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Archive for February, 2009

My Husband

On the eve before Valentine’s Day, I just have to say that I would already be crazy, locked up, prosecuted for attempted murder or other offenses, if it weren’t for my beloved husband. This is my love letter to the man of my life, the one who keeps me semi-sane. The one who reminds me of all that is good in the world. I know not everybody has a beloved soulmate who truly understands them. For that, I am deeply grateful. He is currently in arguing with my mother about her dog and how he is disrespectful of her. She is arguing as usual. She is in denial. She is clueless. I hear her voice raised in disbelief. She is wrong. Wow, they are arguing. God, I love that man. Tomorrow he and I go out for burgers to celebrate Valentine’s Day. He just told my mom he loves her but that she is completely wrong about her dog. I hear her voice take on that ANNOYING SCREECHY sound that she gets when she is defensive. He hardly ever takes the extra step to push my mother and make her mad. She respects him a lot. He deserves it. But when he pushes her, she gets screechy, and she is wrong. She needs to watch more episodes of Dog Whisperer. She is the classic dog owner that  Cesar deals with. Completely oblivious. Completely in denial. I am currently angry with her anyway, and listening to her argue with beloved husband makes me want to tell her she is a fucking idiot. But she is my mother. So I can only say on my blog that she is not allowed on, that she is a fucking idiot.

Dear Husband I SO appreciate what you try to do, whether it is attempting to give me perspective, reminding me that jail is not an option, or just taking mom to task occasionally, regardless of the consequenses, I love you SO much.

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Family

Family is often more than I can handle. Family is so baggage-laden that I picture it as the giant suitcase you attempt to drag through the airport but actually need one of those carts to carry. I don’t have any goddamn quarters left to purchase the cart.

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Road Trip

A road trip is one of the great joys of my life. It is more about the journey than the destination. The destination is usually the excuse for the road trip. Gotta have a reason to justify loading up the car and driving off into the wild blue. Oh hell, I don’t need much of an excuse. Any will do. Just enough to justify the gas and the obligations left behind. Sometimes the excuse is just that: to leave obligations behind.

Road trip routes are important. Without a good route, it becomes destination-oriented. “Gotta hurry up and get off this interstate.” “Where are we going to stay?” Bah! There is always some place to stay if you pick a good road trip route, even if it is just a deserted pullout next to a gravel pit. More importantly, does the route make you smile, make you anticipate the next bend? Is there adventure ahead? A road not traveled before? No road signs? Should we go over that pass without chains? Where’s my damn camera? OMG, look at those antelopes!

I travel in Nevada a lot. GREAT state for road trips. Miles and miles of long, straight roads in the middle of nowhere. And the Basin and Range topography provides a special Nevada perspective for drivers. It’s called “with the grain or against the grain.” With the grain is when you drive up or down the length of a basin (valley). Against the grain is when you drive over ranges and through valleys. In Nevada, with the grain is mostly north/south, while against the grain is mostly east/west. Perhaps the greatest against-the-grain highway in Nevada is Highway 50, known as The Loneliest Highway in America. I love that highway. It speaks to me. It shouts to me. I’ve been on it so many times, I KNOW what is over the next pass. But that doesn’t matter. I live each moment on that road as though it is my first, while at the same time greeting familiar landmarks as old friends.

Highway 50, given that it runs right through the middle of the state, is also a perfect jump-off road to explore the many other great roads running with the grain. Highway 95 has spectacular scenery, and is a great way to get to places like Death Valley. On the way you can stop for great Thai food in Hawthorne. Luning and Mina provide bathroom pitstop, lobster crossing, and, a few miles off the highway, that gravel pit sleep spot. Tonopah has great Mexican food, and it’s fun to watch people get pulled over for not obeying the 25mph speed limit. Goldfield is a crumbling old mining town and the county seat of Esmerelda County. I’ve always wanted to buy the old Goldfield Hotel. South of Goldfield you can spot one of Nevada’s famous old brothels. I think it is Cottonwood Ranch, but I get them mixed up from having driven by so many. Then you have options to go to Death Valley, whether via Scotty’s Junction,  Beatty, or Amargosa Junction. Beatty is a funny little town. Good Mexican food there too, at the south end of town. And if you head toward Death Valley, you can see a special desert treat like no other. Just a few miles out of town is the old ghost town, Rhyolite. The ghost town itself is worth the stop, but to me the special desert artwork outside the town is even better. There you will find the Venus of the Desert, a towering pink and yellow lady standing tall over the landscape. She got a new coat of paint a few years ago and is looking mighty fine.

I have only touched on a handful of road trip routes and highlights, just in Nevada. There are so many roads, so many states. I grew up in the driving generation, and while I try to restrict my driving at home, due to pollution and the cost of gas, I cannot help myself is somebody utters the magic words: ROAD TRIP!

desertvenus

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Early to bed, early to rise…

Who made up that crap about healthy, wealthy and wise? Once again I have the Monday early morning blues. Monday morning is garbage truck and curbside recycling truck morning. They start driving around my neighborhood about 3:30 or 4:00 am. Not just one, but several. With squeaky brakes and banging trash containers. And breaking glass when they dump the recycling.

I have always been an early to bed, early to rise person. In the summer that’s a good thing, especially when I’ve lived in a hot climate. And if I had been born into a farming family, I’d be the one up starting the woodstove and the coffee. But not being a farmer, and especially in the dark of winter, it is just lonely to be up alone in the dark.

I’ve tried staying up later, but I still wake up early, only tired, and then I end up going to bed even earlier the next night. I don’t like going out in the evening, and I have trouble concentrating on tv shows, movies, or books in the evening, even if I’ve had a nap. I’ve worked hard at training myself to sleep in until 5 or 6 am, and if the cats don’t get restless and start playing on top of me at 4 am, I can manage to stay asleep until 5 or so. That’s a big improvement over the 3:30 am awakening I was stuck in for a couple of years.

I’ve been quite proud of myself lately for being able to sleep until 5. EXCEPT ON GODDAMN MONDAY MORNINGS!

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My Happy List

When I graduated from “back school,” I promised my physical therapist that I would stop doing stupid stuff like lifting things that are too heavy. I’ve been very very good, and my back has been happy happy. Until the other day. Stupid me. I lifted the dehumidifier down the step from the kitchen to the garage. The next morning I woke with a painful limp from the pain that travels from my back through my hip. That put me in a very bad mood yesterday. Grump, grump, snarl. I decided this morning that instead of writing another grumpy post like my short list post, I would make a happy list instead. So this is my list of things that make me happy. Not a complete list of course, nor in any particular order of happiness.

spring! the daffodils are popping open

mornings when the kitties let me sleep in instead of standing on my head at 3am

a good strong cup of freshly ground dark roast coffee, locally roasted, shade grown, fair trade, organic

when my mom leaves the house for several hours

a new episode of House

Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares (I’m gobsmacked!)

gardening  (even weeding!)

the big flocks of Canadian geese that honk and fly and circle during migration, and then settle into our wetlands and pastures for a bit of baby-making

a clean house

fishing

camping

road trips

the desert

sitting in the shade on a really hot day

having days that are hot enough for sitting in the shade

hummingbirds

earthworms

ladybugs

two dollar happy hour pints

sushi

pizza

my husband

when the Farmer’s Market opens in spring

full moons

oak trees

those little round gall balls under oak trees

acorns

not stepping on rattlesnakes

Brian the moose

hot springs

napping in the back yard on a warm summer day

The Pod

Willow Ranch

not having to go to the dentist for at least six months

granite

being far away from the ocean

little sis helping me solve “short trip” problems

bunnies

goats

finding old bones on a hike

doing photo essays with my barbie dolls

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Short Trip

A couple of years ago, when I was complaining to my little sister about something that was “driving me crazy,” she responded with, “short trip!” My husband has become particularly fond of that phrase, as he often sees me gnashing my teeth and pulling out chunks of my hair as I rant about this or that driving me crazy.

Today I’ve decided to start a list of “short trip” triggers, just for the fun of it. It is a semi-annotated list, with some items merely listed and others expanded on. Feel free to add your “short trip” items in comments. My list is in no particular order, in terms of which things “get me there” faster. I’ll start the list with one of my favorites, because it is one that occurs on a daily basis.

Mom and her damn paper plates: When mom still lived alone and was struggling to get by on low energy due to chronic illness, my little sister began sending her piles of pretty paper plates so that she wouldn’t have to wash so many dishes. Great idea, right? Well yes, and no. Little did sis know that mom was using each paper plate several times before throwing it out. Since mom’s illness was being exacerbated by dirty house and semi-spoiled food consumption, reusing dirty plates wasn’t exactly in her best interests. And since little sis provided a never-ending supply of paper plates that mom didn’t have to pay for, there was no economic reason for mom to be “thrifty” by reusing them. Finally, mom’s health reached a point that my husband and I moved her in with us when we moved back to the same town. My main reason for doing so was to make sure she lived in a clean house and ate fresh food on clean dishes. But her paper plate habit continues. Mind you, I do all of the dishes and have a dishwasher, so there is no need WHATSOEVER for her to even use paper plates, much less reuse them. But she does. So each day I have to run around the house confiscating her paper plates (and used napkins, paper towels, and cups) to keep her from using them again. I’d much rather wash a plate or stick it in the dishwasher than throw away endless paper plates. Anyway…grrrr.

People who tailgate me when I am driving the speed limit. Hey asshats! Screw you!

People who wear gallons of fragrance. PeeeeeeeYeeeeeewwwwwww! Not just women, but men with their stinky aftershave. No wonder you people don’t have a nose. You burnt it off with your stinky crap.

Bicyclists who don’t follow bike laws, don’t warn you when they zing past you on pedestrian walkways or sidewalks, don’t signal, etc. Lame, dangerous, and completely lacking in etiquette.

People on cell phones.

Sarah Palin, aka Marie Palinette.

24 hour news shows that repeat the same story 500 times. There really is a lot more news out there. Are your arms and legs painted on? Go find some more news.

Ads for house rentals that don’t specify whether they take pets or not.

Ads for real estate that don’t give a specific location, or at least a specific neighborhood.

Shoe manufacturers who think that all women have feet size 6 or larger.

Whoever decided that women’s sweatpants shouldn’t have pockets.

Right Wing Nutballs.

Making commercials louder than tv shows.

People who don’t spay or neuter their pets.

People who neglect or abuse their pets.

People who let their dogs bark.

Constant advertising for women’s anti-wrinkle potions.

Doctors who give you medications without talking specifically about side effects.

Manufacturers who put fragrance in goddamn everything. I’d like to shove that fragrance up their stupid asses.

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Addiction

Many people struggle with various forms and levels of addiction. I am no exception. Even as a child I engaged in binge eating of my favorite foods. One hot dog was not enough. I had to have four. One orange was not enough. I ate the whole bag. I once consumed seven tacos (not those little Taco Bell ones but homemade fat ones). Luckily, I was a hyper kid who ran around climbing trees, so it didn’t make me a fat kid. And my binging wasn’t across the board, just favorite foods. When I became a lonely, disgruntled teenager, it became bags of candy, whipped cream, hot jello (yes, you can drink the stuff). And of course, ice cream.

I began to struggle with a weight problem. Not obesity level. Just the same twenty or so pounds that has pursued me ever since. I’ve often thought that I should have become huge and obese, and I honestly don’t know why I am not. Willpower? Don’t make me laugh. The only willpower I have is at the store when I’m buying food. If it makes it to the house, I eat it. My best guess is a deep and abiding respect for moderation. Perhaps that is what keeps me from going right over the cliff.

But my addictions don’t stop at food. I went several rounds with alcohol early on, with the typical teenage drunkfests and early adult drunken behavior. They embarrassed me deeply, and I could waffle and say that shame and embarrassment kept me from becoming an alcohol abuser back then. But that really isn’t the truth. The real truth is that I found an addiction that suited me more. I discovered marijuana. It became my drug of choice. I did some early experimentation with other drugs, but they were just stupid in my view and I stuck with weed.

I have smoked marijuana for most of my adult life. It is a mixed blessing, some good, some not so good. One of the first things I discovered about it was that it kept away the nightmares that had terrorized me as a child and young adult. When I stop or cut way back, the nightmares come back. It is just that simple. I also tend toward both anxiety and depression, and it has always mitigated those to some degree. I know far too many people who are on a steady diet of Xanax and antidepressants. With my addictive tendencies, the last thing I need is MORE stuff to get hooked on.

But weed is also illegal, and costly, and gives me the munchies. And, as a lifetime smoker, it is damaging my lungs. As a thinking person who obeys most laws and cares about my health, these things bother me. My response is a constant focus on moderation.

Back to the alcohol. A few years ago, after a bad graduate school experience that resulted in me dropping out of the program, I noticed that I was gradually increasing my drinking. Wine was my drink of choice. I love wine. I love good wine. But lurking behind my appreciation for a good glass of wine is that buzz effect, which for me is not about social lubrication, but about quieting the nonstop conversation in my head. So often I have wanted to scream, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” But brain often doesn’t listen, so I would pour a bit more wine to quiet the conversation. Unfortunately, we all know that thing about alcohol. It is too easy to have another if you get to a certain point. Being both an addictive personality and a believer in moderation, I had a system of deciding on a specific amount and keeping track. That actually worked for a while, but under stress the counting went out the window.

Finally I decided that I had become too accustomed to drinking wine in excess, so I decided to switch to beer, which I liked well enough but not with the same appreciation I have for good wine. The games we addictive types play with ourselves. The beer conversion actually worked for several years. I drank moderately and kept track of my consumption. Then in stepped stress again. My consumption climbed. And I also noticed the long term effect of beer, the beer belly. Being a middle aged woman, I know the danger of belly fat for women in particular. Lots of studies out there showing that belly fat in post menopausal women raises risks of heart attack and stroke WAY UP. Oops.

Now, many folks reading this might at this point be wondering why I don’t just go join AA and quit altogether. That is your right to think that. For many people, that is their only salvation. I don’t happen to think it is mine. I refuse to spend the rest of my life fearing alcohol, beating myself to a pulp if I “fall off the wagon,” and beating up everybody else who dares to try the path of moderation. I want moderation back.

Once, many years ago, I felt like I was smoking too much weed, so I got the bright idea to go to a NA meeting for some help. After listening for an hour to people tell horrendous stories about their lives being destroyed by drugs, I slunk out the back door, completely embarrassed by the thought of standing up and saying I wanted to cut back on weed because I thought it wasn’t really good for my lungs.

This last winter, when I became severely depressed and angry at being the caretaker of my live-in ailing, advanced-COPD mother, my drinking increased noticeably. Warning bells went off in my head. I got on the Internet and found a forum about alcoholism. I asked politely if anybody knew about a program other than AA, as I basically disagree with much of their philosophy and was looking for a secular-based organization that was interested in helping people with drinking problems even if they weren’t planning to quit drinking. I was attacked viciously by these people, who yelled that WHEN I ended up in the gutter I would crawl to AA on my hands and knees, begging for their help. Needless to say, I left that place and did my own research.

Because my little sister was trying to help me deal with my anger and depression about my mother, she sent me some DVDs about buddhist mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hanh. They were helpful enough that I ordered some of his books and also stumbled on an excellent book by buddhist psychologists who deal with addiction. That book is called Mindful Recovery, by Thomas and Beverly Bien.

Unfortunately, I was in a deep depression already, and some expectations from my mother and others about the approaching holidays triggered my panicked departure from home before I had a chance to read and absorb some of the new information I had found. But I was smart enough to take all of my new books with me, and I spent many lonely hours in the desert reading them.

The first couple of weeks I lived in the desert by myself, I spent part of my small stash of living money on beer. I also took the last of the weed I had and smoked it up in those first couple of weeks. When the weed ran out I stopped buying beer. I did promise myself that I could have a couple of beers on Christmas eve with the pizza I also promised myself. I set aside my Christmas eve fund.

The next few weeks, except for Christmas eve, I lived without my addictive substances. I discovered during those weeks that I had no real cravings for weed, as much as I like it, but I did have alcohol cravings. That really is one of the major differences between them. Weed can be psychologically addicting but has no lasting physical addictiveness. If you decide not to smoke it, your body adjusts quite quickly and says, “whatever.” Alcohol has a much stronger pull, both in its psychological pull and its physical effects. I was a bit surprised by the difference, having always preferred weed to alcohol. We really are never too old to learn something.

Luckily, I found some good information in the Mindful Recovery book, about what they called “urge surfing.” It has to do with the limited time that a specific urge will last, and developing the ability to ride the wave until it fades. Very useful stuff.

Since I have been back home, I continue to struggle daily with my alcohol urges, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Another valuable lesson I learned from that book, that directly contridicts the message of AA, is that slipping is just slipping, and you can always just get back to working on your problem. AA treats “falling off the wagon” as a major catastrophe that is virtually life-destroying. I’m exaggerating a bit, but not much. Since I don’t want to “be on the wagon” anyway, but instead reintroduce moderation and consumption for appreciation instead of numbing, I’m not going to beat myself up every time I break my rules and drink too much. I’m just going to focus on mindful living, dealing positively with the things that make me crazy, and practice urge surfing. I’m going to work on changing what Thich Nhat Hanh calls my “habit energy.” Humans are habitual creatures. Our habits create their own energy. The first step is to recognize that energy (“Hello habit energy!”) and then sow the seeds of more healthful habit energy. To paraphrase Thich Nhat Hanh, I am going to turn my garbage into compost and grow a beautiful organic garden.

I could go on and on about this subject, as it has been a major focus of my life for the last year. But I will stop now and provide an interesting link on the subject.

http://proof.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/05/why-and-how-i-drink/

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