”

“Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire”

It took me a bit to orient myself to this story.  Filled with the typically Gothic tropes of lighting, creatures, fleeing maidens, talking ravens, family secrets, and curses, this story is one that would laughingly frighten someone like Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey.   This story is about a writer trying to write literary fiction and to do so taking his cue from his reality (which just happens to be a reality of Gothic horror).  A raven suggests he writes fantasy and the author writes a novel from our rather boring, rational world.  It is an interesting take.  To tell the truth, I’ve often wondered how things would be if my world was fantastical imagination and someone simply made me up.  But then again, I’m completely nuts.

“The Flints of Memory Lane”

My least favorite of this week’s read, “The Flints of Memory Lane” sounds closest to a real ghost story.  By real, I mean those creepy things that happen that one cannot easily explain.  It is only my least favorite because it is so brief.  It concerns a teenager who has an encounter with what very well could have been a ghost.  The best part of this brief tale is the writing; I love the phrase “I like things to be story-shaped.”

“Closing Time”

In his introduction, Gaiman says that this story is styled like an MR James story.  I LOVE MR JAMES (in fact, I read one of his collections a few years ago for RIP).  This story scared the living shit out of me.  A little boy hangs out with some older boys.  Pranks and jokes are played and then they find a creepy playhouse and the boys taunt the little boy into going in.  The little boy doesn’t go in and instead dares the older boys to go in.  They older boys go in the terrifying playhouse and ……. never come out.  But then we learn that the boys did survive, at least to adulthood.  The terrifying part is that my stupid brain fills in the blanks.  Either this was all an elaborate ruse to scare the little boy or there is something evil and supernatural going on or there is (even scarier to me) an evil sexually abusive dad torturing the older boys.

This story really emphasized my own sense of “what is horror.”  Vampires, ghosts, ghouls, and supernatural evil are creepy and thrilling.  I’ll read a book or watch a movie filled with spookiness.  Human horror and horribleness is the stuff of nightmares for me.  I don’t watch movies like The Accused or watch shows like Criminal Minds because to me the stuff that humans do to hurt each other is far more frightening and ghoulish then the creepiest MR James story one could conjure.

Excellent reading this week and I can’t wait to continue on with the collection.

(*it was a three-part poem of pretentious drivel.  It sucked.) 

G is for Good Friends

One of my closest friends, Catherine the Cakewife!

For the past few days I’ve been mulling over friendship.  What makes a true friend.  The difference between an acquaintance, a facebook “friend”, a frenemy, a friend, and a good friend.  This introspection has led to several conclusions; one is that there are varying degrees of friendship.  It isn’t that I like people any less, but friend A may be someone I can talk to and lunch with or merely facebook chat and for whatever reason it doesn’t bridge to Good Friend status. And then friend B is a Kindred Spirit. The other thing I learned is that friendship — even close friendship — can fade and die. 

So what makes a good friend or a strong friendship?  In thinking of my closest friendships, those that are strong and those that have ended for whatever reason I came to several conclusions on what makes a strong friendship:
Common Interests:  This may seem like a “duh” type statement, but I really think this is what makes one want to be friends with another person.  I work and interact with a number of Nice People, but I don’t have anything in common with them.  I may have a quick chat or a conversation over a cup of coffee, but it never goes anywhere.  We eventually run out of things to say.  I need for someone to have an interest in the things I love (not everything, but maybe a thing or two).  For example if you hate Charles Dickens and would rather watch Fox News I may still be able to have a great friendship with you if we both love thrifting and Arcade Fire.  We Have Common Interests.  I won’t babble about Bleak House and you won’t babble about Sean Hannity and we can both score kitschy vintage owl swag at the Goodwill and listen to Funeral on repeat. 
Communication:  Some people I don’t understand.  Maybe I don’t “get” their sense of humor or maybe every conversation leaves me confused and wondering “I wonder what she meant….”  Communication means that we understand one another and we can talk things out from which movie to watch to settling differences to letting the other person know when we are hurt, angry, joyous, or lonely.  It also means that we TALK.  I have many friends that I don’t even talk to on face book.  They are all lumped into the category of People I Admire, but we never really converse. 
Courtesy:  I try to be careful to not take advantage of my friends. It is easy to relax around people we love, but I firmly believe that basic courtesy should always be in place.  This means returning borrowed items, maybe putting off that 3am phone call when you know the other person works the next day, showing up to planned activities on time or at the very least not habitually showing up very late, not talking over the other person or attempting to “top” stories.  Basic basic basic courtesy goes a long way.  I would say that a lack of courtesy is the first sign that a friendship may go sour.
Constructive Criticism:  Now to some meaty stuff.  I’ve constructively criticized when asked (“no, I wouldn’t wear the yellow Charlotte Russe jumpsuit and booties”) and I’ve given unsolicited criticism (“cheating is wrong” or “I’m worried about your binge drinking”).  Friends should be the ones to challenge you and let you know when you’re doing wrong.  Tough love all the way.  And then there is petty criticism.  I’ve had “friends” comment negatively on my thrift store wardrobe, my desire to use tote bags for everything, my parenting choices, my hair, my music and my life. There is a big difference between not liking something and expressing that opinion and belittling someone because of a choice they’ve made. 
Caring:  A certain amount of selflessness goes into being a friend.  I will bring you chicken soup and lend you $20 bucks.  I’ll be happy for you when you’re happy and supportive when you’re down.  Time, energy, love…. all of those things go into being a great friend. If there isn’t love there isn’t a friendship.
Core Ethics:  I disagree with many of my friends on politics and religion and I’m fine with having a difference of opinion. However, I CANNOT be friends with people who are homophobic, racist, misogynists, or people who are ridiculously shallow.  Try as I might, I cannot get along with someone who believes a $600 Burberry handbag is an investment worth making.
Compromise:  Okay, I’ll watch your silly anime and I’ll endure the Lady Gaga CD (maybe).  But then you might have to sit through a BBC drama or listen to my litany of “that’s what she said jokes.”  That’s the true test of a friendship, liking some one enough to endure annoyance, boredom, or being outside of one’s comfort zone now and again.  
    I love my friends and I cherish each memory we have together.  Cheers!

      Fragile Things Readalong: Post the First

      Of course I’m a day late posting my thoughts on Neil Gaiman’s first four stories in the collection Fragile Things.  Yesterday started off badly, but ended up happy.  I spent my evening hours blithely stitching away and listening to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.  Then I crawled in bed and read a RIP read (Lady Audley’s Secret).  It was an enjoyable read, but it isn’t wise to stay up until one in the morning reading when one has a non-sleeping baby boy.

      But I digress…

      This morning I woke up and realized that in all my introvert retreating into books and stitchy things I forgot to post.  So here we are, belated posting. 

      The first four pieces of Fragile Things are the introduction, “A Study in Emerald”, “The Fairy Reel”, and “October in the Chair.”  I’ll try to describe what I loved and what I didn’t, but with no spoilers.

      • Introduction:  I love Neil Gaiman introductions and I remember being especially delighted with the last collection’s, Smoke and Mirrors, introduction.  Gaiman goes through each piece of his collection and describes a special something; a memory connected with writing the piece, an image, the history of the writing, a significant influence…. It all makes for fascinating reading and I feel as if he is in the room across from me chatting away over a cup of coffee.  It is so lovely to feel quite chummy with an author one has never met.
      • “A Study in Emerald”:  A Lovecraft meets Sherlock Holmes meets Victorian alternative universe.  Need I say more?
      • “The Fairy Reel”:  Alas, my brain slid over each lovely phrase in this poem.  I recall that it is about fairies and dreams and it seemed sinister and I enjoyed it, but I can’t recall the details.  Yay for book remember #FAIL. 
      • “October in the Chair”:  I loved this story.  October — yes, the month — is sharing a story with all the other months as they sit around a large campfire.  The story concerns a runaway boy named Runt and a little ghost boy named Dearly.  This story drove me mad, but in a good way.  SPOILER !!!!!!!!!!!!!  Basically Runt wants to join his ghostly friend and Dearly sends him to an creepy house with the warning that “one of them may do it.”  October’s story ends with Runt entering a sinister house with rustlings and then……. NOTHING. The story ends.  I’m dying to know what happens to Runt!  

      I’m already digging into the next set of stories and hopefully I’ll post on time next week. 

      Happy RIP Reading!