Monthly Archives: September, 2013

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

I’ve been experiencing a wicked bout of insomnia the last few weeks, and it’s making me a little nutty. Okay, fine, nuttier. I know it’s a combination of stress and anticipation, combined with pretty intense pain from a knee problem. Even when I manage to fall asleep, I awaken repeatedly through the night, unable to find a comfortable place to keep my knee, or a way to turn off my brain. And because of the knee problem, I was advised to stop exercising for a bit, which can’t be helping either. All things considered, I can’t remember the last time I slept through the evening and woke up feeling fresh and renewed.

I’ve never been an easy sleeper. As a child I resisted going to bed, and I confess to discovering No-Doze as a teen and thinking I had found my cure. I hadn’t, and it wasn’t a good thing. As an adult, I have a prescription for Ambien, but try to use it only for travel, and dire emergencies. I haven’t bought a car or a house while under its influence, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to become reliant on it.

Ironically, I come from a hearty line of sleepers. My mom would fall asleep on the couch every night while we watched TV. My sister could literally drop to sleep on a paper towel. My best friend has to fight to stay awake past 8:00 p.m. And therefore, she also wakes at 4:00 a.m. like the good pilgrim she is. This is one of the reasons we no longer share a room when we travel. But even on my best nights, my night time routine involves shutting off any stimulating entertainment at least 60 minutes prior to my goal bedtime. Then reading something gentle, like a children’s novel or a cookbook, until I intentionally shut off the lights and try to meditate myself to sleep. I have never in my life fallen asleep on a plane, train or even come home after a late and exhausting night to simply fall into bed and meet Mr. Sandman. I am not a casual sleeper.

I am, however, a fantastic dreamer. I have great, Technicolor dreams that are like movies. In my dreams, I soar and swoop through buildings, and take swashbuckling adventures. I have frequent visits with my mom, and have even been able to continue the conversation with my lost friend. Not lost through death, but through dishonor, in a terrible way that brought no closure and grieves me 5 years later. In my dreams, I can laugh with him again, and see him as the friend I loved, not the man who shattered my heart.

Unfortunately, during this recent bout of sleeplessness, even my dreams have turned on me. Last week, I dreamed that I was visiting my sister, but she made me clean her garage. There were rats involved. Yuck! Then, the same night, I dreamt I was homeless, sleeping on the sidewalk in front of a seedy motel, with Daisy and Louie tucked up with me. I awoke as a marauding gang came towards me, and Daisy burst out of our sleeping bag to engage in a pit bull fight. If only, if only, I could understand where that one came from.

It’s going to turn around. The thing I am anticipating will either happen soon, or it won’t. My knee has not improved with the lack of exercise, so this morning, I got back up on that bike. The stress, well, hell, life is stress, I’ll get over it. Soon, I will tuck into bed, read a little Little House, lay down my curly head, and say hi to my Momma. Sweet dreams.

The end, for now

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For Wendy, On Her Birthday

My sister turns 50 today. For some reason, this seems more a profound marking of time to me than my own 50th birthday did. I’m guessing it’s because I’ve known her my whole life, she has always been my little sister, and I imagine when I am 90 and she is 88, she will still be my baby. I am privileged to have many people I love in my life, a great family and wonderful friends. But my relationship with my sister is unique. In addition to being a beloved friend of mine, she is the person I feel the most maternal towards. I would do anything for her, anything to safeguard her. Mild tempered as I am, if anyone hurts my sister, they had better watch out, because I will take them down and not look back.
As the two youngest in a family of five children, and the only girls, Wendy and I shared a bedroom, and would lay awake at night, after lights were out, sharing secrets and giggling. We can still remember hearing our mom down the hall, telling our dad “Grandma broke her toe” and thinking it was the funniest thing we had ever heard. Until the night we heard them talking about another relative, Fanny Weiner. There were jokes about Skinny Bomb Bald Head, and the horse with the dirty underwear. I have no idea what these jokes were about, but the thought of them still makes me happy.
Until we were old enough to rebel, our mother dressed us as twin princesses. Our clothes came from a precious little boutique called Prima Donna, and featured shifts with matching turtlenecks, kicky playsuits and smart little pantsuits. The Brady Girls were outfitted from the same shop, and Marcia Brady would often wear the same ensemble we were sporting. We’re lucky we weren’t regularly beat up.
Wendy and I are about 22 months apart, and closely resemble each other. Additionally, we have similar mannerisms, and sound alike. It always freaks people out when they see us together for the first time, twins but not twins. However, although we share many values and ideals, there are differences between us.
I am, and have always been, a bit of a priss. Wendy was more of a tomboy, and would taunt me by calling me The White Worm. Wendy is a little shy, I am more dramatic. I’m a little more stuck in my head, Wendy is more at one with nature. She’s an animal whisperer, better dresser, and makes the best mix cd’s I’ve ever heard. She is brave, she is beautiful, she is a nurturer. She raised two awesome children, both of whom I adore. She has seen me through hard times and was a wonderful nurse and protector during my recovery from foot surgery last year.
My sister isn’t perfect. I wouldn’t love her as much if she was. We can irritate each other, and of course, over 50 years, there have been squabbles. It never matters, and they are soon mended. No matter what, she will always have my back, and I will always have hers. Last year, when our mother was dying, Wendy went and spent the final week with her. I know she did this partially because it was easier for her to get away, and also to support our oldest brother. But, she also did it to protect me, because I couldn’t have borne it, and I will always be incredibly grateful.
All of these words and it doesn’t come close to conveying how much I love and adore my sister. I am lucky and blessed to have this wonderful woman in my life, and I know it’s a rare and precious gift. My beautiful Nes, you have my heart, you are my heart. Happy Birthday.
The end, for now

Read All About It

I’ve always been a voracious reader. As a child I was definitely one of those “get your head out of the book and go outside” types, as opposed to the “put down the bat and come read for twenty minutes” type. I could spend long, delicious hours, devouring books. My first favorites were The Happy Hollisters. These were a series of children’s mystery novels featuring a plucky, yet sensible group of brothers and sisters, who would somehow stumble upon a mystery wherever they went, and would also somehow solve it by the end.
I’ve reread these books as an adult and realized they all basically had the exact same plot, with a different locale or theme. What I loved about them in addition to their perfect manners, and happy little lives, was that they went to cool locations to solve their mysteries, when they weren’t luxuriating at their lake house with their perfect parents and their dog, Zip. Basically written as they were, they taught me about Switzerland, houseboats, sled dogging, and Indian totem poles, all while solving the mystery du jour.
As a young teen, it was Nancy Drew, all the way, all the time! Again, featuring the pluckiest of heroines, I would revel in Nancy’s adventures. A step up from the Hollisters, with Nancy I travelled to the circus, and saw the world. Nancy and her super cool pals, Bess and George, plus her hunky boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. I rode in the backseat of her kicky convertible coupe all through my early adolescence.
My love of mysteries hasn’t abated, and my taste is for cozy, genteel mysteries. I have read every Agatha Christie many, many times. Every Ngaio Marsh, every Georgette Heyer. Basically, if there’s a country house, especially an English country house, and murder most foul has occurred, I have read it! It’s my idea of comfort food.
This summer I have done a tremendous amount of reading, with this extra time on my hands. At the end of another soul sucking day of looking for work, it’s great solace to cuddle up with a dog on each side and a book in my hands. Note that I still say book. As much as I love my Kindle Fire with a passion that dares not speak its name, given the choice, I’m still going to opt for the old school printed version. There’s definitely something extra to holding the heft of a good book in your hands, with the faint familiar scent of paper perfuming your mind and memory.
That said, I would say I could have used the Kindle while reading Under the Dome this summer. I haven’t reached for a Stephen King novel since the days of The Shining, but I was drawn in by the miniseries and wanted to see how the book compared. 900 pages later, I would definitely say that, as usual, the book was far superior, although I didn’t like how it ended. But, great characters and a suspenseful story, Stephen still knows how to weave a tale.
Most recently, I have been reading The Casual Vacancy, by my much beloved J.K. Rowling. Her first adult book, I had passed on it when it was published, after reading negative reviews. I love Harry Potter more than is reasonable, and I didn’t want in any way to taint that love with disappointment. But after reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, the book she wrote under a pseudonym before being outed, I was intrigued. The Cuckoo’s Calling is an excellent book. Not a cozy mystery, but a riveting and page turning mystery, with great characters. I understand it is the first in a series, and I look forward to the next one.
The Casual Vacancy, on the other hand, has been a big letdown. It’s well written, Rowling certainly knows how to develop rounded characters, but I just have not enjoyed it at all. I’m almost at the end of the book, and I realized last night, I am not enjoying the story, because there’s not a single character I like or relate to. I think that’s the essence of a good book for me, not just a well-conceived plot, but I have to be rooting for someone, to care about what happens to them, in order to have a passion for the story.
I’ll finish the book, I usually do, but it will be a relief when I turn that final page. And then, likely as not, I’ll pick up an old Christie, or even take a visit with my old pals Nancy, Ned and Bess. It will be like a mental sorbet, to refresh my palate and ready me for the next reading adventure.
The End, for now

Disconnected, or, Under the Dome

Monday morning, I was ready to start a productive week, of looking for a job, but also other opportunities, perhaps even part time supplemental work. I have also been thinking about using some of this free time to volunteer, and wanted to add that to my daily research. I found an article online with the 50 Best Places to Work in America, and was dutifully looking each one up, checking their career opportunities and making notes. Daisy started barking at something, and I saw there was a repairman way up on a pole in a neighbor’s yard that had garnered her attention. Glancing out front, I noticed 3 trucks from AT&T parked on the street. I was in the middle of sending a cover letter and resume to an HR Director, and wondering vaguely what all the trucks were for, when my computer crashed. Boom.
I immediately assumed this was the result of something the workers’ were doing and went out front to see if I could flag anyone down. Couldn’t find a soul, so I went back inside and picked up my phone to call AT&T. It was then I remembered, I have everything at the house bundled with AT&T, which means I suddenly had no (landline) phone, internet, wireless service, or, gasp, TV.
I was irrationally angry. This is very much a first world problem, but it took me a while to remember that. I called AT&T (on my cell, of course) and became quickly frustrated with the techie who wouldn’t acknowledge even the possibility that the service workers may have caused my outage. I am usually a very polite person, but I was borderline rude to this person, after we spent 30 minutes wrangling about it. She eventually told me she would have to call service out for me (of course the people already on my street could be of no help), but when she told me she was putting me on hold to get the appointment I was disconnected. I can only suspect it wasn’t an accident.
When I finally reconnected with tech service, we went through the whole set of diagnostics again, even while I was insisting that the problem had to be connected to the work that was being done. The end result was that I was told service had to come out, and was a given a wide window for the following day, through to 8:00 p.m.
I have to confess, the idea of being without internet or TV for more than a day was daunting. The internet has become my lifeline these days, not only my primary source for job hunting but also communicating and staying in touch with people. No Facebook for a day! Quelle horreurs! No TV to get me through the night? What to do? I know there are many people who live happily without TV, and I’m not proud of this, but I have always been a television junkie, and now the solace and entertainment it provides to me is like a comforting friend, keeping me company in times of stress and insecurity.
Again, all the while I was lamenting, I was very aware that these are minor problems, and one that so many people on this earth would not understand. Food, shelter, water, these are essentials. My Monday “must see” viewing of Under the Dome, not so much. But, the time did stretch more slowly with these distractions removed. I went for a long walk, and then read until my head hurt. Then I remembered I could still watch movies via my DVD player. So, Monday night I happily watched an interesting and entertaining film called The Sapphires, about an aboriginal girls’ singing group that went to Vietnam in the 60s. I recommend it, it was quite charming. I followed that up with my go to comfort food, Pride and Prejudice.
When the service folks finally showed up late Tuesday, they were able to quickly confirm that the problem had been caused by the work done at the pole. And, they also confirmed that they would be unable to fix it! Apparently, there is a specialized group that climbs the poles to fix what they have broken. So, another night without any services, with the promise that they would arrive early Wed. morning. Tuesday night’s dvds were Star Trek into Darkness, followed by another comfort favorite, Blue Crush.
I will admit, the relative silence, the inability to check my email, my Facebook, get calls on my landline (the number I primarily use for personal calls) actually became a restful respite. I wouldn’t want to give up those things permanently, but the break may have been a good thing, in a way, to give my brain a little enforced break. Of course I say this as I am listening to the ABC news in the background, about to post this online, and looking forward to catching Under the Dome on demand this evening.
So what’s the take away? If you see a man on a pole and your communications services suddenly crash, it’s likely there’s a connection. And, if you are forced to operate without internet services, a landline, or TV, relax, it will all be fine. Just go for a walk, read a book, and then turn on some Jane Austen, or a surfer chick flick, and enjoy the ride.
The end, for now

The Dog Days are Over, or, Happy New Year

The calendar and the thermostat might not agree, but with Labor Day in the rearview mirror and Rosh Hashanah later this week, I am officially calling Summer 2013 over. And, I couldn’t be happier about it!
I’ll definitely remember Summer 2013, even as other summers meld and fade into distant memory. 2013 was the summer I was out of work. 2013 was the summer of the burst appendix. But, 2013 was also the summer where I got to spend special time with my Dad. The summer where I watched multiple 4th of July fireworks going off from my sister’s backyard, laughing like fools as the automatic sprinklers went off and soaked us. The summer I finally got serious again about exercising. The summer I started my blog.
With all that, I am beyond ready to move into the next season, and for the next set of change and shifts on the kaleidoscope to begin. Fall is my favorite season, not just because it holds my birthday and my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. It’s a cozy season, with homecoming, the new fall TV season, pumpkins, soup, long pants. It’s a do over, a new start.
It is expected to be 103 degrees on Thursday. But, Rosh Hashanah has very evocative sense memories to me, none of which reflect the heat. For whatever reason, I think of plush velvet, perhaps from a dress I wore to services as a child. Warm spices, apples, honey, and cinnamon. Dinners with family, my grandmother’s Taiglach, sweet, sticky, rock hard little bites of goodness.
It would be impossible for me to convey how much I want and need things to change, and change quickly. I have struggled with keeping my morale and perspective facing forward, and there has been some dark trips into the crevasse of despair. But fortunately, there have also been returns to base camp, tugged by the ropes of love and friendship, and also through sheer perseverance. I haven’t given up hope, but I look eagerly for a win. I can feel it is just around the corner.
I don’t have much more to say this week. Some weeks the words come tumbling out, and sometimes it’s a challenge, not just to think of what you want to say, but what you want to share. This blog is not meant to be a diary, and I am conscious of not wanting to expose all of my secrets. I considered not posting anything this week, but I made a commitment to myself to post once a week and I want to honor that.
Coincidentally, I was looking at the comics this week, and one of my favorites, Doonesbury, featured a young man asking his father, a writer, “What do you do when you have nothing to say?” And the father responded with the perfect answer, “I say it anyway.”
So, with that, I leave you. Happy New Year, may it bring all of us courage, love, good fortune and peace.
The End, for now