Sunday, June 29, 2008
The passion flower opened. I could NOT be more excited. I went out to mow, it was closed. I came out a little later, it was all the way open. And beautiful. Right now? It's closed again. I guess the little guy opens and closes at will. Odd. But then again, it is a wonky flower, no? So strange looking. It has a giant vine all the way up my stairwell thing, but only 2 active buds. Why so few buds?? Geesh.
And the dahlia opened. I was amazed at its beauty as well:
It has a few other buds, and it seems very hearty because it has survived a bazillion tornadoes so far.
Then the celosias look lovely:
And the snapdragons. I love squishing them and making their little mouths open up:
And then I have some sad news. I found this little egg in my yard:
I'm pretty sure it's dead, but I can't let it go. I put it on the porch where it can get sunshine. I'm not naive enough to believe I could properly cook a robin egg or raise a baby robin, but I'm going to let it sit on the porch for a while just to see if it pulls through. I later found a nest in the yard. Some other bird is totally messing with the robins. Probably a starling. Jerks.
And all of this blooming is working out for me because I GOT WORK.
In the most odd of circumstances, in one day I got two offers for contracts. WHEEEEEE! And in a more odd circumstance, one of them is my old company. So I'm going with that one for the moment because I received their email first. And then a phone call. And then a Fed Ex package. So I'm pretty sure it's good to go.
I'll start tomorrow and officially be employed again. Which is lovely. And then the publishing world will slowly whirl into life in the next month and I will find a full-time position. Because I believe I can. The law of attraction seems to be working for me. I believed I could do this move. I believed I could find remote work when locals jobs didn't appear. And I did. So now I need a new goal. Hmmm. What should it be? Finding a cute man? Winning the lottery? Getting a marriage proposal from Josh Holloway?
OK, I'll start small.
I believe I'm going to have a GREAT rest of the summer. So far, it's definitely been one for the record books.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I would like to introduce my new ghost orchid. I know, I know, it just looks like a blob of roots. That's what it is. They grow, um, slowly.
Those of you who have been reading for a while may remember that I had a ghost orchid last year:
You can't tell from this second photo, but the new one is significantly larger. I got both of them from Oak Hill Gardens. This latest one was shipped to my house and left on the porch on an extremely humid, hot day, so it was good that I noticed the delivery dude driving away and went out to get it. Even though the package had a sign on it that said, "Live orchids. Do not leave in extreme hot or cold!" the dude just left it there without knocking. Groan.
Anyway, my friend Sprinkle's husband has always been quite obsessed with ghost orchids. He's totally not the type to grow orchids, so it was kind of fun to plan a secret orchid gathering moment. I ordered one for her and one for myself and we gave him his for his birthday. He eyed it cautiously, and then lit up light a Christmas tree when he realized what it was.
Now? The challenge is to see if either of us can keep them alive.
My first ghost may or may not be alive today if my mother hadn't (cough) accidentally packed it into the moving van on an evening with below zero temps thinking it was a decorative item when I was moving from Chicago. It didn't survive the trip, and I've made her feel guilty about it enough, so I won't go there again. But I did want to explain why it (and some others, cough) disappeared from the little terrarium I had. I originally grew the first one in a terrarium with some water in pebbles in the bottom. I think it's time to get that puppy out from storage.
Ghost orchids thrive in their natural environments, and I've heard mixed opinions about how to keep them alive in your home. Some say no air movement, others say get a fan. Some say shady, some say sunny. Me? I'm going to plop it back into the little terrarium in a southern exposure window. For now, it's hanging in a western exposure window above the kitchen sink because that was the easiest way to keep it away from Webster AND remember to water it daily.
Please, Orchid Gods, let me keep it alive and bloom it one day. MEEP.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
If you want to explain the publishing world to a wee one, How a Book Is Made by Aliki is a great learning tool. It also is pretty good for adults and your own parents. Just sayin'.
Anyway, yesterday a reader sent me an email to ask about publishing a children's book. From the description, it sounded like a picture book. She mentioned illustrations. Yes, I worked in educational publishing, but I have a background in trade publishing, including children's books. So instead of just emailing her back a giant email about it, I decided to post about it and share what I know with everyone, just in case we have other budding writers lurking in the wings. (Yes? Thought so!)
Misconception #1 About Publishing a Picture Book: You need to have the illustrations ready.
I'm here to tell you, unless YOU are an artist and you're writing the words to go along with your own illustrations as somewhat of an afterthought, you don't need an illustrator. In fact, you shouldn't mention your friend who is an artist. And you should NOT suggest that a famous illustrator would be really great for your book or anything like that. I know it's tempting. I know of a few illustrators who I would love to capture my life in watercolor, but I think they're busy.
Publishing houses are divided into a few different departments. Editorial, Design, and Production are the most common groupings. The creatives over in in Design are the ones that have relationships with illustrators or photographers, and they have a whole magic cabinet somewhere full of samples. Editorial? Not so much. We might have a few portfolios lying around, but Edit tends to work with the words. Which is where you, the budding children's book writer, come in. If you want to get a children's book published, you need the words. Words only. Good words.
Children's picture books are almost always 32 pages. This is because the signatures (clumps of pages) come in specific amounts. 32 is handy. Do you need to figure out what goes on what page? No. Can you make suggestions? Sure. But don't get your heart set on it. Editors looove to make changes. And even though this is your baby, remember that it's nothing personal. Editors can even make it better and you'll squeal with delight. (I did this when I published a short story and the editor cut half of it. It really WAS better in the end.)
So anyway, let's say you have an idea for a children's picture book about pigs. Just write it. Don't worry about the illustrations. They will come with time. Just write it. How? Like this:
by Blondie Blonderson
[begin page 1]
One day there was a little pig who wanted to write a picture book.
[end page 1]
[begin page 2]
She got out her crayons and shoved them into her little hooves. Then she got the paper. She was ready!
[end page 2]
Something like that.
Or like this:
One day there was a little pig who wanted to write a picture book. She got out her crayons and shoved them into her little hooves. Then she got the paper. She was ready!
So divide it up or don't, but just write it. If you just can't control yourself with the illustrations, leave a note somewhere like this:
[ART suggestion: Could use close-up full-page image of a pig hoof with a crayon in it.]
But most of the time, art suggestions come from the illustrator and the Design department.
So now what?
Get some books: Writer's Market but probably Children's Market is better for this purpose. Read the guidelines. Do NOT go after Random House and Penguin. Too big. Start small. Look for a small press that publishes 10-15 picture books a year. They are more prone to notice you in the slush pile. Go to the bookstore to see if their books jive with your style. Then send away. They will most likely want you to send the entire MS in the mail, or via email if you're lucky. Write a short letter introducing the story and why you feel it would work in the market. Keep it short and sweet. Attach the manuscript and a SASE. Don't forget the SASE. Or tell them to recycle the MS if they can. You really don't need it back because you won't send that copy to anyone else anyway.
Send it to about 15 publishers and wait. Wait a few months. Get rejection letters. Decorate your kitchen with them. Get depressed. Get drunk. Feel like a failure. Then send it out again to 15 new publishers. Feel elated. Get all excited again. Rinse and repeat!
If you've got a book idea, just go for it. Believe in yourself. Have fun with it, and don't take yourself too seriously. Remember all of the writers in the world who were rejected a bazillion times before they were published. Feel empowered that you are right there with them. And they are with you in spirit.
Now go write. And when you get published, send me an email, and I'll go buy your book.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
A while back, I was talking to a career Web site about writing articles for them. It sounded fun, and I was into it, but I couldn't get the contact woman to communicate very well. She didn't answer my questions and just kind of expected me to shoot out of the gates without any direction. And no mention of money, of course. So I gave up on that idea. But before filing away the opportunity in my brain, I had a thought about a little column I could write about master's degrees. And since I already have it right here saved on ye ole Macbook, I might as well share it, eh?
So if you know anyone who is confused about whether or not to go back to school, perhaps they will enjoy it.
Is a Master’s Degree Really that Important?
by Blondie Blonderson
I always knew that I wanted to be an editor. I have box full of little books I made as a child in my loopy, crayoned handwriting. And so when the time came to go to college, I decided to major in English. I didn’t know any book editors, and I knew nothing about the industry. Four years later, I graduated and moved to Portland, Oregon. My first job was in acquisitions. I read endless manuscripts from the slush pile to find publishable material. I also worked in the publicity department making press kits and other marketing materials. I enjoyed the work, but the job wasn’t the right fit. After four months, I quit.
Portland is a lovely city. For the four years I was in college, I daydreamed about moving to Oregon. But there is something very different about the mentality in that part of the country. My friends in Portland were more interested in jobs than they were careers. They wanted to make money, sure, but they also wanted to go hiking and enjoy the beauty of the region. I knew very few hard-core business people. The people I knew in the Midwest were busy climbing corporate ladders and wearing fancy pantsuits. Portlanders? Not so much. So after a few months of searching for a new professional job, I decided to go work for Powell’s Books until I figured out what to do next.
While working at the bookstore, I read many books about careers. My friends from the University of Iowa were entering graduate school. Was this something I should be doing, too? I really didn’t want to. Something in my gut soured when I thought of going back to school. My English major really had nothing to do with being an editor. I spent most of my time reading classics and writing giant papers. Learning about the book publishing industry just didn’t happen. That was all self-taught. For free. To this day, I still feel that my degree has almost nothing to do with my career.
So when I thought about going to graduate school, I thought about spending a lot of money that I didn’t have for yet another certificate that would have nothing to do with my career. But I thought I would investigate it anyway. I read one of those books that has some fancy title about careers for English majors. The book pointed out something very interesting. Most people who get a master’s degree in English want to be a professor. And English professors? They teach FOREVER. Until they die. And then you? The person who just got that master’s degree? You have to move wherever there is an opening somewhere around the country. And then you have to fight it out with whoever else has been waiting in the wings with their fancy master’s degrees. Oof. This didn’t sound good. My gut turned away once again.
Ten years later, I have no regrets about not getting a master’s degree. My undergraduate degree was enough to get me into the world of publishing, and it looks nice on my resume. Other than that, there is no focus on it. I spent the last six years working in educational publishing. Many of my colleagues had epic debt from getting a master’s in education. And we were equals. Or sometimes, I had the higher title. In my particular industry, experience is what counts. I ran into more than one colleague who was 5+ years older than me but lower on the ladder because she spent so much time in school. And now she was in big trouble because her tiny salary couldn’t pay her school loans. I also had friends 10+ years older than me who were STILL trying to hack away at that debt even though they had outstanding titles. They all asked if I was going to pursue a graduate degree. My answer was a resounding no. Could I benefit from having one? Sure. But do I need it? No.
So how can you tell if you need a graduate degree? Here are some things to think about:
Your Industry In our high-tech world where people are jumping through the ranks with self-taught knowledge, where do you fit in? Does your industry require higher education? Research the career path you want, and find people at different levels. Shoot them an email to inquire about the degrees required to succeed in your field. Ask the assistants, the mid-level professionals, and someone in a senior position. How much schooling did they receive, and how did it help or hinder them?
Your Competition Think about the other people who are also on your career path. Did they get a graduate degree? Did it help them? Sometimes a master’s can actually hinder people. You might be able to get an entry-level job easier than your peers because your salary requirements would be lower. While your friends are racking up degrees, you can be out there getting the experience instead and building a healthy resume.
Money Getting a master’s degree can be extremely expensive. Or, if you’re lucky, you can get one for free. I know many professionals who had their master’s degrees paid for by their employers. Research your company’s education benefits to find out if you can get part of the degree (or the entire degree) paid for through them.
Time Realize, of course, that you will be working part- or full-time and going to school as well. Some people can handle this, and some people can’t. Be realistic about how much you can handle. If you’re thinking about working and going to school, create an experiment to show you how much time you’ll be spending on the degree. Block out the time in your schedule and go to the library to read a book or write hand-written letters for the hours you would be in the class. This will help you realize how much time you would be devoting to your education—but don’t forget the hours for homework!
Your Own Passion My sister always wanted a master’s degree in creative writing. She HAD to have it. Something inside of her wasn’t going to feel fulfilled until it was hers. So she went to school and did homework on weekends while working full-time. It was difficult, but she made it happen. It was extremely important to her, and she has no regrets. If you know you really want that degree, make it happen.
Even though I never did get that master’s, I still enjoy learning. I’ve kept up on my industry by reading professional newsletters, magazines, books, and attending trade shows. I truly believe in educating yourself for a lifetime, but I don’t believe you should have to struggle to do it. I believe my undergraduate degree was the best money ever spent. And, who knows, perhaps some day in the future I will find myself entering the halls of higher education once again. But for now, I’m feeling pretty good about my career. And I didn’t have to break the bank getting here.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Yesterday I called Kate to check in and chatter about our weeks. Well, it was really my week. I had a ton of things that happened and needed to tell her all about it. And the good thing about having Kate in my life since we were wee tots is that I could tell her about things and not have to go into a lot of background information about why certain events were significant or why anything may or may not have bothered me or made me smile. That's the really important thing about maintaining at least one lifer. They just know. Everything. And they remember everything. And so they're like a cozy blanket during the best and worst times of your life.
Now that I live down the road from Kate's parents, I drive past their house each day to go into town. I smile each time I see the little swings in the trees for her boys. I remember playing in that exact yard. I remember having dance class for invisible students and playing with kitties and having the best sleep-overs EVER. Then I remember our later years when we both became slightly awkward and silent. And then the glorious years when we broke out of our shells a bit and discovered boys and social lives. And then going to the same college but never really seeing each other because we're both a bit hermity like that. An entire lifetime of Kate memories will flash before my eyes in the seconds it takes to pass her parents' house. And I always smile.
Yesterday I updated her on my job hunt and an argument I had and the people from our class that I saw in town this week. And once again, she told me she was amazed at how well I've adjusted to life's inevitable problems. She sensed the calmness in me and was fascinated. I reminded her about how much therapy I've had, and she giggled. So I think that might be the best reward of having a lifer. They are a litmus test for you over the years. They know when you're being dramatic. And then they know when you're becoming more well-rounded and growing. They can hear it and see it even when you can't.
Kate has always been more grounded than I have been. And since she married her dear husband (on my own parents' anniversary no less) and has two adorable boys now, you might think we wouldn't have anything in common anymore. I've written on the blog before about how it's been hard to adjust to the families popping up in my life. I've never had that problem with Kate, however. With some people, it just doesn't matter. They stay the same and care the same even though their life builds up around them with family. When we talk, I hear her cute little boys squawking in the background. If I'm really lucky, the older one will talk to me, which I love. His voice is so cute. But even though we live so close now, we rarely see each other. But that doesn't matter because one phone call turns into 3 hours of giggling and catching up. I hear a tot softly murmuring as it sleeps on her chest. Or I hear one shrieking with delight when Daddy gets home from work. Or it's completely silent because they are napping. And in those moments, Kate and I are the children again, nurturing our own friendship as we did when we were the little ones.
I know how lucky I am because very few people are able to maintain a good friendship over the test of time. We change, we grow, relationships morph. We decide old friendships don't match our current lives, or we just lose contact all together because of lost phone numbers or addresses. I've lived in many different places and have taken Kate there in my mind to each of them. And now she fills up Farmhouse Villa even though she's never seen it (eek, we really need to get on that!). A few years ago, I sent her a necklace from Chicago to celebrate 25 years of friendship. Of course, in true Blondie fashion, I sent it almost a year late. It wasn't anything super special. Just a small charm that said, "I am blessed." Because that's how I feel about having Kate in my life. I'm very very very blessed.
Love you, Katers.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Oh, meows. And vacuums. Two of the funniest things in my life. The other day, I called Ma to give her a treat. I invited her to come over and help me vacuum my couches. She squealed with delight. Literally. Vacuuming my couches has always been one of Ma's favorite things. For a non-indoor-pet owner, nothing bothers her more than spying a little patch of meow fur on a couch pillow. It reminds me of children not wanting the PEAS TO TOUCH THE CARROTS. Or when Little insists that A GNAT IS WITHIN A TEN FOOT PROXIMITY OF HER. There is a slight uptick in my mother's blood pressure when a hair flies past her face. And when King poops. So unbeknownst to me, my mother had actually been avoiding coming to my house because I hadn't recently vacuumed my couches, which she did on a regular basis when she would come to visit me in Chicago.
My parents have all leather living room furniture for a reason.
So anyway, she came over and I wheeled out the vacuum. I didn't need one in Chicago because I had all hardwood floors. When I moved into a carpeted house (except my bedroom which is HW), I realized that I needed a vacuum. An actual good one. No more little dustbuster thingie. No half ass vacuum. Kind of like when I realized I needed a reliable mower. My parents and I were out at Best Buy one day looking at printers when a nice young man mentioned that he had one vacuum on clearance for $29. I immediately didn't trust him. I thought for sure something was really really wrong with the vacuum. Turns out it was just the very last one of that model and they wanted to get rid of it. So this is my Hoover wind tunneling vacuum: click here. And looks like the original price was $200. Dude. Got it for $29. Didn't buy an extra filter because it would have cost more than the vacuum itself.
Webster is terrified by the vac. When he hears me rolling it out of the closet across the bedroom hardwoods, he FLEES. So imagine his poor day as Ma and I stripped both of my oversized couches and proceeded to vacuum for like 10 hours. Two gray cats shedding their winter fur and one long-haired redhead. Oof. And the vacuum? Held up like a champ. It has a little hose with a separate attachment (actually a couple of cool attachments), so we just used that to go through everything. We had one minor snafu when MY hair caused a disaster by wrapping itself around the brush roller thing. Ma and I used a screwdriver and a knife to take it apart and remove the hair. And I had a flash back of when I lived with FOUR long haired girls in college. The blonde one and I both had hair to our butts. Thick hair. And then 2 brunettes and a strawberry blonde. Can you imagine THAT vacuuming experience?? (shudders)
So I must say, I give the vacuum high ratings. However, Hoover, are you listening?? I probably am going to need a new filter soon. Why should I buy one that costs more than the vac did? Eh? Want to send me a FREE one?? Or a couple? And then I'll keep talking about how amazing the Hoover wind tunnel system is? Cause I'm kinda broke right now. I could use some free filters. Do it. You know you want to. In fact, maybe I'll just email you this post HOOVER HOOVER WIND TUNNEL IS GREAT. GO HOOVER!
So my mother was a champ. We vacuumed, we rocked out to music, and we succeeded. And after she left, Webster emerged from his hiding place and promptly feel asleep. On the clean couch. And shedded.
Friday, June 20, 2008
I've become obsessed with Jon & Kate Plus 8. Seriously. I can't stop watching. It's like road kill. I'm pretty sure it was my friend Kate (who isn't Kate from the show and her real name isn't Kate but she's knows I'm talking about her when I say Kate) told me to watch the show. I decided to give it a shot. HOOKED.
So Jon and Kate meet, marry, and have twins. Then they have sextuplets. So now they have eight children. Under the age of 10. I think the twins are currently 7 and the babies are 4. Might be wrong--don't hurt me. It's hard to tell with all the reruns.
Since I don't have children of my own, I get quite a kick out of watching the little ones. But the real fun for me is Jon and Kate talking to each other. Kate is extremely witty. The stuff that comes out of her mouth AMAZES me. Oh, to be so witty. And Jon? His deadpan responses and eye-rolls would make any man proud. I've been trying to get Dorothy to watch this for quite some time. Perhaps this little post will reel her in.
There was a marathon on TLC this week. I DVRed it all. So last night, I found myself watching episodes back to back. I couldn't stop. It was like CRACK. I wanted to know where they were going next and what they were going to do and HOW HOW HOW HOW do they get those children to actually STAY IN THE CORNER. I've never seen it done so eloquently. The children just go. And STAY. WTF?? They may, in fact, be the best parents I've ever seen in my life. And they have 8 children.
I found myself taking mental notes just in case I ever have any.
So as the hours rolled by and the DVR kept going, I told myself: Go to bed. Jon and Kate will still be in the DVR when you wake up. But I couldn't stop. And then I got to the grand mother of all episodes. They took this trip to Utah, but they didn't show you the horror of horrors that was their plane trip. So there was a whole episode dedicated to just the plane ride. You must see it. For anyone who has ever had a horrible plane trip, this will make you feel better. I almost needed a Xanax just watching. When Kate finally cracked and squeaked out a few tears, I wanted to run into my television and hold her. And then give her a Guinness.
So set your DVRs and be prepared. You will not be able to walk away from the cuteness that is Jon and Kate. And it will make you feel better about whatever your schedule is like for the day.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Today I went outside and found a lovely treat from my neighbor resting on my front steps: fresh onions from the garden! Seriously, folks, nothing beats Iowa neighbors. They are so sweet.
It's a good day to burn, so I went and gathered all of the twigs with my wheelbarrow. OK, not all of them. It's HOT outside. MUGGY. My jeans were stuck to my body after 5 minutes. And yes, you need to wear jeans while you're doing yard work. Trust me. Especially when you have little pockets of poison ivy everywhere. Just sayin'.
The celosia and snapdragons are doing well. Does anyone know if snapdragons rebloom? Cause it seems like the blooms are just falling off and that's it. Same with the cute little flowers that are buried in the celosias...
The gem of my world right now is my new passion flower plant. It's the most expensive plant I own, at the grand price of $11. But it was well worth it. There are buds ALL over it and it's happily winding itself around the handrail with the little coily things. I love this plant. I can't WAIT to see it bloom. Passion flowers are so fascinating:
I bought this fuchsia angel earring thing back in the winter. I had it in my home office, where it promptly dropped ALL of the flowers. When it started warming up, I moved it outside and actually contemplated getting rid of it because it wouldn't grow. I guess it just needed a little time to adjust because it's full now:
My new little rose bush is growing well. If you look closely at the upper left, you can see the first bud. I wish I had saved the package so I would know what type of rose this is...oops:
Then we have my dahlia, another pride and joy. I've found myself becoming quite obsessed with dahlias. Unfortunately, every time it storms, some giant branch falls on this puppy and smashes it down into the dirt. Solution? Wire thing from Ma's house:
Marigolds, sweet peas, and unknown flowers:
And, introducing....drum roll please... BIG GOAT. I have Big Goat and Little Goat. I pulled some tall grass from around the tree today and fed the animals. Note mules in background:
And LITTLE GOAT. Little Goat has a small piece of grass hanging out of his mouth from me just handing him a bunch of grass. He ate it too quickly for me to get the camera out:
I'm starting to think the sheep are kinda useless. They just sleep. All the freaking time. I kinda want to shave them or something:
And last, but not least, Kingie watching from inside as I inspect the garden:
Poor meow. He just wouldn't know what to do with himself outside like the REAL animals. But at least he enjoys watching. And falling asleep right there in the sun.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Who can tell me about President Kennedy? Anyone?
I've asked Ma and Pa before where they were when Kennedy was assassinated. I know they told me, but at this point I can't really remember. We were watching some program the other day that mentioned Kennedy and his brother and their assassinations. I've never paid too much attention to the Kennedys. I was perhaps one of the only women in the world who was never wooed by their charms or looks. It helped that I wasn't alive.
I've seen programs on TV about the "grassy null" and the "second shooter." But I've never heard the hard core theories behind these stories. I also don't know enough about the political climate at that time to know who would want one or both dead. And, this will show how stupid I am about history, I didn't realize that Bobby Kennedy was running for president when he was killed. I knew he was a senator, but my knowledge stopped there. What can I say? I'm ignorant.
So after I get finished with my moon book, I think I'll dive into a little Kennedy history. What the hell was the Bay of Pigs? How did the Cuban Missile Crisis get going? I know these things are somehow related to Kennedy, but I want to know MORE. I'm hungry for the knowledge.
So I'm now accepting book suggestions related to these boys, the conspiracy, etc. Got any good ones? I'll be sure to review it and let you know what happened when I'm done.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
When Dorothy and I were little girls, on Father's Day we would be woken up by Ma who would "sneak" us into the kitchen (as if you couldn't hear us) where we would make you a really nasty kiddo breakfast and then run into your room to "surprise" you. I tried this again this morning, but you just didn't hear me. I totally wasn't asleep in my own bed or anything. That's just a rumor. So you missed it.
I hearby bequeath you the next best Father's Day gift: You do NOT have to come over and help me clean up all of the limbs from this morning's lovely storm. As I was going out to assess the damage, I spied my neighbors roaming around their yard with a 4-wheeler and a flat bed on the back full of limbs. They inquired: Did I have any? Hell YES! I went around the front of the house and pulled the limb that was twice my length from my yard to theirs. Then I casually pointed at the one on the roof of my home office. Eh?
Bless their hearts, they went and got a ladder. And even though the woman is older than you, she trucked right up that ladder and pulled down a whole winter's worth of limbs that had been collecting there. And then she pulled some guck out of my gutters. Again, bless her heart.
Then she laughed really really hard when I told her I like burning. She said, "You hear that, honey? She LIKES burning!" So they had a good chuckle at my expense. Farmies. They just don't understand when they've been doing it their whole lives.
Then they pulled up in my side yard and collected 4 dead limbs that I've been storing over there that had fallen, one by one, onto my flower bed and nearly destroyed my dahlia time and time again. We piled all of these giant limbs onto the flatbed, which now stood about 10 feet tall, and they took off for some unknown area down in their pasture. Luckily, I still have a wheelbarrow full of stuff to burn at a later date!
So instead of calling you up and begging you to bring me a chainsaw on Your Day, and climb up on my roof, and pile things in your pickup truck, you can just sit there and read your paper. My neighbors already did it. And now I will wash off my farmie funk, tip the yard swing back up AGAIN, and come over to take you to dinner. Your treat. (snicker)
Thank you for being my Super Pa.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
That, my friends, is a farm kitteh drinking from a mule tank. I tried to get a photo of the goats yesterday, but they remained elusive. In fact, one of them somehow made it into the back pasture and was baaaaaing at the other goat from afar. I will take a photo of them soon though, because they are just too cute.
Anyway, I try to get out to my swing at least once a day when the weather is nice. It's so peaceful to rock in the breeze and enjoy the lovely view. So yesterday, I took a pillow from inside, got my book, and went out to read for a while. I was rocking along when I smelled something. Kind of sour. Nasty. Cat pee? I took a whiff of the pillow thinking perhaps King or Webster had an accident inside. No. Not there. I smelled my shirt. Nope, not me. Hmmm. Maybe I was just catching the odor on the wind. There are certainly enough farm cats around here that someone might be peeing in the wind.
I let it go and swung for a while, occasionally catching a whiff. Sick.
I was feeling a little restless, so after one chapter, I decided to clean out my car. It's been a while. I found a few years worth of city sticker receipts for Chicago, CDs I thought I would never see again, a chess set, an orchid book, and a little button that fell off the console months ago. I even went into town and vacuumed that beyotch.
Then I came back and decided to sit in the swing again. And the odor was back. Was it ME?? WTF?? I swung; I pondered. Then I turned around, put my nose to the cushion, and took a big whiff. SICK.
On windy days, which is like every day, a cushion blows off and lands in the yard. This is a cheap swing, folks. Walmart. There is one Velcro strap on each cushion to hold them on. They are no match for Iowa wind. Every so often, I come outside and find the cushion way across the yard. I've gotten smarter about this, so if I know a big storm is coming, I either put the cushions in the trunk of my car or in my house. Where my own cats sleep on them. Leaving their furry goodness. Their personal odors. Which is probably threatening to the wild tom cats.
Furry cute indoor cat smell + outside cushion on ground = tom cat peeing on furry cat smell to mark its territory.
But at least I know where the strange odor is coming from now. It totally wasn't me. Well, it wasn't for a while.
Cause then I went over to Nerdtopia for dinner. And Maggie farm cat came over to say hello. She sniffed my back and then tried to sharpen her claws on my spine. Cats aren't just scratching when they claw the crap out of something. They have scent markers in their paws, so when they scratch, they're actually marking. Maggie went for it. She was not happy that some random farm cat had marked her buddy. Poor Maggie. Such confusion.
Needless to say, when I got home, I took a very very very long shower.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
So I survived another set of tornadic storms. Good grief. Seriously? Does it STOP? I used to bitch about Lake Michigan having its own weather system in the form of the "Lake Effect" but that is nothing compared to being in southwest Iowa. I had forgotten. Yes, this is what summer is like here. Things bloom. It gets pretty out. STORMS COME!!
All I can think about is one of my favorite children's books: Storm Is Coming by Heather Tekavec. Seriously, if you have a little one, get this book. It is too cute.
Last night, as the sirens sounded and the satellite suddenly went out, I realized it was probably time to head to the basement. Luckily, the meows are OBSESSED with the basement. I took my cell phone, a soda, and wandered over to the basement door. I cracked it open.
Webster came FLYING. WHOOSH! Down the stairs he went. Kingie took a little more time. He was all cuddled up sleeping on the dining room table. He wasn't in the mood to MOVE. But I knew if I just went down there, he'd come. He did spend an entire afternoon down there, after all. So I left the door open and Webbie and I went down there and called the Nerds, who held the phone up to their TV so I could hear the weather report. They were also in their basement, but they have better accommodations (cough). I hate the basement. It's creepy. Not well-lit. Webster took off, exploring. King came down. I went up and shut the basement door. We waited.
Outside, Mother Nature was BEATING the house. No doubt the mules, sheep, goats, and kittens were FREAKING and hiding in their shelters. Winds howled. Hail started. Eventually, I went back upstairs and looked outside. It was raining so hard that there was only about 20 ft of visibility. Amazing. I was awestruck. The window leaking wicking thing I hooked up was collecting water nicely (did I tell you? They're going to reroof the roof. That roof that still has original wooden shingles under 3 layers of other shingles!). I must admit, I was actually a little scared.
I also felt kind of like the weather was reflecting my current life circumstances. Like how I can't catch a break. I get little bits sunshine and then BAM! Still no verdict on the house, but I hear new things and rumors each day. Same with job stuff. It comes and goes. I just start to feel better (finally get the yard mowed and the flowers cleaned up) and then it all falls to pieces (yard swing gets knocked over by giant falling branch; new flowers ripped to shreds).
But luckily, I have Natasha Bedingfield. For reals. I discovered a new song by her and it's rocking my world. There is no video, or I would link it in here. The best I have is a link to her singing it.
Here's the link.
And here are the lyrics:
by Natasha Bedingfield
Landlord's knocking at my door cussing me out
Got laid off my job the night before
Can’t figure how
I’m gonna fix tomorrow away
If today’s still a mess
Can u tell me what’s the point man,
It all seems meaningless
I wish that I could step away and breathe
This world’s trying to swallow me
Clear away the clouds inside my head
Someone just tell me
That it’s ok now
What are you worried about
Got my dreams, got my life, got my love
Got my friends got the sunshine above
Why am I making this hard on myself
When there’s so many beautiful reasons I have to be happy
People lie, people hide, people cry, people fight
And they don’t know why
If fear is all that we should fear
Then what are we so afraid of
Cause fear is only in our heads
Someone please say...
That it’s ok now
What are you worried about
Got my dreams, got my life, got my love
Got my friends got the sunshine above
Why am I making this hard on myself
When there’s so many beautiful reasons I have to be happy
Any day I'll go bad thinking bad
Everyone is against me and the world wants to fight me
Preparing to battle an enemy unseen
During my stressing I’m blinded to the lesson
That could be a blessing if I'd be confessing that the enemy
I’m trying to beat is hiding inside of me
But it’s ok now...what are you worrying about...
Got my dreams, got my life, got my love
Got my friends got the sunshine above
Why am I making this hard on myself
When there’s so many beautiful reasons I have to be happy
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
So I still haven't seen my favorite farm cat, Jezzie. But she's slowly being replaced by a new favorite farm cat, Momma Cat. For a long time, I was just calling her Black and White Cat. I know, so creative. There's just so many of them that they're hard to name. Well, now that I think about it, I saw a LOT more cats over the winter. Where have they gone? Out exploring? Snarfed up by traffic or coyotes? Offed by neighbors? Not sure. But one thing I do know? Momma Cat has 6 toes. She's a bonafide 6-toed cat. Like Hemingway's cats. You can't entirely tell from this photo. She's extremely affectionate, so it's hard to get a photo of her cause she's always moving. I finally used a flower pot bottom as a water bowl to let her drink after I busted her drinking out of the mule tank. She was very excited for the fresh water, and stood still just long enough for me to attempt to capture her toes on film.
The best thing about Momma Cat is that she recently had a litter of 5 kittens. Ooooooh fresh kittens! The neighbors were able to find homes for 2 of them, but I found 3 of them bopping around in the brush the other night. Momma Cat had killed a bunny and they were sharing it. Then they played and played for hours.
This one is like a puzzle. Can you spy the kitteh?
I've often wondered what King would look like as a kitten. Considering his size, I'm sure it was interesting...
Even when things aren't going quite right, animals can always make it better. These little kittens put a smile on my face for an entire day. And as the daily storm rolled in, I went out to check on them and call for Momma Cat. Momma Cat!! Storm's comin'!! Pa reminded me that these are farm cats--they'll be fine in a storm. It's not like we threw Webster out in the tornado. He wouldn't know what to do.
But farm cats and kittens are scrappy. They can handle a lot of sh*t. Just like ME.
Monday, June 09, 2008
Just in time, the space program renews my faith in the world. I don't know what it is about the original space program missions, but they always get me so excited. Last night I headed over to Nerdtopia so Pa and I could watch When We Left Earth together. Dude. Good stuff. I'm quite excited that I have weeks to go with this series. It's truly inspiring.
I realize that during that time in history, there were a lot of scary things going on. Hello Russians? How dare you be technologically sound! But there is something so dreamy about that era for me. It's my romantic daydreams about having that kind of hope, believing our nation could do something incredible, and loving my president so much that I might actually cry if he died.
I've read many books about the space program. But each time I see new footage of the astronauts for the Mercury and Gemini missions, my heart flutters. Even more so than the Apollo missions. Think about it. Without knowing what we were doing at all, we loaded up humans on top of modified missiles and launched them into an unknown territory. Our virgin space had not yet been tapped. There was no Space Junk. There weren't a billion satellites out there. It was quiet. Peaceful. Empty. Beautiful.
And we just believed we could go and it would be OK.
The funny thing about Kennedy is that he originally wasn't interested in the space program. According to the book I'm reading right now, Apollo, Kennedy didn't see how manned space flight was important. Until the Russians did it, that is. It took some major coaxing for old Kennedy to come around. I was disappointed when I first read this. All this time, I thought Kennedy was the main person responsible for us getting to the moon so quickly. But like all politicians, he had more than one thing on his mind at that time. Some people had to noodle him and he came around. Then he gave one of the best speeches of all time. And whenever I hear him say we go to the moon "not because it is easy but because it is hard" I start crying a little bit. Because it's just so damn inspiring. When they played that clip last night on the show, my crusty black heart opened a little and my left eye leaked a bit.
But before the greatness of Apollo, before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, there were many other brave men who laid it all out there. Alan Shepard was the first US astronaut in space. Then came Gus Grissom (who later died in Apollo 1). And of course we all know John Glenn, who buzzed around in space as our first man in orbit.
When John Glenn was getting ready to launch, after many delays and sitting on that launch pad forEVER, Scott Carpenter (who was also an astronaut and was the designated capsule communicator for the Glenn mission) said, "Godspeed, John Glenn." For years, I have wondered about this phrase. WTF? What does Godspeed mean? In fact, I thought he was saying "God speed, John Glenn." Which made it even more confusing. I queried Pa about this phrase, thinking he might know. He didn't. But he was sitting with a laptop in his lap. Ahem. So I told him to google it.
Godspeed apparently comes from Middle English, and can also be written God spede. It basically means good luck. I wish you good fortune. Something like that. It has nothing to do with being fast or God being particularly speedy. It's a simple blessing, a bit of hope for good old Glenn as he rockets out into space and circles the globe for the first time. And as I heard these words and watched that rocket take off, I was transported back in time and felt like I really was sitting there, watching Glenn begin our journey to the moon. Why does this stuff make me so dreamy and hopeful? I don't know. But it sure works.
I feel better already.
Godspeed, Blondie Blonderson. Godspeed.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Last night I opted for a quiet night at home.
After watching a bunch of shows I had DVRed throughout the week, I started to notice it was a bit WARM in Farmhouse Villa. Too warm. I went over and turned down the air conditioner. It was set at 72. Surely, it was not 72? Was I having a hot flash? Am I going into early menopause? Then and only then did I notice the AC was making noise outside as it turned on, but not inside. Time? 9:30pm. On Saturday night. In a town where people are super religious and go to church first thing on Sunday morning. Chances of getting an AC repair dude first thing? Zero.
I went to investigate and felt the vents. Nothing. I turned the AC down. I turned it off. Turned it back on. Sounds outside. Inside, nothing. I called Super Pa. He had me try to turn on the house fan. Silence. Nothing. Verdict? Busted fan in basement. Grrreat. Earlier in the day, the temperature reading on the car thermometer read 95. I could only read it after my glasses completely fogged over when I got inside. And it was muggy. Wet blanket hot. That lovely Iowa humidity has finally kicked in. And now it was seeping into every nook and cranny of Farmhouse Villa right before I was slated to drift off to La La Land. So I called my rental lady at home and left her a message. She was totally having a better Saturday night than me.
I threw in the towel and went to bed at 10pm with my ceiling fan on high blast. There was no way I was going to open the windows because it would have let in even more heat and humidity than just letting the coolness of the house be retained. And I was very lucky that I didn't open my bedroom window because, like clockwork, at 3AM, water started pouring in my bedroom window again as the latest round of storms rolled through. The rental lady had called me back at 11pm to tell me she would call and see if someone could come today or tomorrow. But did I mention the window? No, because it wasn't raining then. I have told her about it, so she knows, but it wasn't the topic of conversation. Just the AC mysteriously conking on me.
The kitties FLEW out of the bed and I jumped up, running into the bathroom for all of those towels that are still hanging in there from last time. I caught the water that was making its way all the way across the bedroom again and rigged up my wicking bucket. DUDE. Cut it out.
This morning, I studied the window. I think I know how to fix it by myself. I know, I know, let someone else do it. But I really think I can do it by myself, so why not try?
Here's the thing. I have another window that looks exactly like the one in my bedroom, but it's in the living room. I studied it this morning. At the bottom, in between the window and the storm window, there is a piece of raised, slanted wood. So if any water comes in, it can roll out the bottom of the window on the OUTSIDE of the house. This piece of wood is missing in my bedroom. Creating a nice little collection spot for all that water. If I can recreate this piece of wood, I can encourage the water to leak outside instead of inside. Now all I need is a 2x4 and a saw. Where, or where, will I find that? ... ... Pa? I will measure it out and do this. It WILL WORK. It will.
I need to go back to believing things are going to work again. I've gotten somewhat pessimistic. Grumpy. So I am now attracting grumpiness from the universe around me. I'm like a magnet for bad luck and yuckiness right now. It must stop. I can't allow this to continue any longer. I am going to Turn It Around. Slowly.
One bright spot on the horizon? Kate reminded me of a new series starting tonight on Discovery called When We Left Earth. Prrrrr. At least I have a space show to watch. If the satellite doesn't go out.
Friday, June 06, 2008
Nothing beats having a good Pa. For reals.
After spending the night monitoring my window for more leakage, I knew I once again needed to call in the Big Dog: Pa Blonderson. I explained the situation to him and waited for his genius brain to calculate a solution. And for him to come over and explore the basement and attic with me cause they kind of creep me out.
The verdict? The roof of Farmhouse Villa is quite old. It appears that someone has just added layers to the roof without ever stripping off the old roof to begin with. And then there is the gutter, which is bowing right above my bedroom window. Nice. That explains the torrent of water that floods into the bedroom when a big storm rolls in. After a quick inspection, Pa knew exactly what he needed to do. Then we ventured to the attic to empty some buckets I have up there for leaks. Other than a large collection of dead Asian beetles (those things that LOOK like ladybugs but aren't), the attic was in fine condition. I must say, this surprised me a bit considering what was going on in my bedroom. The basement? Again, minimal leakage, which is quite lucky for me considering how many friends I have with flooded basements. I don't know WHAT is up with Mother Nature, but she's given southwest Iowa quite the pounding this week. Um, Mother Nature? ENOUGH with the tornadoes already. Thank you.
Pa and I went back over to his house to gather supplies. After my grandparents' death, he purchased the Morton Building on my grandfather's property next door. When I was young, this building housed tractors and combines. Now it's filled with my father's projects, a truck, and the sweet smell of grease and farmy odors that followed my grandfather his whole life. We got a piece of... um.. Pa, what is that? Tin? Well, it was a sheet of rolled up metal. And some tin snips. And a ladder.
Back at Farmhouse Villa, Pa cut a sheet of metal out while the goats and sheep wandered out to watch. He climbed the ladder and nailed this sheet over the top of my window. He called it "flashing." It looks quite ridiculous, but it will work. I totally don't care as long as my bedroom is dry. I said, "Pa, this is the difference between Dorothy and I. She would DIE if she had this on the side of her house. She would have the whole roof redone in two days. Of course, she OWNS her property..." I snickered to myself. Sisters.
Then Pa came in to see the kitties and we discussed our recent viewing of the Andromeda Strain. Pa read the book way back when and was able to tell me the differences between the original book and the recent TV movie. I asked him to explain some of the higher level science to me and tried desperately to understand what buckyballs are. I still don't, but that's OK. Then I told him about the book I'm reading: Apollo: Race to the Moon. Pirate, if you haven't read this one, you'll like it, too. And then I gave Pa a little hug and sent him on his way with his giant rolled up sheet of metal.
My relationship with Pa has always been good. I've been very lucky. People have always adored my father. Sometimes a little too much. Pa is one of those kind souls who will help anyone, and some people have taken advantage of that over the years. He's always off to fix someone's computer or help someone build something or wash a billion dishes at church functions. I often have to remind MYSELF to not take advantage of him. He has his own projects. He doesn't actually WANT to rehab every house I live in or chainsaw every limb that falls out of my sky. All things in moderation, after all. And having to share Pa with other people is something I learned slowly. My sister's Beloved gets along with Pa like hotcakes. When they are around each other, it's hard to get a word in edgewise. But I've learned to swoon a little bit when I see these two men I adore getting along so well. Pa deserves to have another good man in his life. He's raised two daughters. Ones that didn't always get along. It's only fair that his karma should roll forward at some point.
Over the years, I've called Pa from afar and bawled about problems or begged him to explain computer problems to me (which I've never had to do since I got a Mac, AHEM). I've queried him about the lives of my grandparents and what his childhood was like. As I get older, we have endlessly more interesting things to talk about. We read the same books now (we both LOVE the Rama series) and can have intellectual conversations about topics I never would have approached as a teen. I appreciate him as a friend as well as a Pa. And as my personal handy man.
So as we sat discussing Andromeda Strain on the couches for a moment after the metal raising (my personal version of an Amish barn raising), I felt happy that Pa was just sitting there. No more projects for him. No hurried agenda. No buzzing in and out of Chicago for a quick weekend visit. We just sat for a minute and watched Webster's tail tapping against the couch. These are the moments I will be able to remember years from now. When I came back to my Pa as an adult but still a child. And he welcomed me with open arms. And tools.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Since I've been home, I've been craving a really good storm. Tornadic. Um. Yeah. I got one. That lasted the whole night. I barely got any sleep. Kept waking up. It was awful.
It's been raining for weeks now. A few days ago, I awoke to the sound of water coming in my bedroom window. I hadn't lowered the storm window, and I couldn't get it down because too much water was coming in and running across the hardwood floors in the process. It was the middle of the night and I was half asleep, so I put a trashcan under the window and dealt with it in the morning. I took all of the wet towels I used over to Ma's and washed them.
So they were right there there in a clean laundry basket when I needed them last night.
This time, the storm window was all the way shut, top to bottom. I finally bit it and turned on the air conditioner yesterday after realizing everything I owned was retaining 90% humidity. So I felt pretty confident about the bedroom window.
After napping through the first wave of storms (and being awakened by my mother's frantic phone calls to see if Farmhouse Villa was still here), I turned on the TV and watched the news. Ah yes, storms like mad. Watches. Warnings. The sky turned a very dark gray. I went outside to take a peek. There are now 4 sheep and 2 goats in the back yard with the mules. They were cowering in their little shelter. The sky looked ominous. I rubbed my hands together. Goodie!
But then reality hit. The satellite went out. No more news coverage. The lights flickered. The lightning was out of control. I sat on the couch wondering which part of my house would be safest considering there are giant trees all around it. Which area was least likely to get knocked in by said trees? I came over and unplugged the laptop and turned it off. With all electronics now off, I heard it. The water. In the bedroom. Again.
As some of you readers may recall, my apartment in Chicago had a serious leak in the wall sometime last year. It sounded like it was raining in there, but it was really just my landfather's water heater. And there is quite the difference in sounds. Because storm water? It doesn't trickle in. Oh no, it gushes. Kind of like running a bathtub. When it really gets going, there's no stopping it.
By the time I noticed the sound, the water had run in through the window, under the bed, and all the way over to my bedroom door. King sat on the bed licking himself. Totally didn't care. I yanked the bed away from the wall to assess the damage. Plop! In went my pillow. Into the yucky rain water. Did I mention this was past 10pm? With no signs of the storm letting up? And that I was tired?
So there is some kind of leak in between the storm window and the real window. So all the water is gushing in and collecting in the area at the bottom of the window where it's closed. And since the storm window is now closed, there's a few inches of water collected down there that is running into the room. I open the window--WATER! I grab a trash can and collect as much as I can by propping it against the wall. It quickly fills. I grab all of those fresh, clean towels and go to town. King watches.
Being an engineer's daughter, I start thinking of ways I can rig some system to deflect the water out. But I don't have anything that would be very useful right at the moment. I open the bottom of the storm window two inches so any water that gets that high can run back out. But the bottom of the window and the storm window has an area roughly two inches LOWER than the beginning of the storm window exit. Following me? So there's like a little trough in there to catch the water, which is now leaking all over the floor.
If only I had a sheet of metal or a two-by-four.
Then I remember there are a couple of two-by-fours outside. But it's now HAILING. Big hail. I spy a dent in my car door. F*CK! Why did I wish for a storm???
I realize I'm going to have to be creative. I slam the window shut as hard as I can, splashing water all over myself. I shove the ancient lock as tight as she'll go. Then I go find one of the soggy towels in the bathroom and a filing tub from my home office. I wedge the tub against the wall, but of course it doesn't really fit at the right angle. So I take some paper towels and wedge them underneath. Then I fold up the towel to create a wicking system. The water was coming in the left side of the window. So I made the towel go to the left and then hang over the filing system to drip the water in there. It worked:
Then I wanted to go to bed, but I didn't want my neighbors to see me, so I rigged the curtain up, too. Again, King totally didn't care. He just wanted to go to bed:
I had mopped everything up, emptied the trashcan that was full of water, put the towels in the bathroom along with my PILLOW, and made my own little water filtration system in the window. It was time for bed. And King was ready. For unknown reasons (perhaps he was afraid of the storm?), King came over to cuddle in the crook of my arm like a baby. He put his head under my chin while I read my book. Then he passed out and stayed like that for an hour while I tried to fall asleep. Usually, he cuddles like that for 10 minutes tops. Finally, I fell asleep. And each time I woke up with more thunder and lightning (ALL NIGHT LONG), King was still there. I was quite surprised.
This morning? Blue skies. But I hear storms are on the way...
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
So far this year I've written about Spider, Prairie Dog, and Salmon. Now we venture into the great world of the Blue Heron.
How do I decide which card to write about? Do I go in order? No. Usually, something happens to remind me of the year's medicine cards. Some kind of trigger. For example, this morning I woke up and hmmm....my world seems... odd. I still have received no formal word about Farmhouse Villa. Farmhouse Villa is WET. Everything in here is damp. I think I need to turn on the air conditioner. I think I might have job, but I'm not sure. Is it going to storm again? I wonder what the universe is trying to tell me. OH YEAH! Let's go look at the medicine cards.
But which card is talking to me?
So then I have to go through all of the cards I haven't discussed yet and read about them and use my little brain to figure out which card fits my current situation. I can tell right away because the other cards won't make sense to me at all. Nope. Flip flip flip. Nope. Flip flip flip. And then I start to read about some card and it all clicks. Yes, this is the card. This is what I'm supposed to be reading right now. It all makes sense.
So we come to the Blue Heron. Highlights from the book:
"Heron medicine is the power of knowing the self by discovering its gifts and facing its challenges. It is the ability to accept all feelings and opinions without denying emotion or thought... If the great Blue Heron has flown into your cards today, it is urging you to dive into the watery world of feelings to seek your truth..."
Ah yes, the feelings. I have them.
"Heron medicine people are willing to look at themselves and see the truth of their motives, actions, feelings, dreams, goals, inner strengths, and inner weaknesses. In balancing those truths, Heron's medicine shows you how to meet the challenges of your personal weaknesses and how to continue developing the skills that lead to inner strength and certainty of purpose.
Are you willing to dive into the watery depths of your own feelings and discover the role of your spiritual essence? Heron is now calling you to delve deeper, to know yourself, and to trust your path. Like the Phoenix, who rises from its own ashes, Heron emerges from the unseen worlds of spirit into a new balanced sense-of-self in order to embrace its potential again and again.
The magnificence of your human spirit lies waiting for the joy of discovery, if you are courageous enough to follow the Waterbird throughout the journey."
Well, the Waterbird certainly explains why it has been so WET around Farmsville lately!
And ah yes, the great Phoenix imagery emerges again. It truly is time for another rebirth.
Monday, June 02, 2008
One thing at a time.
It's 6am. I'm up.
I can do this.
My To Do list has magically tripled in size over night. I have a lot of things to figure out, such as Cobra insurance, how I will pay my car insurance (which is now due in that nice 6 month chunk), and my favorite farm cat Jezzy has been missing for roughly two weeks. Did she get eaten by a coyote? Remains to be seen. I'm hoping she's just wandering. Hunting. On her way back home.
Yesterday, I drove into town and paid my rent. Because even though I put down a security deposit and if this is my last month at Farmhouse Villa I don't need to pay rent, I decided to live through the weekend like it didn't matter. I went to plant my flowers in pots over at my parents' house. I took all of that yard litter and BURNED it in my burning barrel (it felt good). And while I was burning, my neighbor-former-landfather came trolling through the yard with the mule on a leash because he knows I like it. He'd just given it a haircut. Its looks totally fresh for the season. Hip. With a buzz cut. So I started feeding it the fresh grass I just mowed and he mentioned he'll be bringing some sheep through my yard this morning to live in the pasture with the mules. ROCK ON. Seriously, I would love me some sheeps. But then I mentioned that I might be moving. Turns out he knew nothing about it. Of course. I thought if he knew, he would have come told me himself. My feelings were a little hurt that he didn't tell me, so this made me feel better. He's going to investigate for me. Jury still out.
Then I had a wonderful phone conversation with Kate. I told her all about the craziness that is Blondie at the moment, and she said, "You sound remarkably calm." Yes, yes, I did. I still feel calm. She mentioned this more than once. I think she was pretty shocked. Kate and I are Lifers. She's the only person I have regularly kept in touch with since leaving Farmsville. So she's been through all of my life stages with me, and I have not been a calm person in the past. She's received more than one 3am phone call from me over the years. She's heard me bat crazy hysterical after major Significant Emotional Events. And so I think it shocked her just as much as it did me that I was not running around bawling and flapping my feathers. Yes, right when I got the phone call I did squeak out a couple of tears. But then it just Went Away and was replaced by this strange calming sensation that I've had for roughly a year now since I decided to move home.
Perhaps it's because I'm reminded of the alternative.
Let's say I was still living in Chicago and I quit my job and then found out I'd have to move to a new apartment. For those of you who know me on an intimate level, just think about THAT one. Oof.
But I'm not in Chicago. I'm in Iowa. I have a yard swing. It's cool.
But seriously, there are other factors that have made me less uneasy about my situation. It's called a Brutal Wakeup Call I got when I moved back to Iowa. I've always had a bar that I like to call my own. In whatever city I'm in, I find a little bar I can go to to rest my soul and have a cocktail. In Iowa City it was the Deadwood; Portland it was Laurelthirst; Chicago it was The Red Lion and then later The Silver Cloud. For years, I have bellied up to a bar with a notebook and written to myself or doodled, had a beer, and pondered life while eavesdropping on conversations around me and people watching. I've written some of my best stories and poems in bars, including the story I got published a few years back. Most of the time, I make a few friends, but I mostly go alone for a reason. It clears my head to get out of my house and be around people.
But a funny thing happens in a small town. You don't really get to go to the bar by yourself. You end up talking to everyone in there because they know you and you know them, or you will know them once you live here long enough. So I've come to know a whole new group of friends and acquaintances. And their lives are not so easy, either.
In Chicago, my two closest friends both owned houses that approached $500,000. One was a 2BR and one was a 3BR. There was nothing remarkable about these houses, that's just how much it costs to live there. I had other friends who owned apartments in the mid-$200,000s. And I rented an apartment that cost $900 a month. When ex moved out, I quickly realized I wasn't going to be able to afford that on my own. Oh no I wasn't. But I also wasn't going to starve right away. Because at that time, I had some money in a savings account. I had friends who owned real Prada shoes. I had friends with designer animals or extremely fancy cars or weekly manicure appointments. They were well off. And this made me feel like sh*t.
Farmsville? Not so much.
Life is a little grittier in the rural areas. And there is no better place to witness this than the local watering hole. On Friday night, I pulled out my sketch book and headed into town. Ma would like a painting based on some sidewalk chalk art I made when Little was visiting. I drew a whimsical Wood Nymph. I decided to clean her up and make her more interesting for Ma. So I bellied up to the bar, ordered a Guinness, and started drawing. And slowly but surely, the locals dribbled in. And I started eavesdropping. I don't know the people I was listening to, but I heard their stories. Money problems, child custody problems, property problems. It was much darker than any tale I heard spun in my college town tavern. It was vastly different than the frat boy bullsh*t I heard on Friday nights at The Silver Cloud. It was Real Life. That life that most people are living, but you tend to forget about when almost everyone you know owns a Coach purse (myself included).
It was humbling. And beautiful.
As I sat there drawing my little wood nymph, I internalized how small my problems are in comparison to bigger problems I heard about around me. Which is not to say that everyone in there was a wreck. To the contrary, there were happy people in there, too. And Farmsville has wealth. It's all over the place. But as the evening went on, I saw more and more people who I knew had far greater issues than I do. Let me make this clear, I don't WANT other people to have bigger problems than me. I'm not one of those. But I believe in being realistic here. My sky isn't falling. And I'm extremely lucky that I was raised in such a way (thanks, Nerds) that I have the tools to figure out problems. And I spent so much money on therapy that I have additional coping mechanisms that my parents didn't provide. And I have a college degree, which I suddenly realized not everyone has. I don't have children or a family to support and no husband to worry about. When I look at the Big Picture, I have it pretty good.
I need to remember this.
It could be worse. But it won't be. Because I won't let it be. Lady Fortuna only has so much power, after all. I also have one hand on that wheel.