Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Evening News

"Molly? Molly?! Hey, MOLLY!"

"Winston, I'm busy sleep-barking, so..."

"You, uh, wanna hear a secret?"

"Do I have to wake up to hear it? Because this is the only time of the day that I'm this relaxed."

"Nah, I'll just tell you."

Monday, March 26, 2012

No Cause for Alarm

Why am I late for work every morning? I blame the weather.

I was just getting to the point where I'd wake up when the sun came through my window, and then it got too cold for me to leave the curtains open at night. Damn you, cold weather!

"Well, O.K." I though. "I'll just open the curtains first thing in the morning, and stand at the window until I no longer feel like going back to bed for another nine minutes and thirty-two seconds." That worked for exactly two days, and then we finally got winter weather. With the cloud cover, I didn't get any sunlight when I opened my window. Damn you, cloudy weather!

"No problem," I thought. "I'll set two alarm clocks, one all the way across the room." Here's why that didn't work for more than a day. The dogs, they are adorable when they sleep. They sleep on the bed, one on each side of me, turning my comforter into a very narrow sleeping bag. I have to squeeze out of this pocket by inching my way up to the head of the bed and climbing over them. You'd think this would be enough of a push to keep me going once I get free, but you'd be underestimating the pull of that warm, coveted spot at the bottom of the pile. I learned that I can get up, turn off the far alarm, then turn right around and crawl up into the middle of the bed again. They will not even wake up. At least half the time, I "accidentally" press the off button instead of the snooze button.

I tried anyway, but all I was doing was getting good at berating myself as I drifted back to sleep. Then, daylight savings time kicked in. The sun didn't come up until 7:18 today. Damn you, daylight savings time (which I realize is not technically weather-related, but close enough for government work)!

"I'll put one of the lights on a timer! That way, I'll trick myself into thinking that it's later. I'll just set it down here on the bed while I answer the phone, then I'll figure out which light to plug it...ah, dammit."

It, uh, looked like a big Abba Zabba, so you can't blame a guy for wanting to be sure. Now you can sleep in, secure under the protection of Fort Winston, without any lights clicking on and scaring anybody who might be sleep-barking while dreaming about squirrels. As you do.

Damn you...ah, I can't be mad at you. Look at your sweet face.

So I'm just going to go ahead and blame the weather for all the sneaking to my desk through the cafeteria every morning in order to minimize contact with anyone who would care and/or fire me.

Damn you, weather!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Two Bits

The question wasn't whether or not I was going to lie. The question was whether or not I gave a damn. The answer was no.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Stretching Toward the Sun

Someday, this little sprout is going to grow into a beautiful Mexican dayflower. I can't wait to see it. But, similar to how I can bring springtime to early February by knitting a hat, I'm also able to bring freezing rain to the region by planting seeds. It's going to be cold and damp for at least the next week.

Hang on, little seedling! I'm pretty sure that it'll warm up again as soon as I'm able to resume knitting.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Yoko! Oh, no!

"Instant karma's gonna get you! Gonna squirt you right in the FACE!"

"Uh, Molly? I'm kind of, um, mad at you, so..."

"You're mad at me? I'm SUPER loveable! Why are you mad?"

"Because you're a Yoko."

"I'm a WHAT?!?"

"You're like that lady who messed up the design of the Beetle or something."

"The three of us were like this awesome band. We even had a cool picture for our album cover. And then we had to break up, just like the Buggles, and it's all your fault, so you're a total Yoko."

"I am NOT a Yoko! I want to be one of the Beagles."

"I worked it all out. I'm like John, and Ernie's like Paul, and Hana's like that other guy who made that video with all of those animatronic squirrels, and you're a Yoko."

"Why can't I be Ringo, though?"

"Because you're different from us, and you broke up the band, and you make a lot of irritating noises, and you flash your lady-junk at the camera all the time."

O.K., dogs? Can I interject here? Molly, you did introduce a new dynamic into the pack, and now the boys can't play together anymore. That is kind of on you, sweetie.

"Because I am TOO MUCH FUN?"

Sure, pup. That must be what it is. And Winston, it's not like she's forcing you fellas to go after each other like it's goddamn Thunderdome, so it's kind of on you, too, guy. And, by the way, 'Yoko' is not a noun.

"Well, you're a Yoko."

"We're ALL Yokos! Yaaaaaaaay!"

I f&$king hate The Beatles.

* * *

Doc and I are still trying to decide whether or not it's worth trying to reintroduce the boys. They started fighting a few months ago, vicious fights where both dogs came away bloody. We think it has something to do with the energy that Molly brings to their playdates. She's a noisy player, and she riles up the other dogs around her with her growls.

Do we try to teach her to not be so provocative? Do we go back to getting them all together for walks, and see if we can get them to calm down? Do we accept that the three older dogs won't ever get back to where they were when that picture was taken? That last option is a little sad, because it's been a theme around here lately. "That was a beautiful time, but it's never going to be like that again. All I have left is the picture."

On the other hand, they don't seem to mind too much. They love each other. We still get different combinations of the dogs together, just not Winston and Ernie. It's working itself out.

Maybe she's not Yoko. Maybe she's more of a Linda.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Immobilizer

Today's whether report is about two different yet equally unappealing choices.

"We can shoot a little bit of cortisone in there," said my long-suffering hand surgeon.

Remembering how painful it was the last time he stuck a needle into one of my hands, I blanched at the suggestion. "Or, I could just, you know, give up knitting. And fishing around in my purse for change. And brushing my hair. That's another option I'd be perfectly willing to consider."

"Well, we can also try immobilizing it for a few weeks, and you can take Advil--"

"Yes! Let's do that. I already throw those magic beans back by the fistful. They're not making much of a difference anymore. Maybe if I doubled up again?"

He looked somewhat alarmed.

"I mean, I take them according to the recommendations on the bottle, of course," I added. "Of course. I love my liver. We're very close."

He's so low-key, and such a consummate professional, that I never know if he knows when I'm joking. I hope I bring a little levity to his day.

I chatted with the nurse at the counter about my impending divorce for a bit. We've developed a friendship over the couple of years I've been going in there, despite our rocky start. "Come back just to visit!" she said, after I made my follow-up appointment. I should bake cookies for them.

So, now I have three weeks with what I'm calling The Immobilizer. It looks so imposing that it ought to have a proper name. It extends two-thirds of the way up to my elbow. It's fairly macho, much more substantial than the brace I bought at the store a while back. Doesn't it look like it should have rockets or a laser attached to it? I wonder how much it would cost to rig something like that up. I wonder if he'd laugh out loud if I walked in there with a laser pointer and some Nerf rockets strapped to my wrist.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Winston's Review: Nikon Field Glasses


It's me, Winston J. Schmidt.

I've been keeping pretty busy with hanging around and looking handsome, and coming up with new and creative ways of arranging Fort Winston on Suzanne's bed. I haven't had much time to review Suzanne's stuff lately, but I promised to do more write-ups of my work, so here's something I worked on a while back.

Winston's Art: "Unmaking a Spectacle of Myself"

Materials: Nikon field glasses

My Process: So, Suzanne left us again for, like, three days (half an hour, just long enough to chat with the neighbors across the street - ed.) and she put her purse in the closet, so I had to be more creative with this one.

I couldn't find anything good in the kitchen, and she'd emptied the trash in all of the bathrooms. I though about eating a remote control, but I got bored after gnawing on the battery.

I was pretty bummed that I couldn't find any more eyeglasses, because that's still my favorite medium. I found the next best thing up in the library, though. These binoculars came in a big, soft case, and they're made of glass and plastic, so they're practically giant eyeglasses. So, uh, you can't blame a guy for making an honest mistake, right?

I didn't get much of a chance to do anything creative with them, because Suzanne came home too soon. I only got as far as chewing them into tiny pieces on my bed. I think I did a good job considering the tight deadline, though.

Conclusion: The case wasn't real leather, which was disappointing. The field glasses were much more complex than eyeglasses, so chewing them was about a hundred times more satisfying. Overall, this was a fun project.

Suzanne doesn't leave us alone in the house anymore, not even when she's out in the garage working out, so it might be a little while before I get to do another large-scale review. Don't worry, though. She'll drop her guard before too long, and I'll get back to work.

Anyway, thanks for reading along.


Winston J. ‘Bug’ Schmidt

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Challenge My Nuts!

"Challenge my nuts!"

I used to work with a guy who would shout that from his office. He'd bring in seasoned pistachios - wasabi, cayenne, and something even hotter - and try to get people to eat more of them than he could. Most people wouldn't take him up on the challenge, but that wasn't really the point. The fun was in the invitation. "Are my nuts too much for you?!"

English wasn't his first language, but he was fluent in it. Fluent enough to know that what he was saying was borderline inappropriate, but that if he said it with a heavy enough accent, nobody would call him on it for fear of embarrassing him. "What if he doesn't know what he's saying is funny?"

He'd been in the U.S. for decades. He knew. But he'd sit in his office and joyfully yell out, "Mike! Try to put my nuts in your mouth!"

I finished Emerald Across the Bay on Sunday in a less-than-stellar 1:43:15. I finished Bay to Breakers twelve minutes faster than that last year, even though I was laboring under the strain of trying to keep a Gatorade gel shot from tearing my guts apart from the inside. I was hoping for somewhere around 1:30:00 for EAB, given how much more training I've been doing this year. I'd like to blame Belligero for adding to my weight, but he's only about two ounces. More likely, the issue was poor pre-race nutrition, and a lack of pacing. I ran too fast early on, and lost steam at about mile marker 5.

I consider Sunday's finish a success anyway, because I felt good after I crossed the line, and I'm not limping today. In fact, I went out running with part of my team this evening, and we're going out again on Thursday. I'm learning that it's not the Olympics; I don't have to leave everything I have out on the trail during every run.

The question isn't whether I'll be able to finish the half-marathon. I already know that I can walk thirteen miles without breaking a sweat. The question is whether I'll do it the way I want to do it, running across the finish line, ready to turn around and do it again. I'm hopeful.

A couple of my friends commented on my picture when I put it on Facebook. "That's a *real* Suzanne smile!" Yes. Yes, it is.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Prep Talk

I sit on the bed for a long time with my jacket still fastened and my scarf around my neck. I know I should get some sleep, but I'm kind of...I don't know. It feels weird to be here by myself. Not at all bad, but weird. I feel like I should go back out and do something, like the evening shouldn't be over.

I spend half an hour carefully laying out my things for tomorrow morning, then rearranging them on the other bed to take this picture. I don't feel any less wound up.

I realize that I feel that way because this is the first time in my life - in my entire life - that I've gone out of town and stayed by myself without it being for work. This is my first solo personal trip.

I set the alarm clock and two separate alarms on my phone. I try to get the alarm for the Touchpad to work, but it refuses to make a sound. I spend longer than I should trying to get onto a network so that I can look for a better app for it. I give up after twenty minutes, when I realize that I'm just procrastinating, that I won't need the Touchpad. If I'm this nervous about waking up on time, I'm not going to need more than two alarms anyway. I'll wake up every hour between now at 6:00, anyway. That's how I am.

Everything is ready for tomorrow. I have my gel shots, my water pack, my spare socks, and my D-tag. I have my headphones, and my rain hat, and my race bib. I have Belligero ready to go into a secure location so that he can run with me.

I don't feel ready for tomorrow.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Today is the vernal equilux. Yes, I spelled it correctly. It's equilux. The equinox is still a few days away, but today is still an awesome day. In fact, this might be my favorite day of the year.

Sunrise and sunset are as near to twelve hours apart as they'll be for the next six months. The days only get longer from here. This is exciting stuff.

Sure, there's the promise of spring renewal blah-blah and late afternoons watching kids play in the sprinklers blah-blah-blah and summertime blah. That's all great, but that's not why I'm so jazzed about today.

I'm night-blind and therefore a real danger behind the wheel within a half hour of sundown. I can drive in an emergency, like, say, if my entire neighborhood is on fire and zombies are shambling out of the flames while hungrily smacking their undead gums. If I were the only one of the living who could drive, I'd pile my incapacitated neighbors and their children into my car and barrel out of here, and I wouldn't worry about who I might hit, because I'd most likely be hitting zombies, or the dude down the street that nobody likes all that much.

That's not a likely scenario, not because of the zombie thing, but because I don't know how every single one of my neighbors of driving age would lose the use of their arms and legs, and, if they had, why the zombies wouldn't have gotten to them before I could drag them to safety. Never mind that my whole neighborhood is ablaze for God knows what reason, it's just damned unlikely that I'm going to be the only one of us still standing. But, if I were and it was a dark, moonless night, I'd be willing to give night driving a shot.

Under normal, non-zombie conditions, me driving in the dark isn't worth the risk. The few times that I've been caught out at late dusk, I've almost hit people in crosswalks, or broadsided motorcyclists because I couldn't tell where they were on the road. I'm legitimately afraid that I'll kill somebody.

As a result, I have to carefully plan my days around sunset. I don't get to do as much as I'd like in the evenings, because I have to be done driving before dark. I can't take evening art classes, and I can't take the dogs to training. Friends will meet up after work for drinks and billiards, but I can't join them unless I get my car all the way home and get a ride back to meet them. If traffic is too thick on my way home from work, I don't even get to stop and pick up milk.

I know that it put a lot of pressure on Peter. No matter how hard I tried to not add to what he saw as his already overloaded list of responsibilities, things would come up and I'd have to count on him to be here to ferry me somewhere. "Are you going to be home to drive Molly and me to her class?" It was a big, stressful pain in the ass every week, as he'd barely get home in time to get us, then turn right back around and race to training, irritated and keyed up. It wasn't ever a fun thing, not like the classes during the summer, when the dogs and I were able to do it on our own without putting anyone else out. A lot of things were like that, not just with the dogs.

Toward the end, when he was telling me about how tired he was of "managing" me, and I was trying to tell him that it's just as hard for me to have to rely on other people, he snapped, "You could just take cabs, you know." That stung as much as anything else he's said to me, that he not only wouldn't acknowledge that it was hard for me to ask for help, but that it made him think less of me when I did. "You could just take cabs." (And stop burdening me with your weakness.)

When it's lighter, I can get around just like everyone else does. That's why this is my favorite day of the year. It's the promise of months of increased independence and freedom, of being able to do more than one errand before locking up my car for the night, of not having to race the sun to my house. It's the first day of the year that darkness doesn't get the better of light.

I don't even care that it's raining. I know the sun's up there.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Whether Balloon

Not the company in question.

I have a note at the top of one of my to-do lists in my phone. It reads:

Vodka. Blimp

The short phrase is written that way - capital-V-vodka-period-space-capital-B-blimp-no-ending-punctuation - because I tapped it into Evernote with my right thumb while I was driving down the freeway.

Now, I'm pretty anti-texting when I'm on the road. The reason I don't drive my beloved silver Volkswagen anymore is that I sold it to my friend. She'd crashed her convertible into a creek on her way home from a party. By the time she regained consciousness and climbed up the bank, emergency vehicles were waiting for her. She knew what they must have thought. It was late in the evening, hers was the only car involved in the accident on a fairly straight road, and she was staggering unsteadily toward a phalanx of police and EMTs. "It's not what you think! I'm not drunk!" She held up her phone, still dripping from its dunking in the muddy water. "I was TEXTING!"

I hadn't had a smartphone for that long back then, so I didn't understand how easy it is to get sucked into doing things that are just a little careless. "Just put your phone in the trunk if you can't keep your hands off of it. You're not crashing MY car into a river, sister! Besides, you aren't the only person on the road, you know." It sounds funny to me now.

Anyway, I was driving home from work earlier this week, and my phone was on my lap, since it's also my music when I'm in the car. Don't judge. I set up playlists before I put it into gear.

Just to the west of the freeway, something was drifting a few hundred feet above the trees. I kept glancing over to see what it was, but it was a little too far ahead of me to be able to make out the shape. It looked like an ad balloon suspended above a new housing development, but I didn't get any closer to it as I drove up the road. When I got near enough to see that it was a blimp, moving along with the flow of traffic, I tried to figure out what it was advertising. I spent a lot of time squinting up and to the left.

I wasn't alone. I could see drivers in the cars around me doing the same thing. We were all more interested in the blimp than in our regular commute.

Here's what I don't understand about blimp advertising. Why is it targeting drivers on the freeway? Doesn't that seem inherently unsafe? Shouldn't we all be focused on the road instead of trying to figure out what's floating around at NewsCopter 7 level? I thought on that for a few minutes, while still transfixed by dirigible billboard.

That's about the time that I got close enough to read side of the airship. "(name withheld to protect the company) Vodka." Not only was this thing distracting thousands of drivers after their long workdays, but it was also making all of them think about drinking. Hell, for all I know, some of them might have pulled off the freeway and bought a fifth of (name withheld to protect the company) Vodka. At best, it's creating a legion of distracted drivers. At worst, it's creating a legion of distracted drivers unable to see that they're sharing the road with a bunch of drunks. Who thought this branch of the ad campaign was anything less than foolhardy and dangerous?

I wanted to remember to be thoroughly outraged once I got home, so that I could contact the distillery and give them a piece of my mind. "I'll forget all about it if I don't have some kind of reminder. Rubber band around my wrist? Move my purse to a different seat? What if I don't recall what those things are supposed to remind me to do? Dammit! If only I had a way to make a note. If only..."

And that's how I ended up texting while driving down the freeway, and almost ramming into the back of a Ford Focus. I was doing it for all of us, for our safety. Maybe a little bit so that the company in question would try to pay for my silence with cases of sweet, sweet liquor, sure, but mostly for our safety. You're welcome.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The first thing Big Guy said when I told him that Peter was moving out? "You can come live with me."

I might have a lot of uncertainty in my life, but I never have to worry about whether or not the boys have got my back.

Monday, March 12, 2012

From the Peanut Gallery

O.K., so if you were wondering whether or not Suzanne was going to keep up with posting every day? Uh, looks like no.

Love, Winston

Winston? Guy, this post means I posted today. I'm still in it.

You're welcome.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rice Krispy

We've now reached the point where I have to decide whether or not to go to the doctor.

My hand surgeon predicted this problem a couple of years ago. He and the physical therapist both noticed that weird things were happening with both of my hands.

Me: "Aren't tendons supposed to slip off the knuckles when you make a tight fist? To get out of the way if something?"

Hand Surgeon: "No, that's absolutely not what they're supposed to do."

Me: "Then mine are better than everyone else's, because they have a protective adaptation! Woohoo!"

Hand Surgeon: "It's going to be a problem at some point. It doesn't hurt now?"

Me: "Nope! My only problem is my mangled pinkie, so if we can focus on that, we'll be cool."

Hand Surgeon: "Eventually, though..."

Me: "LALALALA! I can't hear you! LALALAAAA!"

I don't want to hear that I have to have surgery, but I can't keep ignoring it. I woke up this morning and wiggled my fingers. Something in the middle of my hand snapped, and something else crackled, and another thing popped. Not good.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

New Choices for a New Life

Saved it!

Today's big choice was whether to get up and meet my running team, or crawl back into bed after slapping at the alarm half a dozen times. I did a little more than six miles before 9:30 a.m. But it was close - really close - to going the other way. This is what I was looking at when I made that decision.

Friday, March 09, 2012

As Clear as the Sun in the Summer Sky

"I'm not happy. I'm not a happy person. And I'd challenge you to ask yourself whether you're actually happy."

I paused for half a second, then answered, "Yep. I'm happy."

"I don't see how you can say that."

"Other than what's going on right here, which obviously sucks? Yeah, I'm happy. Everything else in my life is great. I have great friends, I have two awesome dogs, I look around this house and love the way everything looks, and I feel great. Happy."

I don't think he believed me on that afternoon a few months ago, and I don't think he'd believe me now if he asked again, but I know it's true.

I've been catching myself whistling as I walk to the cafeteria. When people ask me how I'm doing, I reply, "I'm good!" and don't have to force it. People tell me that there's a brightness about me now.

The biggest happiness tell is that I sing. I find myself scrolling through my music player before I get on the road, making sure that I have a good selection of songs in my range queued up. I sing most of the way to work in the morning, and all the way home. I make up jingles and serenade the dogs while I'm getting their dinner ready. It just comes bubbling out.

Yesterday, stopped at a crowded traffic light and belting out 'More Than a Feeling' while accompanying the clap track by pounding on my dashboard, I started laughing. "You're welcome, fellow commuters! There's no way this isn't f&$king hilarious. When I hear that old song play...more than a feelin'..."

"I challenge you to ask yourself whether you're actually happy."

Challenge accepted, and I've already won.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Controlling the Weather

I have magical powers, readers. Magical powers. I have singlehandedly mastered the ability to change the weather. I brought springtime to Northern California five weeks early. It's been at least sixty degrees and sunny for all but one day in the last month.

And all because I knit a hat.


You Don't Know Our Women. I loved this pattern when it came out, and have been shuffling the printout around on my desk for a long time.

Rowan Big Wool- 65.3 yards, Manos Del Uruguay - 70.4 yards, held double. That's two colors of Manos, one at 26.2 yards and the other at 44.2. In total, that makes it about a hundred yards of bulky yarn.

The Big wool was left over from a hat I made several years ago, and the Manos remnants were from an Absolutely Fabulous throw that I made before I started blogging.

Addi Turbos, US11, and wooden double-points, same size. The Addis are 16" circulars, and that turned out to be, well, not such a good idea.

About six hours, give or take. I carried it around in my purse for about a month, and had to rescue it from a dog's mouth and restart it a couple of times, but once I cast on the last time, it was only a few hours of solid work to finish it.

First off, there are the stripes. About halfway up, I knew I wasn't going to have enough Big Wool to make this thing. I didn't realize that I didn't have a full ball of it, and I didn't bother to weigh it before I started. Hey, it still had the ball-band! Why would I have done that with half a ball? I went digging in the oddball bin for some compatible options, but nothing jumped out at me. Luckily, the Manos looked pretty good with the Big Wool, so I plowed forward.

A couple of rows from the next cable cross, I ran out of yarn. I decided that having the color changes happen on the cable rows was more important than the cables being uniform from bottom to top, so I shortened it up. Brilliant! Except...

I didn't have as much of the mustard as I did of the plum, so that section ended up being even shorter. I didn't have enough of the grey left, so that section was shorter than the very short mustard section, and so on. I think it might actually make my head look larger, because it makes the top of it look like it's farther away than the bottom, like you're standing on the sidewalk, looking up at a really tall building.

The problem with the short cable needle was that I really hurt my hand knitting this hat. The extensor tendons running down from my second and third fingers are so irritated that sometimes I can't fasten buttons. It's not much better now than it was a month ago.

"Suzanne, what did you do now? Why is your hand wrapped up like a burrito?" I'm asked this question at least twice a day, which is a lot, since I don't get up from my desk much.

"Knitting injury," I reply brightly.

"Did you stab yourself with a needle?"

"Don't give me any ideas. You know my luck."

Even with the hand injury keeping me on the knitting sidelines, I'm in a good mood about this hat. I love that it came out a little long, so it'll cover my ears. I used some yarn that I've wanted to destash for years. It's going to be super-warm when I need it to be. Probably next December.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Learning to Fly

Oak Tree - February 26, 2012

Today's NaBloPoMo prompt is "Would you rather have invisibility or the ability to fly?"

I don't even have to think about it. I'm all about flying.

Invisibility seems like a tool for skulking about, for going places you're not meant to go, seeing things you're not meant to see, hearing things that aren't for your ears. "You'd get to hear what people were saying about you!" What a nightmare. "You could go anywhere you wanted!" Like a ghost? Everything going on around me and I'm just an observer, can't be a part of it? Nobody can share it with me, because they don't know I'm there? I would be so lonely. I can't think of a single instance where I'd want to be invisible.

But I've always wanted to fly. I love airplanes, love looking out the window at the ground below. I try to figure out where I am by studying the geologic features. I'm always thrilled when I find something familiar. I don't even care where I land as long as I get to go up in the air, and I'm always a little sad when the wheels touch down.

I never have dreams where I'm flying, just dreams where I glide a few inches above the ground. I don't know if that means I'd be afraid of going higher, or if I'm simply content to skate along a foot above the sidewalk. I'm usually walking next to someone, having a pleasant conversation while moving my feet back and forth as if I were dangling them in a swimming pool. I always wake up happy from those dreams.

Monday, March 05, 2012


Molly: +1
Interlacements Oregon Worsted: -650

I'm a couple of hours into straightening the mess out.

I've had this ball of yarn for a few years, trying to decide whether I want it to become the Back-to-School U-Neck Vest or the variegated color in a retry of a long-gone Gloria. Maybe she was trying to tell me to get on with it, to stop pulling this extra-large yarn cake out of the bin and looking at it, only to put it back a couple of months later. Maybe she was trying to get me to stop dithering. Or maybe she was just bored.

Whatever the reason, I walked upstairs and found her stretched out on the library floor, a beautiful mound of yarn between her dainty paws. She was chewing on it quietly, relaxed and happy in a beam of sunlight.

"O.K., sugar, time to do something else. Good puppy! If it'd been Winston, there'd be cut pieces mixed in here. You are such a gentle girl!" The happy-leader voice distracted her from her favorite new chew toy, allowing me to pull it away from her and pat her on the head. She trotted downstairs and curled up next to Winston by the front window. I don't think she even missed it, another way that she differs from Winston. He'd have tried to get to that yarn every time I turned my back.

I'm working on winding it up. I still don't know which project I want it to be, but spending so much time looking at it has made me determined to use it sooner rather than later. But at least I know my sweet puppy won't completely destroy my knitting before I realize that she has it...

Molly! >sigh<

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Standing Up

It's been a little more than four years since my dad died.

A few weeks ago, on what would have been his 94th birthday, I found myself alone on my couch. Peter had said that he would go out with me for red meat and vodka, two of my dad's favorite things, but he'd canceled a couple of hours earlier. "The cold is still kicking my ass. I can try to rally later and maybe come by."

"No, don't do that," I wrote back. "I'm having a rough time, but it's just a day."

"You're stronger than me in that way. Well, thanks for understanding."

I'd wanted to text back that I wasn't strong, that I was tired of hearing how understanding I was being, that I didn't understand any of what he was doing. I wanted to break down and have him rush over to try to make me feel better. I wanted none of this to be happening. In lieu of any of that, I wanted someone to go out and talk about my dad with me, share funny memories of him. I was tempted to blurt all of that out and see if guilt would get me, at least temporarily, the tiniest bit of what I felt I needed.

I didn't do it, though. I told him to take care of himself and get some sleep. It was the right thing to do, even though it hurt. I guess that was what he meant about me being strong and understanding, even though I didn't feel it. All I felt was alone.

I wandered into the other room, turned on the television, and curled up on the couch. I laid there motionless for hours, so still that my ear went numb from being pressed into the cushion, watching second-rate episodes of Law and Order. It grew dark outside, and the house got cold. I pulled a dog blanket over myself and sighed.

Finally, I shook myself upright. "What are you doing sitting here in the dark? This isn't what Dad would do. Dad would have picked himself up and moved forward, not curled up in a ball feeling sorry for himself. Get up! You're being ridiculous." Right about that time, Ween invited me across the street for wine and popcorn. I got up, brushed my hair, tugged my dad's knit cap over my ears, and headed over to her house. I felt good about honoring his memory by pulling up hard on my own bootstraps.

Funny thing, though. That's not what my dad would have done. My dad would have stayed on the couch under the dog blanket, moping to the point of making himself physically ill. I'd seen him do it, wander around the house for days in a thin, cotton v-neck and sagging sweatpants because one of my brothers didn't call him on Father's Day, or because the Giants had just ended a losing season. He did not handle disappointment or sadness well. I can't remember ever hearing him tell anyone, including himself, to buck up and move forward.

I'd made up this story about how I got that strength from him, the perseverance and the drive. "You keep going, and you don't quit. That's how Dad would have done it. That's who he was and I'm just like him." I'd idealized him, and then congratulated myself on striving to achieve that ideal for myself.

The truth is simpler and more profound. I keep going and I don't quit because that's who I am. That's what I do.

The 'whether" in this story is a choice I am constantly making and reevaluating - whether to stand up or fall down. Whether to draw into the easy cocoon of my sofa, encasing myself in a velour blanket under a hundred pounds of dog, or to reach out and grab the hands that are being extended toward me, to go out into the world and live. The cocoon is easy. Pulling away from it is more challenging. Every couple of weeks, I fall down. The trick is to figure out how to stand back up again. I'm learning.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Sunrise from My Window

One of the things I've been dealing with lately is whether to change the narrative tone of the last two decades of my life, whether and at what point "we" becomes "I". There were so many great episodes in our eighteen-year run. I can't abandon them all because one of the actors has abruptly left the show. But how do I change the stories so that telling them doesn't sound like I'm clinging to the memory of that old life?

"My husband and I used to..."

"We loved to..."

"Accountant Boy was always..."

I'm still working it out on a case-by-case basis. I rarely use "we" anymore. I'm starting to retell our stories as mine alone. It feels strange, like re-cutting a beloved film after watching it hundreds of times.

The one thing I am going to do, starting with this post, is move forward by retiring his alias. "Accountant Boy" was a loving, jokey nickname I gave him not long after we met. I kept it for the blog, because I wanted everyone I talk about to have at least a tiny bit of plausible anonymity. Long after that became impossible, when everyone started signing up on Facebook with their honest-to-God names, he was still Accountant Boy here.

That isn't who he is anymore. He's moved past that, both professionally and personally. Accountant Boy doesn't fit now.

Peter. His name is Peter.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Here, Puss-Puss!

Sometimes when I'm sitting at my computer, waiting for Doc to pick me up for happy hour, I pass the time by taking online surveys. I can't divulge what the companies are surveying, but I can say that I've given opinions on a wide variety of subjects over the last few weeks, and I've earned a whopping $22 for it.

Many times, I don't make it past the screening portion of the survey. They don't say why, but there are times that it's fairly obvious that they're looking for someone other than a 41-year-old separated childless healthy white woman with good bladder control. Sometimes, more often than not now that I've been doing this a while, I can suss out what they're looking for during the screening process, and this is where things get sticky.

Because this is where I have to decide whether or not to lie.


The potential for lying spans a wide range. There are reasonable fibs. "'How soon do you plan to buy a new car?' Well, I don't know. What if something happened to my car tomorrow? Then I'd plan to buy one next week. Really, who can predict even the near future? Six months ago, did I think I'd be on the road to being divorced? No, I did not. I'll put '1 to 6 months.'"

"'Do you own a cat?' I did live with a cat for many years, so I feel qualified to answer questions as a cat...owner? Owner is such a messed-up term for what Buddy and I had. He was my housemate and companion, not a piece of furniture. If the wording is going to be that offensive, then I don't feel bad about jumping into this survey."

It's a slippery slope.


For the most part, I am truthful. Early on in my survey-taking hobby, I settled on a few constants that don't have any wiggle room. The number of people in my household is one (1). I don't count the dogs as children, and I don't count Accountant Boy, even though this is still legally his home. We haven't officially filed any paperwork, so we're still married, but I put 'separated' in my marital status. The truth trumps technicalities. I mark my income accurately, never lower to get into a bargain-hunting bracket, and not higher, even though it might get me into fancier surveys where they'd, I don't know, send me samples of caviar and ask me to rate private air travel.

I am unfailingly honest about ethnicity. I'm Basque, Spanish Basque on my grandmother's side, so I feel that claiming Spanish ancestry is valid. Some surveys ask in those terms. I am not Hispanic, Chicana or Latina - they aren't interchangeable with each other or with Spanish - so I don't ever check the box if those are the only options. Even this gets me into murky water. I do get surveys entirely in Spanish, which I would be able to read and answer, but I opt out of them. I know they're not intended for me.

So, ninety-nine percent of the time, I am honest to a fault when taking surveys. I can tell you, though, that I debate whether or not to stretch believability every time. Every single time. And the one percent of the time that my better angel loses to the devil on my other shoulder?

That's why there's a bag of cat litter in my garage. And why I'm going to buy a bottle of ammonia so that I can test its efficacy tomorrow. I haven't decided what to name my imaginary cat yet. Maybe Fong.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Whether

I've done it again. I signed up for another NaBloPoMo month. November's was a bit of a bust, what with my marriage disintegrating, and the three weeks of bone-jarring coughing that came with this year's flu. There were some days that I was too dizzy to raise my head off of the pillow. There were other days where all I could do was wander around my house crying. November was a bad month, is what I'm saying. I'm glad it's over.

March is looking much better. I'm adjusting to the life of a single gal, and I'm getting back to things that I loved, things that I let go because we didn't do them. We didn't have time, or we were too tired, or we had too much that we had to do. Now that it's just me, I get to figure out what I do.

I've joined a running team, and we're training for a half-marathon in May. I've learned that I have to be creative about holding myself accountable. I can talk myself out of anything if I'm the only one who gives a damn. I just talk myself into not giving a damn. I almost did it last week, when the alarm went off before dawn on Saturday morning. Knowing that my team would be at the trail head at 7:45, I hauled myself out of my warm, comfortable bed and put on my running clothes. I couldn't let my new friends down. The half-marathon benefits the American Heart Association, so I have sponsors who are expecting me to run this thing. I can't let them down, either. Finally, to make sure I stayed on track with the training, I signed up and paid for three additional races. That's my money, precious and in short supply now that my household income has been cut by 2/3rds. I can't let myself down by wasting it.

We're here and you're reading this because I've also committed to writing again. I read about A-to-Z April on another blog a couple of days ago, and signed up for it. Right after that, I got the email from NaBloPoMo. Giving myself a challenging goal rather than easing into things seemed to have fired me up for running, so I figured it'd work for writing, too. Back-to-back blogging months it is, then.

March's theme is 'Whether'. I have a lot of 'whether' in my life right now. I wonder whether I'm going to be O.K. or not, whether I'm making the right moves and the right choices for myself. I think about whether I want to plant a garden or save time and buy all of my produce from people who grow it for a living. I debate whether I want to put ale or lager in my keg fridge. I wonder whether I'm going to be strong enough to do the things I want and need to do.

There are many uncertainties, many possibilities. It's exciting. This is going to be an exciting month, whether I'm ready for it or not.