Saturday, December 31, 2016

... still painting ...

Well this dog is just so done with being trapped in the house.  She's sitting and staring at the door, whining pitifully.  She's harassing me mercilessly.  I think the change in her personality has a lot to do with my tenant coming home.  Ziggy thinks: I have a spare person, I don't need to be nice to the only one anymore. 

Of course she's still sweet but she's just so stir crazy she's being kind of ridiculous. She almost got out yesterday when the neighbors were getting into the car slowly - she could see them through the window and really wanted to rush them so she made a run for it when I was trying to get a big package into the house (shelving unit); I grabbed her and then she twisted out of her collar and I was just done with that behavior.  She gets panicked without her collar so she sat and I got it back on her and more strategically got the package in.  When we build up to things like the door being open, she will sit and not rush; the unexpected windows of opportunity she finds irresistible. 

Trying to decide if I need another coat of paint - it actually already looks great, I think.  I wish I had a construction spotlight to better point out defects BEFORE I put furniture back into the room.  I may do a half-hearted second coat, as that may help me see any spots.  Then bathroom, then trim, then errands.  Oh, and I want to make muffins to take to my friend (and for me).  I may be a bit overestimating my energy levels and abilities. 

Yeah, I overestimated.  I also wonder if the paint fumes are affecting me.  But also things like contorting to get around the toilet in a tight space to paint is more than I'm used to doing.  And my damaged hand is revolting.

But I decided to cut myself some slack and said: you can do the bedroom at Mardi Gras.  Or some other time  But no, I really want to finish.  BE DONE.  So we'll keep on keeping on.  Once i finish the painting I need to deep clean before moving back in and I still haven't finished stripping the caulk in the bathroom.  Oh well, I have time for that.  If I finish everything by the end of next weekend I'm in still good shape. 

I dismantled and emptied my bedroom so now there's no space in the living room.  It's unsettling and Ziggy is sticking to me like glue.  PLus it's chilly, so Ziggy rules are: lap dog trumps laptop, and "human, you are my personal heater."  She may think we're moving again and she wants to makes sure she's on the moving truck, which means our hips are like magnets and she follows me everywhere. This is on top of the usual being in the middle of everything, constantly investigating and assessing.  She is so curious. 

OK, have gathered my provisions.  Oat bran-banana muffins in the oven for the breakfast (and to freeze; they are tasty but next time I want to put blueberries in, and/or chopped hazelnuts), a chicken-artichoke-tomato dish assembled and ready to go into the oven for lunch (and a spinach salad to go with it, in the fridge - thank you Trader Joe).   I need more coffee.  Ziggy woke me up way too early.  I was pleased she "found" me in the guest room, but I wish she hadn't done so before 6 am; also pleased that she curled into me but I wish it weren't at the crook of my knees making it impossible to put my legs back on the bed.  When I insisted, she sighed and left in disgust.  She has no tolerance for any movement, which is why she won't sleep with me. 

Sigh.  Time to make that second cup of coffee and change into painter clothes and get started.  I feel overwhelmed and annoyed that this takes time, but I'm so fortunate and I know it.   I own a house, I have time off, I have the money to buy nice paint and supplies ... my list of gratitudes is so long.  In this world which is hard for so many, my privilege and luck are vast.  So while I want to stay focused and finished, I also want to be mindful.  My life is rich and full and I am so fortunate. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016


Something about not being in school, about being on holiday, about painting - it's all making me want to do more crafts. 

I've always been a crafter of some sort. I learned to quilt when quite young because I could then sit with my favorite aunt and grandma and listen as they said things they usually wouldn't.  My grandmother was extremely artistic.  I don't have that gene, not at all.  But I appreciate a tight line of tiny quilting stitches, and the very large frame taking up the sitting room (which seemed only ever otherwise used by me, for reading).  (We would visit every summer and stay about a week with that side of the family.  My mother always felt uncomfortable with them, as though they judged her; I am realizing that giving a fuck what other people think is the source of most problems in the world.)  (The only person I ever heard them really judging was my cousin [not their child] who chose to marry a Black man.  My aunt especially was quite upset about how unfair it would be their their children. What the fuck?  Yeah, this was my favorite aunt.)

I learned yarn arts, including spinning and knitting; I learned crochet at a young age when visiting a different aunt.  As most things "feminine," my younger brother was much better than me at it. Cross stitch, embroidery, all sorts of things.

But I never learned to weave, and something about that really appeals to me now and has before.  My friend in Oregon has a huge loom that I haven't seen her use in years.  She may have even got rid of it.  These things are massive.  I once had a friend who married a man to get him a green card and what she got in return was living in the house with him with a whole bedroom for her loom.  He was kind of a dick, but she had her loom room.

I don't really have space for a loom.  I guess I could, but I don't really want to make that kind of investment.

What I've really been thinking of is the tribal patterns of the Indian tribe on whose island I was born and raised.  That aesthetic is very appealing to me - very balanced, stylized.  Here's one that I spent a summer staring at:

Bear Chilkat Blanket woven by Jennie Thlunaut

 Again I ponder: why am I in school?  Sigh.  If I weren't, I could quilt again, on top of hiking and gardening and reading and all sorts of other things. 

I want to do things with my hands more. 

OK: day is done.  I'm whooped.  I only got one coat of paint, on the walls, of only one room.  I would really like to complete all of this room, a bedroom, a bathroom (what a pain in the ass), and a hallway (tight spaces make painting a bother).  But only one coat of one room done so far doesn't bode well, huh? 

Well, the prep was really time-consuming.  I think it's a simple something but then it all turns complicated.  I pulled out the bathroom light fixture, sure hoping I'll be able to install the new one I ordered that's supposed to arrive tomorrow.  I need to go buy some bathroom caulk because I had to rip it all out around the sink.  And so on. 

And then Ziggy keeps barking, on high alert.  She wanted to go outside when I closed a bedroom door and told her to just wait.  She did, but when I finally opened it a couple of hours later, she burst into the backyard and sprinted laps and threw her bucket around and chased it.  Totally NOT what she's supposed to be doing right now, when her body is at most danger from heartworm pieces causing an embolism. Sigh.  I'm a pretty crappy dog owner.  Her poop will likely be light green, from the paint she drank before I could stop her. 

Here's the thing: after I cleaned up I walked through the room and OHMYGOD it just looks so much better.  SOOOO much better.  So, its worth it. 

Tomorrow: another coat of paint, do trim, then start painting the bathroom and see how that goes.  I have to do errands, and when I come back, maybe start clearing out my bedroom.  Not sure how that'll work with my bed, which would be a huge pain in the ass to paint around. 

Oh, and then I received my tax bill and it's super high because they fucked up and didn't process my homestead exemption for this property, and the bill for my other property is too low and good grief.  I'm whupped.  It's fucking expensive to live in this city because of all the incompetence and corruption and sometimes I just want to say fuckall.  My realtor has been selling a ton of houses lately - I wonder what she could get for my other house.  But then what if the pension disappears or social security or the market crashes or or or ... ? 

Money stresses.  I never gave a damn about it until I got into my 40s and now I'm like "damn girl, you shoulda been thinking about this shit before you ran your raggedy ass out frolicking."

PLus, there's been two murders and numerous shootings lately within two blocks of my house.  And by lately, I mean in the past month.  Y'all, my house is in the hood.  I love it there, but all that hype about gentrification ain't hit it yet.  The week before I bought that house, there was a triple murder literally around the corner from it.  I still bought it.  But most people aren't stupid like me. 

I remember one time the Young Man came over and I went out to the porch and there was a woman trying to hit on him from the time of him stopping the car before he could get to my house which was like five steps away (he has very long legs).  She had him invited to a club with offers of weed just bam like that - just from him stopping his car on the street and her walking on the sidewalk.  And sure, he's a good-looking guy, but being that forward to a stranger - who is clearly going to see someone - is something.  It's just such an interesting spot, people always walking around, often taking a rest on my stoop.  (My tenant will sometimes go out and say: shh, you're waking the baby" to get strangers off the chair by her front door.)

I love that house and think I'll go back someday to it maybe. 


Oh lord my dog is WOUND UP.  Being stuck inside all the time, and it being rainy, and she is STIR CRAZY. 

Considerable jackassery. 

But then this: she snuck out when I was taking the trash to the can.  I usually contort myself somewhat to keep the door blocked but I was distracted with the trash bag, making sure it wasn't ripped with the old caulk bottle.  She took off and I said hey, come here.  But I stayed on the porch and kept an eye on her and called to her, then took the trash down to the can and ignored her and called her again from the porch. 

Honestly, I think she's afraid of the dark.  When we play hide and seek and she never wants to go into a dark space. 

Anyway, she kind of danced around (she has a funny run when she has liberty - as though she's bobbing and weaving to George Michael's Freedom 90*) and ran up to the neighbors' house (where her little dog friend lives) and kept me in sight.  "Hey, Ziggy, want some chicken?" and she thought a minute and then ran up the stairs to me. She kind of loitered on the porch as though to tease me - maybe i'll come in, maybe i'll run and make you chase me - but then she came in and she got a few bites of chicken and the last of an almond butter container, because we do positive associations for the behavior we want. 

If Ziggy were just predictable, it would make things easier.  Boring, sure.  But there's something to be said for canine boring.  Maybe she is predictable but I'm just stupid and can't figure out the patterns.  I mean, I know that had she seen the cat from across the street she would have run to chase it and totally ignored me. 

We have a preliminary phone consultation next week with the behavioral vet.  I feel good about this.  He comes highly recommended - I found him on the website of the world's leading behavioral vet, who really changed how we think of dealing with dogs' issues, and then the vet I asked about it had taken the behavioral class with him in vet school - he was the instructor.  So he's some kind of expert, and she highly recommends him.  I find it limiting to do by phone because one of the biggest challenges is just how much of a physical presence Ziggy is.  That's been the issue with the past attempts at training - she just very much inhabits any space she's in.  Without understanding that aspect of it, it's hard to understand the extent of her reactivity/impulsivity and the need for intervention. 

But, he's experienced, and the person coordinating this appointment read my concerns and said oh yes, this is something he can definitely help with, and I'm sure that Ziggy is not the first dog in the world whose behavior is challenging, even if she's the first dog that I've ever known like this.  I just have to remember how really fortunate I am that she's not mean.  She is a jackass because she doesn't care what I want, but I can respect that.  As someone who doesn't give a fuck what others think, we are sympatico. 

It's a gray dreary morning and I'm attempting to gird my loins to jump into painting project.  I know once I start I'll power through it.  Step by step.  It's all the little stuff that takes the most time, like taping up under the baseboards, cutting in the ceiling carefully because I do not want to have to do another ceiling.  I hope I have all the supplies I need because I don't feel like driving today but will do what is necessary.  Tomorrow have lots of errands - baby to hold, medicine for dog to pick up, groceries to make, etc., but I need to stay on track and finish the damn painting all the way before Monday.  And I still have five books to read, plus for school.  I need another productive long weekend.   Poor Ziggy.  Boring times for her ahead.  But three more weeks and she gets her life back.  I'm just worried about the follow-up test in May.  Will she be heartworm negative then?  I don't want to go through this again, but I sure as hell don't want her to have heartworms. 

*When I typed that it made me want to hear the song, so I pulled up the video on Youtube.  As soon as it started, Ziggy - who was sitting on the chaise across the room, looking out the window - whipped her head around to me.  She jumped up and ran over to start dancing, prancing while she waited for me to get up and join her.   We do not dance well together, but we have some fun.  So now I'm glad to know that George Michael is her dance trigger.  She has never cared for David Bowie, which was a bit of a disappointment for me.  And Prince's music kind of startles her every time (what I listen to more than anything else).   

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

squeaky wheel

Sometimes there's a method to my kvetching madness.  I just got back a letter from the mammogram place and after several letters and phone calls, they say that they are fixing it and not charging me.  We shall see, eh?  I did threaten to report them all sorts of places. 

My supervisor is getting on my nerves because she never wants to talk to me, so I fall behind on things.  She could give me simple answers but instead she chooses not to respond.  I try to make appointments and she won't answer.  Her secretary is always embarrassed and says: "I try.  She read the message but she won't answer me either." 

She would soooo much rather maintain the status quo than make any kind of improvement, it's mind-boggling.  It goes against everything within me.  I don't do things just to do them, I do them to do them successfully and well.  That annoys her and is completely counter to the way of our world.  And she won't come to meetings where these things are discussed so I get marching orders and then she's like: wait, that's not ok and I"m like: well, would have been nice for you to say that before I spent weeks on that project. 

Deep breaths in and out.  She is flawed.  We are all flawed.  She's usually not mean, so that's something. My job is not my identity.  Who cares if my labor is in vain - I get paid either way. 

I keep racking my brain for something I can do more freelance once I'm out of student loan indentured servant status, and it's hard to find something enjoyable and pays well enough to maintain me in the lifestyle to which I've become accustomed and flexible. 

I keep coming back to: stick it out, Gringa.  Of course that depends on how a lot of things go.  It may be out of my control.  My department could easily be eliminated, my new boss could be a total asshole who makes me work long hours to try to make me quit, etc. 

But if things don't suck more, once I finish school (or maybe even when get to dissertation stage if I"m ok taking it slow), things could be ok.  Leave on time, do fun things.

Then I think: I should quit, go back to school, become a field ecologist, and study ecosystems in the wild, camping for weeks at a time, with my trusty Catahoula at my side.  I have a friend who used to live that life and she loved her dog so much, and then the dog died from an undiagnosed heart issue when quite young and my friend was so devastated she dreaded field work and changed her job.  I get that.  I have rarely camped since Selma died.  There is just something about having the right dog that makes everything better. 

But let's be honest: neither Ziggy nor I are really interested in living in the wild.  We like our comforts quite a lot.  It will be comical the first time I ask Ziggy to sleep on the ground - she will be very miffed and probably try to sleep on top of me.

Ha just saw this article about a man in Canada who punched a cougar to save his dog.  My first thought: I would do the same.  My second: shouldn't my dog save me from a cougar?  My third: I want to find me a man who loves his dogs that much.  My fourth: I love Canada. 

I started watching Atlanta yesterday and it is as good as I heard.  It's really, really good.  The acting is exceptional.  The facial expressions on Earn and Paperboi are really something, and some of the background is really heartwrenching - about poverty, and that guy who keeps getting taken to jail and has mental health issues, and parenthood and just so much.  It's so so good.

So, a book for another book group just arrived and I need to read.  And I need to clean out my study and prep it for painting.  It's about to get all latex up in here.  Man, I'll be so glad when all this is done.  There's always another chore, but I started this up in July and I want it DONE. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

that's fine if you don't want my business

I have a dickens of a time getting good service in New Orleans.  We all do.  Now it's for insurance: the company I'm currently with is way too expensive so I want to cancel and get a better policy (and by better, I mean less expensive).  I asked friends and either their recommendations were out of the New Orleans metro area or don't return my phone calls or emails.  Particularly insulting was the email I sent, the guy responded and called the office, so I did, and then I was told that I needed to speak with a person who wasn't available so I left my number AND emailed that person per the receptionist's advice ... and no response.  At all.  So then I emailed the original guy back to explain this and ... no response.  For a week. 

Yeah, you don't need my business. 

Man, this year has just been brutal on so many people.  Carrie Fisher was 60?  And George Michael 53?!  Y'all, I won't even have my student loans paid off when I'm 53, and maybe if I'm lucky I'll get to retire around 60.  Is this my life? 

Life is short. 

Ziggy has been so very very sweet lately, making it easy for me to forget what a jackass she can be.  I think it's the combination of being trapped in the house with me (she's beginning to appreciate her captor) and having arsenic coursing through her body.  She's still very perky but I know it's the show she puts on.

Here's hoping I actually implement the fun plans I have for us once this is over. Visits with dog friends, hikes in the forest, training.   I would rather this not be our new normal, even though it's easy for me.

Monday, December 26, 2016


I just changed out the light fixture in my guest bedroom closet, and I feel like such a badass as I've never done this before.  It was a simple trade-out, and only really necessary because I'd shattered the cover when putting things on the shelves because it was a bad choice for that location.  (I badly sliced my thumb when cleaning up the broken pieces of it, and it healed with such scar tissue that my thumb joint will likely not ever work quite right again.  But I'm like an old pickup - looking close to 50, I only need things to work pretty well and only for another 30 years or so.) 

Now it has a much smaller fixture with more solid glass - much less likely to be accidentally shattered again. 

So, what this means is ... I could change out my bathroom light fixture?  I can't find the circuit breaker that turns that light off (which could illustrate any one of several electrical problems) but I may just turn everything off for the time to change it (bonus to this is that I need to remove a piece of metal from an outside outlet and this would let me).  Or just turn off the light and check the wires with a voltage tester.  (Don't judge - I don't want to pay an electrician right now.)  The current fixture is really gross - it's the cheapest Home Depot design, and not in a good way.  I hate it.  It's a significant part of why I had the other two bathrooms redone.  Well, that and vanities that had to be replaced because they were in very poor condition.  The vanity in the last remaining bathroom is ok.  Not great, but it's ok for now. 

Tax is going to be collected on Amazon orders starting January 1, so I just put in a big order of things I know I'll want/need in the next few weeks or have been waiting to get (things like a cheese grater and liquid measuring cups - nothing exciting at all; I don't have liquid measuring cups at all and the cheese grater I've been using was a handoff from a friend's mother - it's broken but I don't grate that much cheese that it's been ok).  While I'm generally fine with paying my fair share of taxes, I am not thrilled about this because tax money is so poorly managed here.  And sales tax is so regressive.  Paying 10% is nonsense. 

And yes, we also have income tax and real estate tax.  We likely have more than enough tax revenue, and yet the corruption and incompetence and poor policy is so heavy here that the money is squandered so badly.

OK, now I've done some wall patching.  Large cracks and where an electric doorbell was mounted.  Will need to hit all of them another time or two, and sand, and spray with texture.  And then I can paint next weekend, though I also have to move a lot of furniture, some of it heavy and requiring removal of contents first.  Maybe I'll just do a couple of rooms at a time instead of trying to clear out everything all at once and living with chaos for a number of days. 

If I can power through two more chores (cook, strip caulk) then I'll reward myself with bourbon nog and a book.  A winning day.

Oh, I haven't watched the Sense8 special that came up a few days ago.  I'm holding onto it.  The show is not unflawed, but it is compelling.  

I just watched a documentary on Netflix about Minimalism and it was a little interesting.  It makes me laugh because I do have a fair amount of clutter but that's a lot about lack of climate-controlled storage right now.  And I realized this morning that I have hoarding tendencies for packaging.  I really like to keep the boxes that things come in; if I buy things then they are usually high-quality and worth maintaining to last a long time, and I assume that I"ll be moving again.  So much easier to pack up my knife block and knives into the box they all came in; that has been on at least four continents and I love my knives.  I bought them when my friend coveted my previous knives so I gave them to her; at least 18 years I've had them.  They're not the best knives in the world and they seem to get dull pretty quick now, but they are good knives and it makes me happy to have them.

But they spoke of Project 333, which is about wearing only 33 items for three months.  That really made me laugh because that's no problem for me.  I wear no accessories at all and I only have one pair of workshoes right now and only four pair of workpants and six blouses to wear.  I have a lot more than that hanging in my closet, but a lot of that is suits that I inherited and I don't know if I'll have to hit the pavement and find a job that requires me to wear suits and then I wouldn't want to buy them.  So, I hang onto a lot of things as a just-in-case.  Maybe soon I will try everything on and get rid of everything I don't want to wear. 

OK, so what I want is this: not to entirely retire but to find work that I can do when I want to do it.  When it's a nice day out and I want to take the pup to the forest on a Wednesday, I want to do that. 

I have to stay working full-time for another six to eight years (depending upon the outcome of a
lawsuit recently filed in federal court), which gives me plenty of time to figure out what comes next. 

Once I finish my PhD (if I do), I need to figure out a good side hustle.  The only thing I've thought of at all is coffee.  I love coffee. 

I need a vacation from my vacation, and also more bourbon

Eggnog with bourbon is DELIGHTFUL. 

But I may not get much more physical labor done today.  Which is ok.  Better for the pup to rest if she's not chasing me around.  I spent too much of the morning trying to label which lights go out with which circuit breaker. That sure did make her crazy.  And it made me crazy because I can't figure out some of them.  Grrr.  If I have electrical circuits that can't be controlled by a circuit breaker, then I need to call the electrician to rewire some things. 

Just discovered new caulk gaps in my shower.  So I'm going to have to scrape out all caulk and any damaged grout and then caulk again.  Good times.  Another good reason to stay home another day.  I do want to replace that shower with a bathtub and maybe move around the way the bedroom/bathroom is laid out, but ... not anytime soon!  But I do need to get these short-term things done if I want to have a housemate or more visitors.  It's easy now because I can just use the spare room and bathroom. 

I watched Crazyhead last night on Netflix and it's delightful.  Funny and silly (demon hunters), but with a no-fuss feminism, female solidarity, and interraciality to it.  So often with American shows/movies it seems like writers have typecast such things as race - I know the casting agents certainly do and turn down people of color all the time.  But this felt like they wrote the role of Raquel and then just happened to find the brilliant Nigerian-British actress for it.  The only time race came up was in a lie - "Why did they break up?"  "He's racist." 

I'm not saying that race relations in Britain are better (I've heard so many racist rants when I've been there - and hey, Brexit), but I will say that it seems that their art & entertainment is less "big deal" about it.  Another delightful show is Scrotal Recall (now known as Lovesick) and same thing.  People of color and white people living together, loving together, being best friends, and it not being the token anything. Oh yeah, and Luther.  So many good shows with people of color in the lead or otherwise important - and it not being relegated to a Black-only audience.

Anyway, enough cultural criticism for the morning.  I slept in late again and I want to finish coffee, shower, and head to Trader Joe's for some shopping.  And then a super long to-do list.  Some easy (water straw bales), some not so much (change out light in closet, scrape out shower caulk).  I need many more days off.  And also, to not be so run down when I get home after work, and be more productive then.  I get home by 5 pm most days - and while it's dark around then, I can still do things. 

Ziggy is being such a little champ.  I love how she doesn't harbor a grudge but instead leverages things for her benefit - she knows that after the shots, she gets the pain reliever wrapped in almond butter.  Sometimes she feels better than other times - when feeling good, she bounces around with a ball; when worse, she comes to snuggle, or finds a good spot to sleep.  Again I'm so very grateful for the vet who was reasonable in the restraint requirements, and also to my professor who told me of his experiences - reading everything on line made it seem so dire if she got excited about anything.  I'm so looking forward to finishing up all this and moving to the next phase - though, truth be told, I've settled into lazy way too well.  I used to get up early and walk the dog every morning, and now I roll out of bed and still make it to work late.  I don't miss exercise at all (though I did run up and down the stairs 40 times yesterday to figure out wiring configurations).  I know I'll feel fine when I start stretching my legs more than to and from the bus stop, but for right now I'm lazy AF.  ONce she's clear, we'll start with daily walks, and then I want to get OUT to the national forests for some hikes and camping spot identification.  I should probably get her an orange vest in case we run into hunters.  We've never run into anyone else when we have hiked in two forests; we don't go to the best spots and I look for vehicles and sign of recent visits.  She's a little champ when we hike like that and she generally comes when called (though if she's not done, she doesn't always want to get in the truck) - though I don't usually have to call her, as she'll run off and then run back.  It's perfect, my favorite way for a dog to act on a hike - they get loads of exercise that way but not lost.  Now the challenge is if there's anybody else or even any sign of others - she is so nosy that she immediately rushes that.  I tried taking her out to an area in New Orleans, and she rushed over amwide busy thoroughfare to go investigate houses instead of sticking to the swamp-side with me.  She likes to chase birds fine but she REALLY likes to break into people's back yards or run up and stare in their front screen with her tail wagging, assuming that everybody wants to just invite her in.  She is so extroverted.  So if we are out hiking and there are other people hunting, will she rush towards them belligerently and frighten them enough to shoot her?  I certainly hope not.  But I can't account for other people's interpretations. 

And at the same time that Ziggy is getting better and released from restrictions, school starts up again, with the most challenging class of my career here.  I recently met a woman from my program who is nearing finishing and she said: have you not heard of that class?  There's no way I would take it.  So much work and he's an ass.  YOu have to find a way out of taking that class.

I said I think I can handle it, as I've already worked my way out of other requirements.  But I have heard the complaints.  And mostly it seemed to be about the rigor.  I am not in a particularly rigorous program, not at all.  It used to really annoy me how we wasted the first two weeks of every class - he, on the other hand, emailed everyone the books and first assignments a month in advance and made it very clear that we are to come prepared.  This is more my way ... or it was, before two years in this program and I let myself be lazy. 

What I am really hoping is that this academic rigor will trigger in me my academic industriousness - that instead of resisting and resenting it, that it will push me to thrive again.  I'm hoping that a big part of my aversion to reading and school in general now is that I've been able to phone it in, that it's just hoops to jump through and nothing that stimulates or engages me particularly.  It's disheartening to spend time close reading a text and then go to class where apparently few others read the book because the professor lets the discussion just wander off into completely unrelated directions.  And I - in my teacher voice - will try to bring it back by saying: yes, in the text the author dealt with that issue - see p. 173 - and the blank stares.  What, you want to talk about the books?  YES. Why else would I be showing up every week?

To be fair, in that class in particular I received a heap of help about Ziggy - a classmate watched her while I had to travel right after the rabies quarantine, another told me of her dogs and the one that attacks other dogs to kill them, another brought her chill dog over to visit to test Ziggy's demeanor, and another spent the day with Ziggy and me right after I got her.  So, I got benefit from the class.  Just not intellectual. 

All right, time to get this party started.  Chores chores chores, and then eggnog with bourbon.  The guy at the liquor store was right: this is a beautiful bourbon, even though it is in a plastic bottle. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016


A bit more reading on burnout and there's good evidence that it increases inflammation.  They look at that as a marker for cardiovascular disease, but I know I've got inflammation going on when I hurt.  I've missed a few days of work the past few months because i just hurt everywhere, what I recognize as inflammation from my bout with chikungunya. 

It's interesting to see that it's not "all in my head" - that there is likely a physiological reaction going on that makes me hurt when burned out.  


I'm thinking of taking off an extra day, for a five-day weekend, to be sure that I get all significant chores done.  January is going to roar right in, super busy with school and work. 


Interesting article on work burnout that looks legit (because it cites actual research that looks solid). 

Vacations don't help burnout, it says.  I think that's right for me.  I definitely needed summer break when I was a teacher ... oh, wait, no I actually didn't.  I almost always taught summer school.  But I would still get some time. 

Most of my adult jobs have been teaching (where your vacation days are chosen for you) and abroad (in places where "vacations" were more mandatory because of health - needing to go to doctor, etc.), so I don't really do vacations.  I take breaks by quitting a job and going to a new one. 

A huge part of why I don't take vacation is money.  The cost of using a vacation day instead of cashing it out is significant.

I take days off.  Mental health days and such.  I take long weekends to go camping.  I take a day off here and there to tend to my wild beast.  I fully enjoy holidays.

But I don't take a two-week cruise or something such.  And a big part of it is my worries of what will happen when I'm not around.  I am constantly juggling, and if the balls fall - that would be bad for me.  I work hard to sculpt things a certain way - like the Spanx she mentions in the article.  I don't have a direct say, but I can lobby for reason.  Remind them of what has already been agreed to.  But also: I do know that being away doesn't change what's here.  I come back, it's the same stress.  Because is created outside of me. And vacations cost money, and that stresses me out. 

So I've worked out the analysis of spending for the past eight months or so and see some interesting trends. 

First: I don't spoil the dog.  Except for her vet bills, she's a great bargain. 

Next: holy fuck what am I buying at Costco?  I should probably analyze the receipts because those are some large sums of money.  I know I buy things like electric toothbrush heads and that's a bargain over the two years that they provide, but what else?  I know that I pick up furnace filters there and I don't think they're a better bargain than Lowe's.  Is $5/pound for organic ground beef a good deal?  It seems like it.  I can get similar at Trader Joe but I like Costco quality better.   The ground beef at Whole Foods is good but it's expensive (stocking up when on sale isn't great because I can't package it up so airtight and my freezer is the champ of freezer burn).  Costco has some things I really like and can't buy elsewhere (or is exorbitantly expensive elsewhere), such as their Whole Planet tuna, and frozen fried rice which I keep stocked in the fridge at work for days I don't take my lunch. 

My utilities are $100/month more than I thought, if I include everything.  My spending overall is about $1000 more/month, which is A LOT.  And some of it isn't recurring - such as furniture and house repairs and such.  But there will always be something else, right?  I may be done painting for a few years, and the tenant's toilet is now seated properly, but there will always be something else that needs money - replacing appliances, repairing carports, etc.  And while I spent a lot in August on travel and hosting, it's not realistic to think that I won't be doing that sort of thing every year.  I will have friends come visit and I will want to take them out to nice places.  I will want to rent a car and drive up to Quebec when the situation offers itself to me.

Though, that is one area I could cut sometimes - I spend quite a large amount of money going out to eat with friends.  I thought I'd really cut it back, and I have - but it's still expensive.  I should have friends over to eat here and cook for them.  I have a well-stocked bar and buy wine on sale, and I can learn to make tasty cocktails instead of going out for them.  The truth is, I can't even remember the last time I went out for drinks - November's spending was low in all areas, especially such things, and I think December's will be too.   I was planning to drop over $100 on reveillon dinner, because I don't think my answer is to drastically cut out all pleasure.  I just want to be mindful of food choices that I make - if it brings pleasure and isn't excessive, then I should be able to treat myself.  But that is in tension with my desire to cut expenses and save money and feel greater fiscal freedom. 

Overall, I spend a lot on food.  Maybe I need to do a microanalysis on that.  The tension I feel on that is: I was long vegetarian and that is less expensive overall, but the legumes and grains that I eat make me gain weight.  The more I eat focused around meat and vegetables, the better for me.  And that's more expensive than beans and rice and the like.  Maybe I can figure out a better balance.  Maybe my gardening can be more than an expensive hobby and actually help me save money.  Websites like this may be able to help.  Planning can help.  Yesterday I made from that site a ground beef/cabbage stirfry that is quite tasty and good for work lunches.  Today I will roast a chicken and roast cauliflower, and I will strip the carcass and save the meat (to be used in salad and posole) and then simmer the carcass to make stock (stock is not terribly expensive, but homemade tastes so much better and is more nutritious).  Tomorrow I plan to make kusherie - Egyptian lentils and rice with tomato sauce and onions, with a salad (this is from the Mennonite More with Less cookbook that essentially taught me how to cook and foodplan; I don't remember who gave it to me but I am forever grateful to them).  And then I was thinking of a tuna-rice with peas dish that I like much, but realize that's too much rice and the follow-up I need is lower-carb. 

Of course another reason my "food" budget is high is because of my well-stocked bar.  I just dropped $70 on liquor yesterday.  And yes, it's shelf-stable, but no, I don't really drink much.  I'll definitely drink the gin I got for $50 and fully enjoy it for the next several months.  I really should master several cocktails and have them at the ready for guests. 

Speaking of food, I just opened up a bag of peanut butter "cookies" for Ziggy because I am so pleased with her behavior this morning, and she seemed to really enjoy it (I bought these many months ago when they were on sale somewhere; I have a large stash of Ziggy treats that I need work through - I was storing them where they weren't visible so I didn't realize how many I had; plus, I don't give her many dry treats - when training we often just use her kibble or chicken for high-motivation).  She is watching out the window and very attentive to the egret eating in the vacant lot across the street (I love how we get shore birds hanging out here) and the little girl next to the that who has been coming out the side door - without barking at them.  That's the little girl that Ziggy ran away to in August - when my friend wasn't quick enough with the door and Ziggy got out, she bee-lined for that house and broke into their backyard and wouldn't come out until the little girl and her mother came out and we met.  They're very nice.  I should follow up with them. 

Hm, I should have baked holiday treats and delivered to them and my neighbors next door.  I wasn't thinking.  Well, there's next year.  I used to be a big fan on baked holiday treats and then I realized that to be healthy most people don't eat such things in any kind of quantity.

Oh, so this is Christmas.  Honestly it's been a little hard to recognize, what with wearing shorts and flip flops.  Not that I'm ever into the Christmas spirit - it's not my favorite holiday, seeming to be about consumerism that makes me cringe. 

 But I am about having these days off, so I want to keep squeezing out all the pleasure of that! Today: nitrogen to the straw bales, read (I want to quickly finish this book that I don't like and move on to something else), wall repairs, cook, quilt (or at least assess the situation), and some cleaning of course.  A perfect Christmas for me and the pooch. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

only part cat

On the days of each of the shots, when at her lowest Ziggy will go sleep on my bed.  But as the day goes on and into the next day, she doesn't want to go hole off like a wild animal or most cats I know; she wants to sit draped across me for me to pet her and tell her she's going to feel better.  She rallies but she feels crappy.

Which is ok.  It's saving her life.  It's been mighty peculiar to see my vivacious pup turn into a sick old dog, but it's a good preview I guess.  For 12 years down the line.  Frankly, to know that when she hurts and feels bad that she turns sweeter is somewhat of a relief.  Not all dogs do that.  Some get meaner.  Of all the challenges I've had with Ziggy, being mean has never been one of them.  She is so very sweet, just belligerent and sassy about it.

So what's on tap today? Clean the house.  Read.  Maybe have that friend over (yep, he just confirmed).  Water the straw bales.  Call a liquor store on the other side of town to see if they still have a very special gin in stock and then drive over there to get it (the things I learn from Facebook!  I didn't even know this gin existed and now I feel that I absolutely must have it - and as of yesterday there was only one bottle left in all of the city and all on-line distributors are sold out), stopping at Lowe's for a few things on the way back if so.  Otherwise, not leaving the house. Cook.  Maybe a load of laundry if the fog lifts and it gets less damp out there.

I think I need to get a good bourbon. Of course I mean want.

Friend and his daughter came over and he was EXCELLENT with Ziggy.  When I first got her, she was totally not into men - she was super obnoxious with them.  But now she's gotten much better.  Maybe she appreciates that they're different from me.  She was a little bit obnoxious with the kid but I think it was ok.  Not great but ok.  It takes Ziggy a minute with most people to calm down.  She has made tremendous progress because I can sit with her and keep her attention. 

Then I went and got the very special gin - Merry Christmas to me.  Looking forward to a very special drink with it.  And the guy was super nice and helpful - when I asked for help with a bourbon, he suggested a really good bargain after asking my needs.  The shelves don't look very stocked but I think they don't put all the inventory out, just a bottle or two of each kind.  Or maybe they don't keep a large inventory.  I don't know.  And it's not super convenient for me, but I think I want to do most of my beverage shopping there.  A friend has been raving about them, as a locally-owned business to support, with good owners.  This is the opposite of BevMo, and it's the kind of thing I love about New Orleans. 

So, for the rest of today I may read, pet my dog, drink an old-fashioned, finish laundry, cook dinner, have a gin and tonic.  Quilt?  Maybe.  I really do want to finish the damn thing that I've been working on since ... oh good grief, since 2007 or so?  I remember having it at a quilting retreat ; a very enjoyable weekend on the coast with my quilting group.  I haven't reconnected with them since I've returned.  IT's just one more hobby that costs money and time, and my eyesight isn't so great.  But one reason for buying the sewing machine is to be able to find the edges of the quilt when finished quilting it.  Every time I get back to quilting after a long hiatus, my stitches are just awful.  It takes a bit to get back into it.

OK, the more I talk about it, the more I want to do it.

Oh yeah, and start patching so that I can paint next weekend.

I am so loving time off from work! 


Friday, December 23, 2016

like the champ she is

Today was heartworm shot #3 and the vet staff was amazed at how perky and happy she was to be there.  I know that the happiness was all a ruse - I know her now. She puts on that happy face when she's scared or upset.  No idea why, but she does.  That's why it was so hard to read her when I first got her. 

She was doing well with the doctor and staff, greeting them without jumping, paying attention to me and not being distracted, and then she went crazy because her friend the vet tech entered the room, and he came to her and she snuggled into him because she loves him.  "She is such a sweet dog.  I can't believe she was ever involved in any kind of incident."  EXACTLY.  That vet tech really helped me through that rough patch - he provided a lot of emotional support.   I sometimes forget how shellshocked I was at all that went down.

They decided to take her to the back so I handed over the leash and she got scared and cried for me (trying to get back to me), but the vet was bolder today and it went much better. Ziggy was very good and it was over quickly, and she was fine and delighted to be reunited with me.

And now the worst is over.  The vet says 30 days of calm.  And we both laughed at her using "calm."  They strongly recommend the behavioral vet I was planning to contact (unfortunately not located in-state anymore), so maybe we can teach her to calm.  I'm not trying to change who she fundamentally is - a happy, energetic pup with a sassy devotion to fun.  I just want her to not spin out and lose control.  I still think it's possible.

And all this is of course so minor in the world.  I know that.  If you're coming here to hear my anguish about civilians in Syria and South Sudan, fears for the future of our country, social justice rants - sorry.  Not right now.  I'm still trying to get traction in a world that feels overwhelming, to figure out what the hell I'm going to do to be more active.  For right now, I focus on my immediate surroundings.  Knowing of course that this is my privilege speaking.  That every new development I think: wow, I'm so lucky that doesn't affect me.  How fucked up is that.  Glad I don't need an abortion, or health insurance, or a living wage, or affordable housing.  It is all just luck.  Billionaires aren't billionaires because they're better people than us or harder-working.  They're lucky.  And perhaps also hard-working.  But so are most people working for minimum wage or the shadow economy.

Ugh, I'm waiting for my work phone battery to die, but until then I keep getting pings of messages arriving.  What the hell?  It's a day off, y'all.

A friend I haven't seen in forever messaged, trying to hang out.  We used to be extremely close and then he moved away, though we had drifted apart before then - when he unraveled, he became verbally violent about his ex-wife and that sort of behavior made me stay away from him (telling me he wants her dead, etc.).  He sounds better now, and out of respect for how things used to be, I should definitely see him.  But I'm so jealously guarding my downtime.  He's not restful for me.  Nor for Ziggy.

I have a lot of people who unravel, at least in New Orleans.  The friend I was supposed to see last night has announced she's looking for a new job.  She's bipolar, been hospitalized multiple times since we've been hanging out for two years (not always voluntarily), and her mood swings exhaust me.  She always wants to take drastic action and won't listen to reason that perhaps this is the illness that amplifies everything so much.  Recently she spoke of how wonderful this job is, perfect for her; now she says it's not a good fit.  She cares so much what the one critical person thinks of her that her entire life she puts onto his random mood swings.  Which is simply unhealthy in so many ways - and she has young children and a husband who is always baffled.  NOt long ago she was raped while having an affair (she's been actively cheating, trying to get her husband to leave her as that's his really big issue based on his first marriage) which makes everything even worse.  It's all just ... not restful.  I want to be a good friend but sometimes I get maxed out on the drama.  I encourage her to rely on mental health professionals to stay ahead of the game instead of waiting for it to be so bad as to require another hospitalization, or a divorce, or unemployment.  Her need for constant affirmation is something one would think counseling could help with, but she won't be honest with her therapist - if she's even still seeing one; she frequently says the co-pay is too much money, as she's purchasing new clothes or going out to eat/drink.  I don't want to be judgmental but it's hard to be a bystander to a constant car accident.

Speaking of judgmental, I have a friend who recently got a dog whom he puts clothes on.  This annoys me to no end.  STOP DRESSING UP YOUR DOG.  It's not a small dog - it's about 55 pounds, a real dog.  His boyfriend's mother has also joined into the condemnation of these heinous acts, but he's not listening to reason.  Also, he posts multiple pictures of her each day.  Look, I WANT to do that with Ziggy, but I don't.  Because nobody cares that much.  I just send the pics to her godmother who loves her as I do.

I started conditioning the soil bales today and I'm wondering if I should do some plant starts or just plant directly into the bales.  One of the big benefits of the strawbale gardening is supposed to be the low cost, but I tell you: it's not low-cost, at least from my point of view.  A bale costs $8.50 each, and then there's all this fertilizer to use.  That adds up!  Though, maybe the reason I didn't have much success planting recently is my refusal to use any fertilizer or anything such.  My idea that gardening should be only the cost of the seeds isn't perhaps totally reasonable.

It's warmed up again and while it's overcast I think there will be no rain.  Laundry on the line.

I got a clothes rack to put up in my bedroom, to hang all my clothes on.  My closet is small and kind of frustrating, but also I want to use it to store things that I currently keep in the guest room closet (such as camping gear, vacuum, ironing board, etc.).  If I can paint those last four rooms, then once Ziggy is better there's no reason not to rent out the guest room.  The extra money would be a help. And also with Ziggy, to have other people around.  And perhaps another dog, though of course that could also be annoying.  Most dogs stink, and various other issues. I know that the right dog could be great for Ziggy, but I also think that she likes being an only dog.  We'll see, after the 30 days the vet said I need to keep her calm.  But I am gradually getting the house ready for a roommate - clearing out space in the kitchen, organizing the garage to put items into storage, etc.  This weekend I hope to patch spots and cracks (if it doesn't upset Ziggy) and hopefully next weekend: paint.  Then I could be done with all the inside upgrades for now.  (Still would like to redo the kitchen, but that'll wait.)

Just chatting with my friend with new baby - she decided to stay another day at the hospital.  Said she was physically ready but not mentally, and I'm very proud of her.  She very rarely puts herself first.  So I've made soup for her and will take it to the hospital.  She loves this soup, a Moroccan-style vegetable soup with garbanzos.  Hopefully it hits the spot for her. 

Oh, that baby is just as precious as can be.  At one point my friend looked at me funny: "Oh my, I'm just flashing back to you and M. [her 9-year-old]."   Yep, me too.  She was obviously really glad I showed up again, though I spiked her blood pressure as she ranted.  She is NOT a ranter but I think the combination of new-baby-hormones plus valid rant claims plus me made her cut loose.  She is the most supremely reasonable person I know, so if something upsets her then I know it's something to be upset about, plus I usually remember background information she had suppressed to get herself through a tough situation.  I have to use that information wisely - while she wants to be upset at her husband, she doesn't want me to point out his many flaws.  Mostly that he's a dick to her and stingy as fuck.  I don't think she'll stay married to him forever.  And when she does leave him, I'll of course stay out of it.  They both come from families of divorce, where the divorced parties get along just fine, including the ex- and current wife.  It seems to work for them all.  They don't just get along fine, they get along really well, like family members (with the annoyances that come of that). 

Anyway, I'm glad I heard her call and showed up. 

The novel for bookclub is some fantasy crap and I'm sure damn glad I didn't buy the book but waited for the library's copy.  Still not enjoying it.  Oh well.  I'll feel some satifaction when I finish it.

When I got home, Ziggy was on the couch and didn't get off.  I'm all: "no, no, don't get up" when she feels crummy, but she usually still does.  I went to pet her and she delicately licked my hand.  This sweet puppy doesn't harbor a grudge.  And I know she'll feel better tomorrow.  The worst is almost over and in a month she'll be better than ever. 

a third?

I'm tempted to join yet a third bookgroup. 

First is a bookgroup I've been in for maybe almost two years?  It's at my very favorite bar and it's an interesting mix of people.  But I rarely go because of schoolwork and falling behind, and also not really into a lot of the books chosen.  If I werent already reading a ton, I'd do it more, but sometimes reading one more book seems pretty onerous.

A few weeks ago I joined another bookgroup and I see the trend: the organizer chooses SUPER long books.  And if I weren't so full of other reading, that would be fine, but yikes.  The thing about this book group is that it's very political, so more satisfying to me than the novels of the other one (though sometimes I do actually really enjoy the novels, too - probably because I don't read them on my own anymore).  So I'll try.

Well, at least I thought I would try.  But then I just learned of a THIRD bookgroup that will meet to discuss a few chapters of books - it is explicitly anti-racist, and less reading means more time to dig into the sections - which is something I appreciate these days. 

This is on top of the most challenging class of my doctoral program coming up in a few short weeks?  The prof has already mailed out the first reading assignments, and they are not fluff.  Not at all.  Deep into the theory here.  And on the one hand I'm excited about a challenging class, but on the other ... sigh. 

I also have right now on my nightstand a book by Dr. Sophia Yin about dog behavior.  Because I'm still trying to crack that code.  Ziggy is a dear and she really does try to communicate effectively with me and I am just a ridiculously stupid human who doesn't understand what she's clearly saying.

I am in the middle of a project for work that I was going to keep on working today (if I work on a holiday I can take off time later), but screw it.  I have a biiiiiig stack of books to read.  And soup to make for my friend who just had a baby - and deliver (that'll take a lot of time - no quick route between our houses).  And other cooking to do.  And I want to start conditioning the straw bales in the front yard for the garden.  And be present for my poor pup who will be suffering and she just wants to sit beside me.  OH, and do financial reports for myself - I got lazy about closely tracking spending and I want to go back and do a full analysis to see where else I can cut.  i sense a lot was one-time purchases - for a new house settling in, and getting things I"d long wanted but waited until I was settled, etc.  So, a lot of time digging through Amazon orders.  I know I need to put a cap on my book purchases, but a lot of what I'm buying may be helpful with my dissertation or future research and it's so much easier to own books for that - to mark them up, have on hand to reference, etc. 

So yeah, as hard as it is for me to stop mid-work project, I'll set that to the side until Tuesday and focus on my home.  Where I really like to be.  All the driving around I had to do yesterday just made me realize how much I want days without having to get into my truck.

Ziggy's appetite is already back - the doctor had told me last time that I may have to entice her to eat.  Nope.  She knows to keep her strength up for recovery.  She's a smart pup.  And despite me worrying a bit about her overeating and not having exercise, she was about the same weight.  She self-regulates, which I very much appreciate.  And while I'm falling into lazy patterns, we'll rally come January, when she gets a clean bill of health.  We will train with gusto with goals of joining agility training and have her visit friends (make new friends?) and go hiking and camping when the weather complies (despite having to drive hours to get there).   These two long weekends of being home with my pup will restore my spirit and get me over being burned out, so that I don't come home as a puddle of exhaustion each day. 

Oh, and I learned a great new trick - put sandpaper on a board and train the dog to file its own nails.  What?  Genius!  That's way more likely to happen than me ever being allowed to try again with Ziggy, since I blew it and hurt her at least twice with the nail clippers (her nails are weird because of how she can almost retract them). 

There is a canoe trip on Monday I was seriously thinking of joining but I think I want that day to stay home also.  I think I've already been on that particular trip and it's great but it's not going to get me closer to my goal of canoe camping with Ziggy.  Probably.  Maybe I'll join such trips in the future when we're closer to being ready for that, as maybe I'll meet people who would want to do such things with us.  I miss having outdoorsy friends. 

OK, time for shot #3.  We'll power through this and in a month be better than ever.  Sigh. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

groaning girl

Heartworm shot #2 down and poor Ziggy cannot get comfortable.  She's decided the best is sitting beside me so I can pet her when both arms aren't occupied.  She hurts and I feel so bad for her. 

When we got to the vet the favorite tech was there and she and I were so delighted.  And then we saw that it wasn't our vet - he's on vacation and there's another vet there.  And she was intimidated by the task ahead.  Coming at my dog's lumbar region with a 2" needle full of poison, and you're frightened by this?  Oh lord.  So what was with the regular vet an easy thing became a bigger deal.  I think she was nervous about me watching too so they took Ziggy to "the back" and I don't know what that involves because I wasn't invited.  Did they restrain her?  I don't know.  But what I do know is that after an interminable wait, I heard loud cheering and then Ziggy burst through the door with a relieved vet in tow.  Ziggy inspires cheering, she's just that kind of pup.  And honestly, that kind of reaction was probably perfect - that's what she'll remember more than the pain, which she takes in stride usually.

I will say that if my vet retires, we won't be sticking around for this other vet.  She is probably fine but she's not as awesome as the other guy who has literally saved Ziggy's life, so why bother with the long drive and poor office staff?  I could get a vet to come to my house to do things for not too much more.  For me that's a dream come true because of all the stress usually surrounding the vet visit.  Today was much easier than last time - we arrived late and I saw only one other dog, a very obese black lab there for a skin treatment, super friendly pup.  I walked Ziggy around the green edges of the parking lot a bit as she needed to poop, and as soon as that business was done she was adamant about going into the vet's office.  Nobody else was there so we went in, and she insisted on putting her paws up on the very high counter to interrogate the office manager.  

Look I would love it if my dog were super well-behaved, but I'm really pleased with how much progress she's made.  I took her to the scale to weigh her and was able to do so; while we waited for the vet to get her nerve up I had her hang out with me and I'd treat her for looking at me.  Despite all the distractions, she was down.  Contrast that to the dog I got who whenever we'd leave the house would have such a meltdown she was unwilling to eat anything.  Sure, the vet's clinic is known now, but not for nice things, so she has a good little spirit and finds the best in everything.

We got home and my friend had had a baby and told me the hospital room number which seemed like she wanted me to visit, and so I did.  I try to be super respectful of new parents and whether they want anybody else around, even closest friends.  Her 8-year-old was there, has been the whole time, which is pretty cool.  No other family was which struck me as a little peculiar as her family and in-laws are always around.  But it's cool.  She was so quick to hand me that baby and suggested I change the diaper, but i tell you that changing a newborn's diaper spooks me - they're so damn tiny.  She definitely has post-partum hormones rushing her body, but it's really different from last time.  She really wanted vaginal birth both times, and the first she was bullied by mean people who didn't look out for her and she had a c-section and the whole experience really bothered her.  She had to c-section again this time but she had a wonderful doctor who really tried everything possible, and it just wasn't working out right for a number of reasons and afterwards the doctor said: thank you so much for trusting me, as even more issues emerged upon delivery.  HEr doctor sounded great and I'm so happy my friend had such a better birth experience than last time.  IT's all about respect and being heard.  And I don't say this aloud, but how much of the bad experience last time was because she's Black, living in such a racist city?  Strangers don't know how educated she is when she's in labor, did they make assumptions that she didn't deserve to be in control of her body?  And the whole thing was so stupid last time, when they made a big deal about her being pregnant when 35.  Well, she's 44 now and she got way less slack about being "high risk."  It's all just in how it's handled - treat women giving babies with respect, dammit.

So I got to see my friend, her first daughter, and recognize how little time we spend together now compared to how we used to.  Life happens, and we really do try.  We both make a concerted effort to see each other as often as we can, but it's hard.  We used to see each other every day, when we were in law school together.  She was my ride to the airport, my holiday place; I'm very good friends with both her family and her in-laws (who will frequently talk of the white devil and then say: oh, but we don't mean you). 

It's just hard to socialize enough when working full time, in school, and with a dog with behavioral issues.  And she's super busy too with work and parenting and church and various other things.  LIfe happens. 

Tonight I had plans with a friend to go to reveillon dinner and I was excited.  And then her boss texted her at 5:40 and told her to wait for him to get there to go over some documents together and she felt that she couldn't leave to meet me, so I canceled.  I hate how people can be such assholes.  I had this happen on Wednesday - I planned to leave early, but then at 1:15 I got a call from somebody wanting to meet with me; she asked me to hold on until she was ready.  At 3:00 (the time I'd planned to leave), I called her and she let me come to her office for a meeting that lasted an hour and a half.  Most of which she didn't need me for, but that I've been trying to get on her radar for 7 months.  It's the power-tripping that kills me.  And so, no reveillon dinner for me, which saves me a considerable amount of money, so I guess I shouldn't be disappointed.  Plus more time with Ziggy. 

Wow I never thought of this before - decorative window film.  I guess I've never seen it before, but I wonder if it would reduce Ziggy's barking at people outside.  On the other hand: she really loves watching the world outside.  How cruel is it to remove that? I'd rather she learn to knock off the barking.  And she can unless it's a dog.  MOstly she just wants me to look out the window and tell her it's ok, and then she turns her barking to whining, which is an improvement, and stops.  And when it's the mailman and UPS guy, she just barks a time or two - just to alert. 

I just want to figure out how to reduce her impulsivity. 

just lie

Yesterday I talked with a VIP and she asked where I'd be Christmasing and I said watching my dog with her heartworm treatment (this round is much harsher than last) and she is now insistent that I join her and her extended family in Mississippi for Christmas.  "You don't have to bring a thing!  Just show up!"

Lord, why do I tell people the truth?  This is all so awkward. 

Today's is Ziggy's 2nd shot and she's whining at me to take her for a walk.  Sorry, pup.  You're getting harnessed up to get put into pain. 

The way she feels so awful after this treatment just breaks my heart.

Buck up, human.  You're doing it to save her life.  She'll never understand or forgive the pain, but you have to do it. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

the truest description

This is a great Ted talk by Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives.  I think it helps explain a lot.

But then see starting at 9:37 for a full explanation of my relationship with my dog. 

"Liberals like to say: 'fetch, please.'" 


and then she sits

Yesterday morning I wrote of how obnoxious Ziggy was.  Sooooo obnoxious. 

And then this morning, she's like a different dog.  Oh, she still wants to play, but she sits calmly and waits.  She sits and waits for my cue about nearly everything this morning. 

Yesterday: she not only stole slippers but she put one right beside the door, showing she tried to take it out but it wouldn't fit through the dog door, and the other she chewed up.  I had told her to leave it and she had told me to fuck off.  She hasn't chewed up a slipper or shoe in a very long time, but she was on a destructive rant.  I was almost afraid to leave her home alone.

This morning I leave the slippers on the floor and she hardly looks at them.  I say "leave it" and she looks at me to say: I'm hurt that you would think you have to tell me that.  Of course I won't touch your slippers. 

I wish I understood her better.  Why is she right now sitting and staring at me.  What does she want?  Maybe a walk, though that's been nearly a month and she was doing that hacking cough this morning, so nope.  Plus I'm late to work.

She's being so very sweet, not rascally at all.  What is the difference in these two days?  I sure wish I knew. 

And here's of course the dark secret: calm, sweet Ziggy is not necessarily my favorite side of her.  I like the punkass jerkface catahooligan who tears through the world like she owns it.  I like her rebellion, even against me.

Having Ziggy is so much like teaching 8th grade.  One day sucks, the next day is a dream.  They have such strong opinions, like her.  Rebellious and sassy and committed to whatever shenanigans they've started.  That was a big behavioral management trick - with them and now with her - don't let them get too far down the wrong path.  Divert early.

She is sitting at my feet, looking over her shoulder at me, wanting something.  She works so hard to train me. 

solitary season

When I was 19, I had my first Christmas alone.  I was living with my best friend at the time in a very bad apartment complex (most nights had the soundtrack of puking and beating, and the roach infestation was mind-boggling).  I had dropped out of school and was working at Dairy Queen within walking distance; there were so many armed robberies there. I realize these things now in retrospect; at the time it just was what we did.  We couldn't afford a 2-bedroom and most places wouldn't rent a 1-bedroom to us; to us that was strange as we were coming from college where we'd shared rooms with people, but to the leasing companies they wouldn't possibly want two women sharing a bed.  Which we didn't - I slept on a thin camping mattress on the floor.  None of this bothered me; what did bother me was how that best friend treated another best friend from Alaska who came to visit, which started me down the path of extricating myself from her - she was very controlling.

ANYWAY, she took off to see her incredibly dysfunctional mother for Christmas and I stayed and spent the day reading and it was glorious.  So much better than how I'd spent Christmas in previous years.

That remains my very favorite way to spend Christmas, even 30 years later.  I think it's a really weird holiday and it's always made me uncomfortable.  And of course, there's the whole: I'm an introvert thing.  It charges my batteries to be alone, always has.  Which is good to remember when I live in a time where I think that I hate humanity because of my job.

I had a date with a man for Christmas Eve which I just canceled because I'm not feeling it.  I'm just so very particular and I've come to realize that may well mean I'm alone for the rest of my life and I'm ok with that.  I would so much rather be alone than in the company of almost every person.  My alone life is very rich - it wouldn't be for most people, but it is for me.

When I wasn't working I had a lot more social energy and I was out and about much more.  But I have a very limited store of energy for social interactions and it's way beyond depleted at work.

I come from a long line of people who know how to entertain themselves.  Most of my ancestors were farmers, living far from other neighbors.  In Alaska we were left to our own devices, and while I had a goodly number of friends my favorite way to spend a day was to go for a hike with my dog.  (Ostensibly the dog was my brother's and he chose her from the litter.  But she quickly and forever became my dog.)  (My parents were the most irresponsible pet owners; it is shameful how bad they were.  I get that they came from farms and animals were seen differently, but it is still really horrifying to me.  I do not treat my pets like that now that I'm an adult.)

There's another element to canceling the date: the Warlord.  I wouldn't say exactly that I'm still hung up on him, but he did kind of ruin me for other men.  The electrical connection that we had on every level, his romantic gestures, how alive and engaged I felt when with him - why do I want to settle now?  I'm perfectly happy not being in a relationship, and the tedium of non-extraordinary people is very heavy.  I haven't forgotten what a narcissistic ass the Warlord could be, and I don't really want to get back with him (though I'm not 100% door closed on that, I put no effort into it happening, and since his visa to the US was revoked it would require me to make an effort), but our good times were extraordinary.  The positive feelings that are elicited when I see a breadfruit tree, for example, sweep me away - it's a gorgeous tree of course, but it reminds me of the hours we spent outside in his compound.  Triggers that take me back are very strong - and while I remember the frustrations, I also remember how really good it could be.  I've been in other good, passionate relationships, but they were nothing like this.

I don't like weak coffee and I don't want weak love.  I want a grand romantic saga in the style of Tolstoy, apparently.  Maybe someday I'll be more willing to settle, though Ziggy also isn't the settling kind.  She has her own very strong opinions, and she would bulldoze a mediocre man. 

IF I continue through life without meeting people I'm romantically interested in and continue to have a satisfying single life ... I can't be bothered to go on dates. 

Christmas Eve is for reading. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

incompatible morning

I was kind of surprised that yesterday Ziggy spent most of the day curled up and sleeping deeply.  Usually she loves cool weather and it gives her energy.

And that energy came early this morning.  Way too early.  Because I stayed up too late, which I sometimes do when I'm depressed about having to go to work the next morning. 

She used to come in right when it was time to get up and get pet.  Morning snuggles, very sweet.  This is in contrast to when I first got her and allowed her on the bed and how she would attack me like a kitten - very unpleasant.  Well, she's been lazy for weeks and generally not coming to my bed at all, but this morning she came super early (before 6) and was insanely attacking me.  She kept running in and out of the house, looking for adventure, and vehemently cleaning herself when on the bed. 

Lord, this day will be rough.  I wanted to sleep in and be late to work, fully within acceptable behavior because: (1) my "late" is other people's "on-time" - I'm almost always the first person there; (2) I've been working long days: (3) so many people are out this week and next, I expect slow times. Instead, I'm begrudgingly awake. 

I was of course able to get her to stop attacking me.  But it's harder to convince her that cleaning herself is bad manners.  And now she's out yelling at the neighbors.  Fortunately they're all good sports about it.  Yesterday I scolded her for barking at the neighbors I don't know well at all, who are replacing whole walls due to extensive termite damage and have everything dissembled in their backyard.  "OH, don't worry about it. She'll get tired of it, and I know her bark is worse than her bite."  He's right, it is - her bark is ferocious and really all she wants is him to wrestle with her.  Scratches included.  She'll still occasionally mouth but unless it's a stress reaction, she's more tasting than teething.  She's just SO WOUND UP.  If she's asleep and I get up off the couch, she just explodes off it, totally groggy and looking around - "what! what!  where's the danger?!"  She makes me think of the asshole guys in high school who make rude jokes and act inappropriately. 

I would have taken her out for a walk this weekend but for her lethargy and hacking couch.  But now, a day I have to go back to work, she's energetic?  Grrrr. 

I don't want to go to work.  I want to stay home.  I want to curl up and read and entertain my catahooligan.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

the deliciousness of a Sunday at home

I woke up too early this morning because the storm was throwing things around.  Fortunately the heaviest of the rains hadn't come yet, so I was able to get out and move the straw bales around.  Upon consideration, I want a long row, to trellis.  Peas are in my seed stash, to go in once bales are conditioned, and then various other things that will need them, such as tomatoes.  The bales run north south and the trellis will be to the west, where the house shadows much of the day. 

I have more seeds than I remembered, which is fun.  Mizuna is there of course, and I love it.  The people I learned about it from no longer go to my convenient farmer's market, so I have to grow my own.  It's just the best.

I am thoroughly cleaning my house, room by room.  IT's always delightful when done, and kind of fun to do, when I have nothing shouting at me to get done such as schoolwork.  The storm will come soon so outside work is out of the question, so I get to focus on the house.  I have NPR on, and once I finish cleaning I'll be reading. 

What a delicious life I enjoy.  So many little things.  I'm drinking cocoa right now, gearing up for this cold snap.  The little things include having garbage pickup.  I've lived quite a few places where there's no garbage pickup and I had to make other arrangements, and this is just such a luxury to have.  No begging to borrow someone's snowmachine to haul garbage to the dump where the bears gather, for example.  I know I should have learned to shoot, to protect and feed myself, but my very poor depth perception just makes shooting unpleasant for me as I can never master it. 

My kitchen counter has a basket which is overflowing with such things as locally grown satsumas, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes (a green house not far from here).  My refrigerator is filled with locally grown massive cabbage and cauliflower.  I'll roast the cauliflower and eat with fish probably; the cabbage I'm not quite sure.  Maybe a dish I make with ground beef and tomatoes and sour cream.  Maybe some braised with a brisket or something such.  Who knows.  I'm just really grateful for such year-round bounty of food. 

I'm grateful for my delightful Catahoula, who entertains me endlessly. 

To want to leave the house, I have to be guaranteed that whomever I'm meeting will be more fun to hang out with than staying home with my dog.  That is a high damn bar.  And of course in large part that's because my job is so socially taxing and I have to be around people all the time and interact with them as customer service but getting sucked into drama, and so I don't have a lot of energy left over.  The instant that somebody tries to control or manipulate me in any way, I'm done.  I work with master manipulators, so I have no patience left over for that in my personal life. 

OK, storm has come, though not yet too bad.  Just cold rain.  I opened the front door and let Ziggy go out.  She sure did want to make a run for it and she was so torn.  She hates rain.  So I was able to lure her back in.  Though she didn't want to commit, and kept running out when I'd try to close the door.  I was not down for that game as it's really cold outside.  She loves being home, but she also loves adventure.  Alas, the two sides of Ziggy are also my two sides. 

Oh lord, I am so ready for time off from work.  I really wish for two weeks, like when I was a teacher.  I have piles of things to do.  A pile of books to read stacked on my stereo, my sewing machine stacked on a box of fabric, two boxes of seeds.  LEISURE ACTIVITIES. 

So back in May my friend said: hey, do you still have the Vitamix you borrowed?  The husband has been bugging me about it.  I said: sure, can I bring it to you this weekend?  She said: I want to meet Ziggy.  I said ok, anytime. 

Since then I have asked no less than five times if I could drop it and the dishes I borrowed off.  I also asked what else I have that they want back - I have a dresser, a table, and a small table.  If they're not using them I'm happy to keep using them, as I'll have to buy things to replace.  Which I'll do, of course.  I asked this weekend and last.  And I get no response.  I don't even need them home, I just need the code to the backdoor and their ok.  I'm trying to be a good person and finally return things and I'm getting frustrated. I can't just leave things because they'll get stolen; I don't want to show up because that's rude especially because they have an autistic child who doesn't appreciate surprises.  Anyway, I'll keep trying.  It's just frustrating because I have things packed up. 

in my heart I am Icelandic

When I read Laxdaela Saga in college, I was intrigued by Iceland.  When I met a woman from there the next semester I realized it really was a totally different world: her attitude about being pregnant and unmarried (why on earth would I bother with that? she asked; I said: things like health insurance and she looked at me like I was crazy.  "Of course I'll go back home where we all have such things") and how surnames are made of the father's name with "son" or "daughter" attached. 

Then the sheep and sweaters. I went through a wool phase, meeting freshly-shorn sheep and thanking them for their wool, then laboriously cleaning and carding and spinning it.  I took up knitting.  I wonder where my carders ended up.

There's the amazing geothermal features, the way they came together to solve a debt crisis.  There's just so much geographically and culturally that I find so intriguing.  

And of course there's the now-well-known Icelandic tradition of giving books and reading all Christmas Eve.  COUNT ME IN. 

Now how to get a job and move to Iceland ...

While the lack of ethnic diversity would be really difficult for me, I think that quality of life would be just about perfect in most other ways.  I'm Alaskan so I understand winters, and they are a tough people there.

OH bummer, they require quarantine for dogs.  Well, we won't be doing that.  

But I can read a book on Christmas Eve!

Saturday, December 17, 2016


So the thing about physical labor is if you don't do it much, it's taxing when you do again. 

I hung shelves, moved lumber and boxes, organized garage spaces, hauled bales, spread out pine straw over a large area, pulled some weeds until I broke the trowel.  And now I'm tired, physically. 

Hm, upon reflection, I realize: I'm very peculiar.  Really, really peculiar.  And it is very unlikely that I'll find many people with my peculiarities here. 


Today's weather: high of 77, low of 58.

Monday's: HIgh of 48, low of 44.

In two days, our low will be significantly higher than our high.

This crazy weather.  Well, better take advantage of today and do laundry. And do yard work.  And and and.  Lots to do.  I want to go to a library thing of holiday cocktails: they talk about it and then make them to drink.  I went once and that's where I learned a lot about Sazeracs, and frankly I haven't had another Sazerac as good at other places I've gone.  Hm ... best drink and free vs. less good and expensive.  Such a hard choice.

There is one bar though that I really need to go to and haven't - it's actually a moving carousel bar.  I keep thinking I'll go there when I have visitors but then I forget that on the to-do list.

I have a load of straw coming today - a bunch of pine and wheat straw.  The pine straw is my best mulch so will heavily use it around the trees I'm planting, and I want to lay it out in the yard where it's just mud.  I'll gather it all up again in spring when the grass comes back, but along the paths that Ziggy runs most, it's just lines of mud and no vegetation.  The grass is fragile in the fall/winter/spring in the shady areas and does not live through her energy.  But I'm tired of muddy pawprints all over my house.  I'll see if this works.  Maybe not but it's worth a try.  She'll still run on the pine needles - they won't stop her at all.

The wheat straw is for straw bale gardening.  I've been grappling with this, trying to figure out if it's worth the cost.  Everyone says: it's so cheap.  Well, actually, no it's not.  The bales cost like $8 each, and then you have to use a lot of fertilizer.  None of that is cheap because to me, cheap means very nearly free.  But I'm doing it because raised beds are also expensive and untreated wood doesn't last long here, and I don't have the fortitude to dig up the grass in my front yard, where I think I want to grow vegetables - plus when the straw breaks down it will add to soil quality.  As wimpy as the grass is in the shady areas in the backyard, the grass in the sunny areas of the front yard is extremely strong and virulent.  It's the toughest grass I've ever seen - hard to even mow and very hard to dig into, and the roots are very impressive - the grass fills in any spot immedlately.  It'll be a long game to remove it.  When I got a quote to remove it, it was $5,000.  Whoa.  That's not happening.   So, I'll kill it gradually with solarizing and mulching and digging.  This is a long game.  Fortunately I live in a city and a neighborhood where people aren't going to get up in arms about a work-in-progress.

Ugh, I never heard back from the guy I contacted about my carport roof.  This is so annoying.  Good workers are so hard to find.  That guy also does exterior painting so I was hoping to talk to him about painting my house.  There are just spots that need it because the last paint job was so crappy and it's wearing down.  I don't want to pay a lot because eventually I want to change color, but that's more than I want to take on now.

My friends from Australia marveled at how colorful the houses are in America - both their sister/aunt's in Oregon and mine are the same color blue.  They said that paint is so expensive there that people don't paint colors.  But it's not about expense, it's about aesthetics.  Houses in New Orleans are very colorful because we're in the Caribbean.  In the rest of the country it depends on other influences.  We also have more wood houses than there, which requires paint.  Anyway, I don't like the blue of my house but it's not a top priority right now to change it.  Maybe never will be.

Want to hang shelves in my garage and organize.

I want to do a lot today.  We'll see how it goes.  Because I'm also coming down from some really stressful work things which make me want to take it easy ... and I have two long weekends coming up.  Of course, no guarantee that we'll have any nice weather in there, and Ziggy will be in pain and danger times, so those may not be productive days.

And then school starts again. And this will be the most challenging class by far.  IT will either make me tap back into the intellectual desires that I have or it will make me say fuckall and stop all this PhD nonsense that costs money and time.  Oh, the opportunity cost of this PhD.  All the things that I don't do because of it.

OK. Coffee done.  Time to face the day. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

finally Friday

I cannot remember the last time I so needed to spend a weekend curled up on the couch with a good book.  I am waiting for a book to arrive today, but my mail always gets here so late that I'll be useless by then.

Home a little early because I had to go in very early, I'm whupped.  I should take the dog out but see prior sentence.  This dog just has no chill. 

The goodness for the weekend being here and two following long weekends.  It's a slow time at work, lots of people taking time off.  The usual in this area.

I'm watching Queen Sugar and enjoying it, and it makes me want to go be a sugar cane farmer.  Just a couple hours from here, I could have two lives, right? 

And maybe what touches me most about it is the last three minutes, when the creator Ava DuVernay talks about each episode's director.  "She should be able to direct anything in this town, but that's not happening for the same reason as many other women directors.  Remember the name ... "  That is just really something, all that she does.  This sistahood is inspiring.   \

One of my young friends (well, she's not as young as the younger batch - she's in early 30s) has been messaging to tell me about an opportunity in Haiti that she's excited about.  "I have literally told nobody about these interviews and the possibility.  I had to tell you first, hear what you think."

Me as wise counsel is an awkward fit. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

you know you're a geek

When all week you've been looking so forward to going to the farmer's market, and you skillfully craft your work week so you can get there on time.

OK that last piece just fell into place.

IT's tomorrow.  I'm totally stoked.  I want cauliflower and sweet potatoes and satsumas and mizuna.  To start.  We'll see what's there.

Today I ran into my predecessor in the parking lot and asked her how long her commute is.  An hour each way.  Daaaang.  I think she really enjoys this time away from her kids - it's gotta be at minimum ten hours away from them every day.  I don't want to be away from my dog that much.  Guess it's priorities.  They're likely in some good daycare and she feels no guilt.  They may have a nanny, I think her husband is super rich.  Who knows.  It just made me laugh because I work so hard to minimize my time away from my dog whereas she maximizes hers away from her kids, when she could easily get a job closer to where she lives (she is very well-connected, which is how she had my job).  This is not something that I said out loud.

That's funny - I'm the only person I know where I am who isn't well-connected (and the staff I hired).  That they hired me and I'm still there is something to consider when it feels so bad.

Oh, what else.  I need to clean mud off the floors because my dog is a beast.  I ate junk food today, a work brunch that included a chocolate-almond croissant chased by a Krispy Kreme doughnut, which was the stupidest thing I've done in a long damn time.

I just sent a work email asking them to consider hiring a contractor for something that I *should* be doing but they won't listen to me, and it's so painful to hear them spinning out when IT'S NOT THAT DIFFICULT.  OK, it's not that simple, but they don't know what they're talking about and I do but they won't listen to me and so it's painful. Usually I follow up with having side conversations with the key players, and that works with all the people involved in this, but I'm tired of surreptitiously telling people what to say so that it's not actually coming from me because that's threatening and oh yeah I'm a stupid woman.


OF course the contractor I suggest is also a woman.  And they reject the last contractor who is a woman, considering her silly even though she's an internationally-known expert.  How much of this is sexism?  I don't know.  Quite a lot most likely.  It's always hard to know, isn't it?  But it is very real.  And I just am tired in being in situations where that is given traction.  I miss teaching, where salaries are objective, for example. 

Dog is wound up.  What else is new.  So looking forward to this phase - the heartworm treatment - being in the past.  I'm trying to desensitive her to the dremel so I could trim down her nails but she's having nothing of that.  As soon as she sees it she does the bob and weave with aplomb.  Then she realizes that having a fit is fun and she keeps at it and then she gets invested in making a fuss and good lord, it's like having a teenager.  I've never known a dog anything like her before.

"There ain't nothin' bad like a Louisiana cur dog"

I love these lyrics too - "blue-gummed catahoula alligator-eating dog" - no, the alligators don't eat the catahoulas, it's the other way around.  These dogs are damn tough.

The only real question about Ziggy's behavior is why it isn't even worse.  These aren't city dogs, these aren't "stay-home-alone-all-day" dogs, these aren't house pets.  These are dogs bred to aggressively attack wild hogs.  What the hell was I thinking?

Well, there's also this.  "Best friend I ever had."  There's just something different about Catahoulas.  Ziggy just rises to the occasion, unless that occasion is not melting down.  I've never had a dog who wants to be my workmate, who jumps in to any hole I'm digging to do her part, who escorts me on every trip for laundry.  She is so certain of her usefulness in any endeavor. 

She's a hoot, this catahooligan.  Always keeping me on my toes.  Time to do some more conditioning.