Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Amateur Night

Really, Turlock? It's a little early, isn't it?

So it's a quarter to six, and we're already hearing sirens. Seriously, guys: be careful out there and watch out for the amateurs.

...Aaaand it's just occurred to me that not everybody calls this Amateur Night, so a little explanation, if you haven't come across that one: for a lot of people, this is the One Night a year they drink themselves into stupors, and they do not know how to take care of themselves when they do, because they have no real prior experience (amateurs). Seasoned drinkers hopefully know better than to drive around or decide to fire off a celebratory gunshot after a couple bottles of champagne or many a cocktail, and plan ahead to avoid dangerous behaviors, but some of the people who save it all up for one or two nights a year, all the underaged kids mooching at parties, etc, are unprepared for their own potential assholery and ineptitude and don't make those kinds of plans.

Chris and I and our best friend neighbors planned way ahead, and moved into the same townhouse complex, so we live within staggering distance of one another. We're having a domestic pub crawl between our places (which will probably involve a lot of games--planning for Scattergories, Apples to Apples, and Legos VS Lincoln Logs, because we are so still 4 years old), because it doesn't involve crossing a street or getting in cars, just driveways. If we run out of something, we just walk 30 yards in a safe space to the other's place. If anyone decides they need to get naked before wandering home, it's not even on a main drag, and they'll only be out in the open exposed to the elements for a minute. If anyone passes out, they're already in a safe place. Plus, no cab fare required.

Hoping everyone else's plans are as exciting and safe, LOVE

Fred's New Look

Oh! Thought I'd posted this!

I'll eventually upload/link to the pictures of Fred's roots, week by week, but I didn't remember to get one last one of his long, happy roots, before I potted him up, last week.

But after starting as a trodden-upon, wilty, rotty vine in the kinko's dirty parking lot, Fred has now finally graduated to Houseplant, and Mascot extraordinaire, in a pretty Talavera pot, braced upright by his own strength (+ physics of dirt and leverage), instead of a bathroom wall. Yes, he's got a couple scars. Yes, he's small. But he is Strong and he is Beautiful. See him, and be inspired! Take heart! Feel the love! You, too, are Strong and Beautiful.

Chleben in the mail! Chleben in the mail! WOO!!

Okay, am I the only person in the world who is really happy to get a fruitcake for Christmas? Really?

Or is Polish Christmas chleben from Chris's Aunt Mary Jo just not representative of the creature known as fruitcake? It is the only kind I've had. It looks like fruitcake looks. It has tiny, chewy bright bits of bitter candied orange peel and sweet raisins in it. It is in dense loaf form. It is sweet and strange and delicious.

Come on, what's so bad about fruitcake?

(Hope y'all are having nice holidays and are being safe for New Year's Eve. Have a great new year, everybody.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

...and there's reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last...

So, 2008. I've been trying to put it into perspective, but I keep just coming up shocked with, "Wait, that was this year, too?" This year has felt about eight years long. And yet I keep being surprised it's almost over. Maybe I've lost the sense that years do, eventually, end.

It's been a hard year. A really, really hard year.

So, the necessary retrospective follows. This year...

We had to put our Lancelot to sleep. Starting a cycle of panic attacks rooted in "But--but what if..."s and me having to hash through the entire decision making process again, every single time, to shut down the more traitorous and inventive parts of my brain. Frequently. Still. And an occasionally crippling depression.
Relatedly, since then, I have not been able to deal with the concept of, mentions of, fictional portrayals of, euthanasia, or any (attempted) killing of an animal or person out of a sense of it being the right thing or the only thing to do (especially, of course, if it isn't actually as good an idea as it sounded--the horrible murder of Caesar or the suicide of Marc Antony in Rome, Desdemona in Othello, the We3 in We3--but even when there are no choices, like Max in I Am Legend, etc) ...and I seem to be seeing a lot of it, this year, as witnessed here. Even little things... I'm too frayed. Arthur lies like roadkill, a lot (boneless and twisted at odd angles), and being prone to irreverent and macabre humor generally, every time I see that I automatically tease, "Aw, roadkill kitty!" and then feel sick. ("So cold... so cold...." is also common currency in our house, and every time I do it, I have to fight off panic and imagining Lancelot in my arms and probably feeling cold.)
...This has been the hardest thing in my life I've ever had to experience. I've lost my father, two grandparents, and plenty other family and friends to death, and many more friends to every other kind of separation, I've seen so much sickness and wasting, peaceful and not, but I've never been responsible for euthanasia and the impossible guilt of it, and this has come very close to ruining me. I am not built to be in that position. I am incapable.

...We lost a fishy, too.
A friend from the choir passed away.
I didn't get to sing in one of the concerts for said choir, this year, due to my own bad planning.
My uncle was arrested--again--and kicked out for good, and I haven't seen him since before *last* Thanksgiving. I haven't heard from him either, except for when...
...Great Uncle Dick died, and it was proved that there's not even enough civility or communication between branches of my family to really spread the word, or share commemoration plans.
There were root canals and crowns.
..and noticeable worsening of TMJ, weight gain and lack-of-loss, depression, anxiety, paranoia, grief, hopelessness, lethargy.
My 84 year old grandmother was robbed and has been very seriously rocked by it.
Collapse of the housing market, the stock market, the car industry, American industry in general. Also a budget crisis and other moves at the university that are putting Chris's (and a ton of other people's) job at risk, and has meant he's had to fight almost non-stop the entire semester, and most of the semester before, without any real sense of reprieve or rest. His anxiety and exhaustion have become critical, a few times.
Two friends from the CSU system have come up dangerously (potentially terminally) sick.
California caught fire, several times, including once sufficient to force my cousin and her family to evacuate, and coat everyone else I know here in ash.
Countless problems for many, many people in my family, and for friends.
Family politics (and community politics) have come to a few crescendos of the kind that I'm apparently no longer able to cope with or distance myself from enough to not spiral into despair when even something as innocuous as an email about disowning so-and-so, or a political or social fwd. or op-ed or letter to the editor comes up. See: Global Warming, Prop 8, presidential and local elections, and Family Fun.
I frequently just actively ache, related to any or all of the points above.


This was a year of good travel. We went to Puebla, my first time to Mexico, and fell in love. Even after losing Lancelot and friends and family, I felt whole for a while, and ate well, and saw beautiful things, and met beautiful philosophers, and had a good time. We got 300 Pinochle (the rarest combination of cards in Pinochle, suffice it to say) 5 times in 6 games sitting at a little table in our hotel, over two nights of playing.
We went to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and saw fantastic plays (though Othello killing Desdemona just before bedtime did traumatize) and I got to meet Chris's wonderful friend Nancy, and stand in the ocean and wash my face with the Pacific, and there's nothing more healing than the ocean.
We went to San Francisco for my birthday, and saw Cabaret, and it was amazing (though also traumatizing).
We went to Pittsburgh, and I got to meet and absolutely fall for Chris's oldest friend Bob, and re-meet and absolutely fall for his best friend from grad school, Dave.
We got to go to Ohio for a pre-Christmas, and it snowed--my first White 'Christmas' ever--and got to meet my nephews, their wives, and their babies (!!!!!). I also got to see three picture albums full, including some dangerously hot pictures of teenage and college Chris (maybe more on this, later).
This has been a good year for new friends.

I finished my first year at work, and was liked well enough that they kept me, and gave me a raise, and told me they loved me.
Presidential election--'nuff said. Barely perceptible loosening of the shoulders and soothing of the nerves.
We've got few friends here, but we've grown closer to them.
Christina goes with me to give blood, now, and they've streamlined the process (except I still have to explain to them every time how Puebla is not a malaria area, and show them on the map where it is). This actually does make a noticeable difference in my life.
I had choir, and it was good.
I learned to knit, knit in the round, and knit cables, and have been wailing on it (although the carpal tunnel is forcing a stop, at the moment).
I've written 57k of a novel, and I did 53k of it in one month. I also wrote a ton of fic, and plenty on several other writing projects.
I've gotten a little better at the guitar, and have been playing piano a little more, and even the flute.
We've written songs.
I've read a lot--a lot--of books, and enjoyed them. (Did I mention I've almost finished writing one of my own? Yes? Well, let's mention that again.)
I'm actively working on how I eat and how I play and work to try to jump-start the thyroid and serotonin and mental habits generally, and I do feel like I'm feeling a little better.
My grandmother has recovered very, very well from last year's stroke, if not from the burglary.
We're saving money to eventually buy a house. The option to do it this summer (or next) is probably gone, but we'll be stabler in two and a half years than we would be in one half of one, and we'll get to live staggering distance from our best friends for two years more than we would have, which is important.

And we got these kittens. These beautiful, wonderful, 13-pounds-each 10-month-old monsters, who love constantly, and love hard, and love wonderfully, and are trying very hard to save the world (or at least us) with that amazing love.

So.. Well...

I guess what I'm getting at is this. All my life I've believed myself to be an optimist, but I can't, even in the face of all of this, get myself to think this year has been a good one, even on balance. I can't manage it. But.. I couldn't get rid of it, either. Everything that happens is by definition reliant on everything else that happened before it to be that way--situations come out of other situations, and no matter how horrible or traumatic something is, you can't have anything else that came after it without it, even if it's not a trade-off you'd have orchestrated. (Chris had to be married miserably and come out to California and be in a tough position for us to meet, for instance. You've got your own examples to work with, I know.) I would not have made these arrangements. Ever. But there's a new year coming, with these loves and these opportunities and these joys, and there's hope.

I guess I can't ask for more than that.