85 – future speculations…

Ah… three-day weekend in hand.  Cor’s still asleep, and hopefully a good night’s sleep will help him shake the cold I gave him. Sorry, honey.  I tried to keep it to myself, but you did keep risking it by kissing me. Silly boy.

I’m listening to my stomach gurgle. Out of the last six days, 48 hours has been spent throwing up pretty much every hour on the hour. There are times when the gastric bypass surgery that I had nine years ago now seems as if it were a deal with the devil, and this is one of those weeks. I am still more than a hundred pounds lighter than I was the day of the surgery… and I cling to that reality with a death grip on mornings like this.  Ah, it will pass. Everything does. It would help if it weren’t pretty much completely my fault–I ate something without paying attention to how dense it was and chewing it thoroughly, and it stuck.  Same thing that happened yesterday morning, and three days ago. Time to start eating consciously again…

Now that the pity party is over (thanks for listening!), I can go back to speculating on a future with so many unknowns that it kind of boggles me. Doesn’t stress me, per se. In fact, other than the throwing up bit, I’m actually sleeping better than I have in the last decade. Leaving last night aside, the prior two nights I slept more than eight hours, getting up finally at 7 am.  Doesn’t sound late, probably, but for me, it’s two to three hours past my norm since 2005… I think I like it, but I feel oddly guilty at the same time, like I’m late for something.

Not sure for what… as I’m not even pressuring myself to finish the latest projects I’ve been working on…but one thing I did finish was taking the hand drawing Corey made of the house we are thinking of building some day, and make it into a “blueprint” using Excel. Same way we design furniture, pretty much…

 

houseplan2

This is the morning’s iteration – it’s a monster house, honestly, and don’t know if we’d ever need this much room… but basically, it’s just a big rectangle under one peaked roof running right down the center, covering the garage, the patio and the porch.  Two master suites, a workroom, office, and shaded room for outdoor living in a warm climate… a walk-through pantry to make grocery put away easy-sneezy, and a front porch that runs the whole length of the front of the house. A powder room in the office area, as well… I hate people using my bathroom.

So… this is the dream.  Or perhaps it’s A dream.  Two weeks ago, the dream was to find a place in East Texas–but reality smacks you around about dreams, and you have to adjust your thinking. So, for now, at least, the thought is that we look for four or five acres somewhere halfway between here and East Texas, no more than four hours away from here, so it’s an easy drive to spend the weekend. Eventually. We pay for the land in cash, and then we start socking serious money away to put a house together one major piece at a time, paying cash up front. No mortgage, no building loan, no nothing. One thing at a time.

Reality does tend to intrude… just as a for instance, research shows that, supposedly, if your house is more than 32 feet wide, roof trusses have to be specially created, as 32 feet is the largest standard truss.  The house we’ve designed ends up being 51 or 52′ deep and 78′ long the way we have it designed now.  I could probably shrink it to 32… but can we not build our own roof trusses? People just don’t question this stuff, you know… It’s like us building our own furniture.  Seriously, we probably spent ten cents on the dollar you would spend if you bought these pieces from a store. If that much. People spend so much money because they don’t question the basic premise.  And I think we’re in the “question everything” mode that is really healthy for us.

Off to go make another cup of tea… and get some coffee going for the man whose hard work is allowing me to have the time and energy to think about all this stuff. On that note… do you remember the old Monday’s Child rhyme about the day you were born?  Corey was born on Friday, and I was born on a Sunday. Just a thought (squirrel!)

There’s a perpetual calendar here if you don’t know what day of the week you were born on (skip the explanation, go down to the bottom of the page and put in the month and year you were born, and it will show you the calendar for that month).

Monday’s child is fair of face
Tuesday’s child is full of grace
Wednesday’s child is full of woe
Thursday’s child has far to go
Friday’s child is loving and giving
Saturday’s child works hard for a living
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.[1]

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81 – designing irony

In cprototype1ontact with an old friend in the business, who reached out to me last night to ask if I’d write a continuity/disaster recovery plan for his business.  I gave him a bid, and he’ll be getting back to me soon, one way or the other. I find myself distinctly neutral–oh, I’ll absolutely do it for him; it will take me at most a couple of days and a some research, plus sitting down with them for an hour or two to get the bits of information I have to have. I’ll enjoy it, actually, and it will be the best it can possibly be, and satisfy all governmental and other requirements for the document.

The irony, and of COURSE there is irony–I apparently live at the corner of north irony and southbound mule these days–comes from the fact that the one thing I find myself utterly uninterested in doing these days is writing. Creative writing that is, as opposed to technical writing.  I belong to a writers’ group that would probably actually like to see my face on occasion, whether virtually or otherwise, and since I’m not writing, I don’t go… And no, I don’t count this blog. Not sure what that says about me.

However, what is truly flipping all my creative switches at the moment is design. I’ve dabbled in it some, with designing furniture which my husband built with me and made into reality.  In fact, the purse shown above is hanging on the hall tree we created. The purse is also of my design, and completely of my making. The spurring event was that I actually broke down and bought a grown-up woman’s wallet, and needed something to put it in. I’ve always carried a wallet that would fit in the back pocket of my jeans.  The only time I actually carried a purse was to smuggle a bottle of water and some string cheese into movie theatres… sorry, but I’m NOT paying $4 for a 50-cent bottle of water. Anyway,  the two purses I actually own are both ugly as sin… and when I complained about that, my husband shrugged and said, “So make one.” So I did.

prototype2The ickiest thing about purses is that we drag them everywhere, set them down on floors, bathroom counters, etc., and there’s no way to clean most of them. So the first requirement was that it would have to be washable.  Second one was that, if I got tired of looking at the design, I didn’t want to have to go make or buy another purse, so I really wanted it to be reversible, with a completely different look inside.  So I made it that way.  There are some things I want to add into the design, including integrated pockets for cellphones and/or reading and sunglasses, but that will be on the second one that I’m working on now.

Oh, and I’m in the middle of putting together a queen-sized quilt. When I hit a snag on the purse thing, I go back to the quilt for a bit, which is more straightforward.  The design process… That’s where my mind stays these days. When I’m silent, that’s probably what I’m thinking about.  What’s most fascinating about this to me is that for decades of my life, I’ve refused to carry a purse, even when I probably needed to… now thoughts about their design occupy a fair part of my waking life. Irony…

One of my all-time favorite authors, Spider Robinson, through one his characters, said: “If a person who indulges in gluttony is a glutton, and a person who commits a felony is a felon, then God is an iron.” And of course, because I apparently cannot escape the concept today… in order to quilt anything well, you better know how to iron.  I’ve probably used an iron and ironing board more in the last few months than I have since I first went in the military and had to iron everything all the way down to my t-shirts.

I’m going to go turn on some loud music and work out and quit thinking about anything except the music and the sweating. I think all this solitude may be making me loopy. Onward and upward, peoples.

80 – untweetable

westtexassnowBack home again after a four-day trip to the Dallas environs to see my sis and family… it was pretty wonderful, as these things go… even enjoyed the eight-ish hour drive there and back.  We broke down and got me a lightly used Chevy Cruze, which is a lot more comfortable for me to drive than the honking huge dually that got us here to the ranch with the travel trailer in tow.  We also figured out that simply by driving the Cruze instead of the big truck to town twice a week, we will save enough in diesel costs to make the payment on the car. Seriously. The car gets 38 mpg hwy, the truck only 10 or 12. Plus diesel’s more expensive.

It’s been one of those amazing cool, wet weekends–as you can see by the picture, Saturday night began with a hailstorm (otherwise known as West Texas snow), and we had to scramble to get my car under cover.  Since then, it’s just been cool and cloudy.  Fine for us, since we don’t have any great need to throw a barbecue for us and the dog, and everyone else is… well, elsewhere. These late spring wet days are wonderful, though I could have done without the ice dropping on my head.

Been doing a lot of thinking on whether it’s worth it to go back to work.  It’s an oddly powerful position to be in, not having to work.  I’m not sure I’ve ever worked because I necessarily wanted to–the possibility of NOT working has seldom been an option.  That said, there is retirement for both of us to think about.  And, honestly… Corey loves it in this job so much that, for the first time since I’ve met him, he seems to feel he could work here until retirement himself.  So I really need to stay here, and that adds some interesting choices, and eliminates a lot of other ones… Lots to think about.

70 – navel contemplation officially complete

Tired of peering into my belly button, and starting to get a cramp under my rib cage anyway. Thank you for your patience as I lived up to the title of the blog… I do tend to bounce all over the place when unrestrained, and for someone who has already most likely completed the first half of her life, I have a disturbing tendency to be quite puppy-like in terms of attention span on occasion.

Back to the thoughts wandering around in my mind of late about happenings outside my lint-catcher: I appreciate the recent attention to the “equal pay for equal work” concept on the part of the US administration.  I’ve always thought it was a good idea–but I spent some of my formative years in the military. Same rank, same time in service, same pay, and the pay tables are open knowledge.  I think that last bit is the key.  Until pay tables in all corporations are open to scrutiny, equal pay for equal work is a pipe dream. Women tend to undervalue themselves in the corporate money and power sweepstakes, and men tend to overvalue their contributions. I don’t foresee it changing, and think legislating it may be a mistake.  A shaky recovery is not going to be helped if businesses have to pony up to address inequities. It would simply increase the chances that positions will be killed off, and the same amount of productivity will be necessary with fewer people to support the workload.

On the other tenets of feminism–wasn’t the whole point with feminism supposed to be about choice? Choose to work or to stay home? Choose the business world or domestic one? Choose even whether to have a child or not? In reality, though, stay-at-home moms were made to feel guilty that they made that choice.  So many good things came out of feminism… but one of the worst, to me, was devaluing choices that didn’t fit with the founders of the movement’s idea of what was right.feminism

Four months ago on Thursday, we moved out to the ranch where my husband runs the mechanic/vehicle maintenance shop.  I’ve been a ranch wife ever since. If this is what feminism was supposed to save me from, this sense of being a true partner, the time to write, the time to think, the time to let all the garbage go from the old world… then I want them to stop trying to save me. I like it here.

63 – continu-ums, continu-rabbits

According to one of my favorite sites, the word polarization, “suggests the tendency to be located close to, or attracted towards, one of the two opposite poles of a continuum.” In our increasingly polarized world, the more important word in that definition is actually “continuum.” Wikipedia defines it as: “anything that goes through a gradual transition from one condition, to a different condition, without any abrupt changes” (emphasis added).

polarizationCome with me into the absurdity of the public thought process on one subject that comes to mind…

To give myself something to point to in this discussion, I assembled  the lovely diagram above. The point that I’m about to hit you over the head with is that in politics, religion, and now science, we are starting to lose sight of what is important in our urge to push each other through the gaping holes in the arguments at hand.

For instance, let’s tackle global warming, now often called “climate change” to soften the implications. The continuum (pronounced, just for this post, kon-tin-you-UM) of thought that contains the theory of global warming is able to slide gently to the left and right along the set of theories that underlie the concept. In other words, the end at the left blames humanity, the end at the right pins the change on the earth’s natural cycles, but neither end of the continuum debates whether or not it’s actually happening.  The continuum line is that global warming is happening…and the gradual transition from one thought to the other gives the ability to discuss it rationally (mostly) and the arguments end up being around what the next steps are. The steps that are proposed, of course, depend on which end you occupy.  But it’s a non-confrontational argument where the sentences begin with “um,” as in “Um, I happen to think the glaciers are melting because the earth is cycling into a warming period, probably to be followed by another ice age, and I don’t think there’s a dang thing we can do.  They’re glaciers. They’re ice. Ice melts. Get over it.”

On the second polarization, we have ends that debate whether global warming, as a concept, is true.The denizens at each of the continu-rabbit line bounce around like a bunny, trying not to fall into the holes in their own argument. And by the way, trying to end an argument with “because God said so,” doesn’t end an argument, it just begins a sermon. Stop that. You didn’t like it when your mother used “because I said so,” so stop channeling her argument tactics. Oddly enough, both tend to use the exact same argument, only the relied-upon source changes from “God” to “science.” Those who land at one end or the other of the continu-rabbit are polarized in the sense that they are shouting down the other participant, and have no intention of budging one inch.  Arguing with either side is much like trying to nail Jell-O® to the wall.

And then, as you knew I would, we get to the continu-roo, with giant conceptual leaps, and holes in the arguments that are big enough to drive a truck through them (mixing my metaphors again).  This is where you get bald proclamations like “The Earth is only 4,000 years old,” and at the other end of the continue-roo, a series of statements that make it plain the true believer is rooting for a mass die-off of human beings in order to let the animals get on with it. Whatever “it” is. As long as no animals were harmed in the process of getting rid of the humans. To them, we are a cancer, a sickness upon the earth. To the other side, we are simply waiting on the rapture. Both sides are true believers. Both, oddly enough, are hoping that humanity takes a long walk–one believes that will be the faithful walking into the arms of whatever Maker they identify with most strongly. The rest of us will be going straight to hell, do not pass go, do not collect absolution. The other side of the continu-roo believes that we’ll be so much worm food–but both believe we will be gone.

Do I personally have a solution to any of this polarization? No. Sorry. I’m not trying to stay out of the fray, I’ve just not found a single argument that has ever convinced me to be a fanatic. About anything. I think most of all, I’m trying to get the arguments to stop.  You’re not going to convince someone the earth is ancient, even when the evidence for it is… well, I was going to say “undeniable,” but everything’s deniable–you can’t dent that armor of faith, so stop trying. You’re making me tired.

We are becoming increasingly dismissive of each other’s opinions, another outcome of polarization, and that would probably be my biggest request. Stop listening only to the people you think are right. Stop shooting people you believe are wrong.  Accept that a differing opinion is not an abomination–it’s just an opinion.  Shut UP, for God’s sake. Or Mohammed’s, or Buddha’s, or Joseph Smith’s sake, pick a prophet, any prophet, or none at all, whatever floats your boat, trips your trigger, shines your egg.  OK, I made that last one up.

Just stahhhhppppp.

I am going to go make some bread for the week to come.  Bread makes sense. People often do not. And, bonus, you can punch bread dough, throttle it, even shout at it, get all your aggression resolved, and you end up with an awesome end product.

Word to the wise, unlike bread, if you do that with a person, the cops just get all kinds of tacky about it. And the end product is you paying a lot of dough to the justice system. Hee. Pun!

60 – silence of the yams

Did you know that sweet potatoes and yams are not the same thing?  Oddly enough, I did.  Never actually cooked a yam, but I love sweet potatoes, and seriously, there are things made from sweet potatoes that should be banned in every state. The worst offender is the candied sweet potatoes (often mistakenly called “candied yams,”) that so many people serve at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas.  Throwing mini-marshmallows on top of canned and chunked sweet potatoes that have added brown sugar compounds the sticky sweetness in every layer.  It’s also texturally challenging, the final straw  for me.  Not sure why, but it always felt like eating a boneless finger.  Ish.

Half sweet potato, half russet/white potato, mashed with butter, milk, parmesan, salt and pepper.  Oh yes, and some steak.
Half sweet potato, half russet/white potato, mashed with butter, milk, parmesan, salt and pepper. Oh yes, and some steak.

The absolute best way to cook a sweet potato is to wash it and put it on the top rack of a gas grill with the cover closed.  Leave it there about 30 to 45 minutes before you begin to grill your meat or other vegetables. Smaller ones will cook faster, bigger ones need more time.  When it’s done, you can wrap it in foil to keep it hot while everything else gets cooked.  To eat, cut a slit in the peel, or completely remove the peel and add butter and salt to the bright orange flesh, to taste.  That’s all.  Nothing else.

Please raise your right hand and solemnly swear to never candy a sweet potato again.  Ever.  Under pain of having to eat the buggerty things. Yuck.

If it’s too blustery or rainy to grill, you can  also add sweet potatoes to your white potatoes to make mashed.  Peel both kinds, and cut into cubes that are one or two inches on a side.  Add them to a pot of boiling water.  Turn down to a simmer, cook until a fork goes into a chunk of white potato very easily.  Drain the water off the potatoes, then add a little milk, a lot of parmesan cheese, butter, salt, pepper and anything else that you like in your mashed potatoes. Gives mashed potatoes an amazing richness, depth of flavor, and slight sweetness. Very yummy.

I honestly did not start this blog to be a recipe fest–this is just where my mind has been of late.

My layoff in October from my high-pressure, high-stakes job came with a severance pay that enabled us to be finally debt-free. Yesterday, we received the title to the truck, our last debt finally paid. It’s quite an accomplishment.  Both of us have lived with debt our entire adult lives. This job of his, coming with a house, all expenses paid, and a company truck, now gives me the time and the space to decide what’s next for me, with zero pressure to do so. I don’t even know how to act without debt AND without a job.

I’ve found that, for me, the highest purpose of my days has been the care and feeding of my entirely amazing husband.  After a 12- hour day yesterday, he is also working today, Saturday.  Watched him drive off an hour ago, hauling a bulldozer on a flatbed semi-trailer through these single-lane dirt roads, with precipices galore. He’s headed to a site about 30 miles south of the house (and still on the ranch we live on, which always boggles me).  Nothing worthwhile is ever easy–but he loves his job, not least because he has great respect for his boss. It’s something we both have found to be quite rare.

As for me, when I’m not baking bread, sewing, cleaning, cooking, or doing laundry, I’m writing, as you can tell by this blog.  I am also working out, and losing weight (six pounds in the last three weeks) and thinking a lot while I’m getting sweaty.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

58 – missing Mama, loving Kels, baking bread

When I headed for Texas at 48, separating from my husband of 27 years, I felt like a monstrous failure because I couldn’t make my marriage work. There were no kids involved, and I had lived with the knowledge that I couldn’t have children since 1985. Honestly, as I was leaving him, I acknowledged that I would seriously be willing to die alone if it meant that I didn’t have to live with my ex anymore. Ever. Seriously.

I began a new job a week after I got to my sister’s in West Texas.  I worked with Kelsey’s dad, and some months later, ended up falling in love with him–there was just something inevitable and irresistible about the whole thing.  When he asked if I’d be willing to tutor 17-year-old Kelsey, I said yes without a second thought. She had only the one algebra test to pass in order to graduate from high school. I sat down with her, and found that she knew the subject, but her teachers had damaged her confidence… she didn’t need tutoring, she just needed to be know that she was smart, and capable.

Six weeks later, I moved in with them… and Kels had no idea what to call me, so she would just say, “Hey,” when she needed to get my attention.The test was still looming large in Kelsey’s life, and she finally took it in December. That afternoon, she came flying into my office, over the moon, “Mom, I passed the test, I passed it!” With that one little throw-away word, I was done. I had a daughter, self-nominated, unanimously elected, forever my child.

I’ll tell her brother’s story in another post–you have to be fair with these things… 🙂 I learned as I lived with Kelsey that she needed family more than most–and she was so pleased to see her dad happily married to me.  But, she had already signed up to go in the Army before I ever met her, and by September, just three short months after we married, she was off to Basic Training.

She came home on leave a few times, but it was never, ever long enough… We flew to Texas for a short week with her and Tyler on his first birthday. He was just at the stage where he was pulling up on furniture, yet to take his first step. As I write this, however, the two-and-a-half-year-old Tyler is yowling like a scalded cat ’cause his mama is making him take a shower… the easiest way to get him clean, apparently. And these days, he’s not just walking, he lives most of his life at a dead run. Before the water torture began, Kels and I had talked over how long she can stay, and when she must show up at her next base in Missouri… and I so hate to let her go.

We are finally that family that she wanted and needed so badly, but she must leave soon to see her aunt, uncle and cousins near Corpus Christi. When she leaves there, Tyler won’t be with her; he’ll be staying with his dad for three months. I do not want to see either of their faces at that parting.

If you’ve read my prior posts, many have revolved around bread, and recipes, and this is no exception. The pictures below show Kelsey learning to make bread with my mother’s recipe… One joyful morning spent passing on the knowledge that I thought would die with me. Now it’s going to live on, transferred to her children when they’re ready. Because she’s the mom, that’s why. And so am I.

Kels adding more flour to the bread dough in progress...
Kels adding more flour to the bread dough in progress…

Kneading the bread dough
Kneading the bread dough

First rise is complete...
First rise is complete…

Shaping the sandwich rolls.
Shaping the sandwich rolls.

Rolling out the cinnamon rolls
Rolling out the cinnamon rolls

Rolls, cinnamon rolls and one loaf of bread from the same recipe.
Rolls, cinnamon rolls and one loaf of bread from the same recipe.

Tasting the first fruits of her labor while everything else bakes.
Tasting the first fruits of her labor while everything else bakes.