Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My muse, Winston Churchill...

So as I've been going through this insane life where everything than can go wrong finds a way to go wrong and even things that really shouldn't go wrong also find some was to go awry, I have found a new hope, a new inspiration.

I actually happened to pass a magnet in a bookstore today as I was killing time and trying to relax before a job interview. (Yes, this is my third. No, I haven't heard back from either of the first two.)

The magnet said simply, "If you're going through hell, keep going." And it just struck me as so true of everything that had been happening these last few years and the only means I had of surviving any of it. Just keep going. It was a quote from Winston Churchill, a man who was no stranger to mental illness and, in fact, suffered several episodes of major depression, some while leading the nation of Great Britain through her most difficult history.

Winston has a lot more wisdom.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened."

"If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."

"Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

"Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

"Truth is incontrovertible, ignorance can deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is."

"The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes."

"The price of greatness is responsibility."

"The destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits--not animals."

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

"Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities."

"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results."

Thank you, Prime Minister Churchill, for sharing such gems to caring generations through their lives with wit, inspiration and a choked up chuckle.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

There goes the neighborhood....

So in between all this anxiety about trying to move out of my sister's place and her constant remarking "It's the least you could do" (presumably since I have been living in her house for 9 months by her calculations ~ I got the higher SAT score in math, by 120 pts, it's only been 8 months) and the mortgage company completely busting me on my lack of current employment and the impending visit of my mother (read: STRESS INDUCING) who it seems has gotten her finances in order (including the home equity line my father took out on their house several years ago) and is prepared to buy the house outright, if necessary. Have I mentioned that borrowing money from my mother is worse that borrowing from the mob? You never see godfathers criticizing your every financial decision....

I'm actually getting excited about my house. Go figure!!

I met my next door neighbors tonight when my sister and I went over to check out the house. They gave me the local gossip.

Directly behind us is "the frat", a very happening place and the home of loud parties and streakers at 3am. Not an actual fraternity, just three guys in their twenties living in a house. On the other side, a lesbian couple, also very social, but not in the same way as the frat. Next the lesbians are the Weinmaraner parents. I refer to this way because they are a married couple with three Weinmaraners that are left outside in the yard all day. (My new neighbor and I agreed that was completely inhumane in the Texas heat.)

Apparently there was a scuffle between the Weinmaraner parents and the frat boys over the weekend. The frat boys have a dog and it has a rather antagonistic relationship with the Weinmaraners. The purebreds were being aggressive towards the frat dog (threw the fence) and the frat boys started yelling at the dogs (after having consumed much alcohol) and the W. parents came out and started a verbal brawl with the frat boys. Good Grief!! My neighbors were apparently awoken by the whole thing and overheard such adult comments from the W. parents as "How old are you guys anyway??" Yeah, apparently it's a very mature crowd.

And there's also the neighbor across the street who I've talked to a dozen or so times and my next door neighbors haven't even met him. I hope they do soon, since I haven't been able to remember his name!!!

Monday, August 14, 2006

soooo hard......

It's wild to consider, but a year ago, I was on disability leave from work. I was clinging to life by my teeth. I only came off of medical leave 8 months ago.

I never expected things to be easy.

I knew it was going to be hard.

Why does it always have to be soooo hard?

That's the part I fail to understand.

When I grow up I want to be one of those people who live charmed lives. Who actually experience things falling into place.

Just when it seems like things are under control, there's just one more complication. I can never quite get settled because the rug gets pulled out from underneath me. And I don't think I'm exaggerating. It's been like this for three years now. Just straight out ~ not that my life before that was a cake walk ~ I just had little reprieves of calm. Chances to regroup.

And here I am trying to figure out what I did wrong! What did I do to deserve this? As if I'm the victim of some cosmic retribution and if I can only make amends then it will all stop.

What a ridiculous idea, right?

This whole move. This whole relocation and radical alteration of my life. It feels oddly like Under the Tuscan Sun (the movie, not the book) if only because it felt like this great chance to make an enormous change in my life that would have to better because as Diane Lane's character says "I can't go back." I didn't factor in "a rental car to drive off a cliff when I realize what a huge mistake this is" when I looked at financing my new home ~ I brought my own car with me.

Then maybe that's what all this rug pulling is about.

The universe recognizes that I'm not one to resist inertia unless the floor falls out from underneath me.

Is this all in the name of making me into the person I'm supposed to be? Does that make me fate's bitch? And make fate an even bigger bitch? There's one to ponder.

But still, here I am. A completely different person than I was three years ago. Physically, emotionally, mentally, geographically. I'm not the same person.

Am I a better person? In some ways, yes. In some ways I wonder if my self as it was, has been beaten out of me or merely abandoned for the path of least resistance.

In my late twenties I decided to give up certain fears. I was always afraid of haunted houses, but it seemed like a ridiculous thing to be afraid of after everything I had been through in my life. How could someone jumping out of a coffin with a chainsaw possibly scaring when I had really stared down death? Or the supposed lunatic in the hockey mask, when I had been locked in a psych ward with the real thing?

I went to five haunted houses that year. They didn't even startle me. I stopped being afraid of getting lost and I stopped being afraid of being alone. I realized that my life and my experiences had shown me what I was capable of enduring.

So now I wonder, is this another metamorphosis? Or did I just think that I had emerged last year? (Was the tattoo premature? ~ not to worry, there won't be a second one.)

I think that's how I'm going to view all this. It's just another battle out of the cocoon. It's not a setback, merely part of the process of emerging as my true self.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I'm not okay

Honestly? I'm hating life right now.

My sister seems pissed off at me about 80% of the time. I've even worn out my welcome with my very easy going brother-in-law ~ something about my cat yakking and pooping in places other than her litter box. And then there was the Saturday morning she decided to wake him up by eating his hair. Not a popular choice.

Theoretically, I should be moving out in less than two weeks.


I just don't have a mortgage.

Little issue.

And the bank is fucking clueless! I mean they HAVE the contract and the closing date! They approved the mortgage back in March or April (it expired)but now they're dragging their feet and talking about a hypothetically September 25th closing date.

HELLO!!! Closing is already scheduled in 12 frickn' days!!!!

And then there's my house.

For some reason I'm entirely unclear on (my theory is they needed to bury a body) they redid one side of the concrete driveway, tearing up half my front yard. (TWO WEEKS BEFORE CLOSING!!!)

And have I mentioned that they STILL have not changed out the plumbing fixtures and ceiling lamps??? I believe I let them know they had installed the incorrect ones at least 2 weeks ago.

And then tonight ~ this is the one that made me homicidally mad ~ I went in to check the house. It looks as those Ranger Security, who I have repeatedly, in writing, no less, told that I do not wish to have their system installed, decided to wire in their security system. They cut holes in my walls and ceiling in my kitchen, two bedrooms, laundry room and all the way up the stairs.

Now, I can understand that they may have wanted to "pre-wire" the house for a security system in case I changed my mind in a few months/years/whatever or in case the next owner of the house wants it. But isn't the whole concept of "pre-wiring" that you put the wiring in BEFORE the walls go up???

Now, maybe their actions could be understandable if I suddenly went screaming to them, saying that I absolutely HAD to have a security system, but as I recall the conversation with their representative who called me last week to try to schedule an appointment to discuss their services, I told her I had discussed their services with another representative when I was at the design center months ago and told him, signed paperwork indicating, that I did not want their security system and I had not changed my mind.

As it stands, I consider what they did vandalism. What's to stop me from calling the police to file a report? (Aside from the fact that I don't own the place yet.) I did call the realtor and tell her how furious I was.

I need to get back in there and take pictures before they do some half ass patch job which I find when I got to hang a picture on the stairwell and the whole chunk of drywall knocks in. The home inspection is on Wednesday and I think I may have a little A/V presentation for the inspector.

All this shit has just ruined the house for me. If I didn't so desperately need to get the hell out of my sister's house, I'd just walk away from this contract and start all over again. (But, alright. I do LOVE the kitchen. The counters and the backsplash and the stainless steel appliances look great ~ if they could only get the right faucet in....)

Oh god. I am just miserable. I'm trying to find the one thing to look forward to in my life and I seriously can't find it. No job. The house/mortgage is a trainwreck. My family is driving me insane. I can't even get excited about my nephew's birth because I know my other nephew is going to become even more of a nightmare and my sister is going to be a completely sleep deprived and moody and even more of a trainwreck than my house. She'll be looking to me for help and I'm just completely dried up. I really don't think I can do this much longer without something good happening.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Nothing Good Can Come of This....

It's like the idea that some peace accord between the U.S. and France is going to stop the war between Hezbollah and Israel. Seriously?

It's late and I'm trying to go to sleep. Actually, trying to go to sleep.

My mind, however, has other plans.

Ruminations is what my doctor called it. That constant narration running throughout the day and the to do list that reloads itself more often the Windows95.

Right now it is moving into my new house. Considering how I can live without moving my everything from the storage unit for a week or so with just my appliances, the stuff I have at my sister's and an inflatable mattress. I want to try to get some painting, shelf lining and things in place before the house is full of stuff.

There's a question of chairs. What can I reach in my storage area? Can I reach my stools for the breakfast bar? How long can I survive with one mug, an electric kettle, and only paper plates and plastic utensils?

And that horrible ornamental grass that they planted. It HAS to go. Definitely before it really takes root. No tick habitats in my yard!! I need to get 10 plants to replace it. Definitely some sage (probably Mexican), lantana, upright rosemary and a few other things.

These, apparently, are the things that keep me up at night.

Then there's the job interview. I'm good at interviews and tests. I know ahead of time that's it's going to be another marathon and I'm expecting that. But what am I going to wear? If I wear the sleeveless black top with the green skirt will I look too booby? It's supposed to be over 100 degrees, so I really can't wear the other black top with the longish sleeves. It wouldn't matter if the main person interviewing me was a woman, but I happen to know that it's a man. Will it look like I'm trying to get a job using my DDs if I wear a shirt that accentuates them when I'm being interviewed by a man??? It's not like it's low cut, not even close, but just fitted.

And I have no idea why, but I'm concerned about how the builders are going to replace the flooring in my kitchen. The put a hole in it installing the stove. It's one really big piece of flooring that covers the whole kitchen, downstairs bath, laundry room and pantry. Are they going to have to reorder the stuff? Is this going to push back my closing? Or is someone going to do some half ass repair job to try to cover the hole, thinking I wasn't in that day to see the damage???

And when are they going to change out the plumbing fixtures and the ceiling fans?? It's not like we have all year??? This is not even my timeline and yet, here I am unable to sleep, stressing over it. WTF???

Oddly, the least of my concerns is the stupid mortgage application. I am oddly calm about it. I guess I've just made peace with the fact that I may have to co-own my house with my mother. If I don't get the loan, I just resubmit an application with my mother on it too. No big deal. I can worry about the ramifications later ~ they'll be plenty of time for that.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I had a bad day.

So, I have this house closing three weeks from tomorrow and I'm sort of not employed and it's all rather uncertain whether this will be a problem. Are you feeling a little stressed out?

The bank has been trying to get in touch with me, so today, I decided to give up on trying to use their main number to get a hold of an associate at the branch (I kept getting kicked over to the automated banking.) Basically, I realized that I was going to have to go over in person to find out what was going on and straighten it out.

I should preface this next part with a little background. Two years ago, after my 13 year old Honda Accord dropped dead on the side of the road, I bought my very first new car. I got a Civic Hybrid. I love my car, have since the day I got it. I love everything about it! The teenie little turn radius! The amazing gas mileage! The fact that I can park it anywhere! When I was asked to fill out a customer satisfaction survey, my only complaint was that I didn't have a particularly good way to hook my iPod up to the stereo. Two and a half weeks after I got my car, I was rear ended at a stop light when the car ahead of me didn't move but the car behind me did. It was a stupid 17 year old punk in a Lexus. I was so angry I called the police. I didn't think I could just exchange insurance information with the kid without assaulting him. My brand new car!!!!

This afternoon when I walked out to my car to go to the bank, I found that someone had scraped the side of my driver's door and the mirror while it was parked in front of my sister's house and not bothered to leave a note or anything. Nice. I always leave a note. Okay, both times I have left a note. But let's be honest, in your current situation, you just don't have your $500 deductible to spare to have your car fixed so this is particularly irritating. Oh, who am I kidding, it's freakin' infuriating!!

But we're just getting started...

After waiting a large portion of my thirties at the bank, I meet with the bank manager and one of the associates and get this ~ my mortgage with it's rate expired at the end of June! One would think that might have come up in conversation when I spoke to the loan officer on July 6th or possibly in our written and fax correspondence the week of July 12th, but no, it's coming up now. What does this mean you ask? (Or actually, I asked as well.) I need to reapply for a mortgage. SERIOUSLY? Seriously.

The loan officer just wants the original application resubmitted, so we included all the original information, exactly as it was stated the first time around. Whatever. I made a point of not signing anything ~ I don't want to have any fraud allegations. And apparently (big surprise) the fact that you're unemployed (ie. have no income) does not show up on your credit report!! I know, how insane is that??? I lost my great interest rate, but only by 0.25%. I could have gotten it by paying points at closing, but I was feeling a little cash poor.

Then I was off to Sears to buy my washer, dryer and refridgerator while the 20% rebate for purchasing three was still on, but before the tax free clothing holiday hits and the mall becomes a madhouse of back to school shoppers. After that my credit card was flagged at another store and they had to call in to the bank and verify my i.d. and I had to give them all my super secret passwords.

In all honesty, I would hope that if someone were to steal my credit card, they would do something more fun than purchase large appliances at Sears. I would have at least hit the Apple Store!! And seriously, if it was a thief, we're talking seriously stupid ~ they scheduled delivery!!!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Ambien Cookbook

Below is an article my sister and I read that got us laughing so hard tears were running down our cheeks. I should probably disclose here that I did take Ambien for close to four years. I never got up and ate, but I did have some serious amnesia issues (mostly with books I would be reading before I fell asleep) and I have a few odd vague memories of weird things I did if I didn't go right to bed after taking the Ambien ~ something involving a hose in the front yard comes to mind...

The New Yorker Magazine

Issue of 2006-07-31
Posted 2006-07-24

The sleeping pill Ambien seems to unlock a primitive desire to eat in some patients, according to emerging medical case studies that describe how the drug’s users sometimes sleepwalk into their kitchens, claw through their refrigerators like animals and consume calories ranging into the thousands.
—The Times.

Sorpresa con Queso
7 bags Cheetos-brand cheese snacks
17 to 19 glasses tap water
5 mg. Ambien

Place Cheetos bags in cupboard.

Take Ambien, fall asleep.

Wait 2-3 hours, then sleepwalk to kitchen, tear cupboard doors off hinges in search of Cheetos.

Find Cheetos, eat contents of all 7 bags.

Fall back asleep on kitchen floor.

When awakened by early-morning sunlight, get up and say, “What the—?”

Wipe orange Cheetos dust from fingers, face, and hair.

Drink 17 to 19 glasses of water from kitchen tap.

Return to bed.

Icebox Mélange
Entire contents of refrigerator
1 Diet Snapple
5 mg. Ambien

Take Ambien, fall asleep.

Wait 2-3 hours, then sleepwalk to kitchen.

Devour everything in refrigerator (including all fancy mustards and jellies, iffy takeout leftovers, and plastic dial from thermostat).

Belch loud enough to wake wife or girlfriend. When she enters kitchen, bellow, “Can’t you see I’m working here?”

Fall asleep on kitchen floor.

After 4-5 more hours, wake up on subway, fully dressed from the waist up, drinking a Diet Snapple.

Licorice Surprise
1 black extension cord
1 wall outlet
5 mg. Ambien

Plug extension cord into wall socket near bed.

Plug other end of extension cord into clock radio on nightstand.

Take Ambien, fall asleep.

Sleep 3-4 hours.

Roll out of bed, wake up on floor.

See extension cord, think, What a big delicious licorice rope that is!

Chew on essentially flavorless cord until you get to the metallic center, where the surprise is.

Tummy Cake
5 eggs
2 cups flour
1 cup Crisco
1/2 cup milk
5 mg. Ambien

Take Ambien, fall asleep.

Wake up in kitchen, mixing eggs, flour, Crisco, and milk in—for some reason—a mop bucket.

Let batter settle.

Go to living room, turn on TV, search channels for a show that explains the second part of how to make a cake.

Curse the designer of your TV remote for making a device that has the buttons on the wrong side—all facing the floor, where you can’t see them.

Remember batter.

Retrieve bucket from kitchen, drink entire contents in 3-5 gulps.

Remember that the batter was supposed to be cooked.

Draw hot bath, immerse yourself in it, knead bloated stomach in effort to facilitate cooking process.

When mouth fills with now cooled bathwater, wake up and return to bed.

Lie back on pillow, watch cartoon bluebirds orbiting your head.

Grab one cartoon bluebird in midair and devour it raw, feathers and all.

Wake up at 7 A.M., with wife or girlfriend demanding to know what the F happened in the kitchen last night.

While trying to answer, burp up a single cartoon-bluebird feather. Cover mouth guiltily, even though she seems not to have noticed the feather.

When she slams the bedroom door and goes to work, pick cartoon-bluebird feather out of the air and swallow it.

Fall asleep for 36 more hours, interrupted only by periodic—and somehow epic-seeming—trips to the bathroom.

Nhi Ho Trang Phu
1 package beef jerky
1 quart mango-flavored Gatorade
1 saucepan potable water
Salt to taste
5 mg. Ambien

Lay out beef jerky and Gatorade on nightstand, in anticipation of somnambulistic snack attack.

Take Ambien, fall asleep.

After 2-3 hours, awaken half-submerged in a rice paddy in the jungle lowlands just north of the Mekong Delta.

Back “in country.” You know you’re going to Heaven, ’cause you’ve spent your time in Hell. But here you are once again—back in the Shit.

Stay still, stay quiet—as quiet as a mouse. You are asleep, but all of your senses are alert.

Spot V.C. sapper no more than one foot away, playing possum in spider hole beneath duvet-cover camouflage.

Silently stalk stationary V.C.; two can play this game, no?

When you gain tactical advantage, corner V.C. and remove ear(s).

Go to kitchen, put ear(s) into pot of water on stove, tie on souvenir lobster bib from Cape Cod trip last summer, sit down at kitchen table with knife in one hand and fork in the other, saying “Fee, fi, fo, fum” over and over—until water boils, or you wake up in police custody despite now earless wife or girlfriend’s protestations of your innocence as delivered to police detective in emergency room, where she now is (whichever comes first).

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The End of Innocence

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned it here before, but I believe that innocence is lost in stages. It has nothing to do with sex. It has everything to do with losing the faith that we have that the world is basically good and that everything fits into our own perfect pretty little version of life.

I often talk about my own first loss of innocence. I was probably about 10 or 11 years old. I was still quite the tomboy and spent most of the summer at a pond at the end of the street where my parents' still live catching frogs in various stages of life. The whole process had begun the summer before or perhaps even the summer before that. A friend (another tomboy) and I were enthralled with the stages of the frogs' development ~ the tadpole, which started tiny and just got bigger, the front legs, the hind legs and finally the loss of the tale.

By that year we were masters at catching the full grown frogs and had created a habitat for them on the backporch of my parents house. We carried bucket after bucket of pond water home in galvanized buckets to nearly fill the 30 gallon plastic trash barrel my father had donated to the effort. We took weed from the pond as well to best recreate the habitat for our new pets. These were the years before the internet ~ we were still writing basic code for a TSR80 to perform basic algebra or make a tree of asterisks ~ so our knowledge of frog habitats was pretty limited.

We did, of course, name the frogs, or at least the big ones that were the most challenging to catch. Our largest frog was called Bubba. Every evening, I would cover the trash can with chicken wire and a few rocks to hold it down and yet every morning, I would come out to find fewer frogs in my frog family. I better molded the chicken wire to the top of the barrel, I put larger rocks on top of it, I lowered the water level, at night I started removing the little frog home I had created from an empty milk jug ~ anything to try to keep the frogs from escaping. But it continued. Our prized, named, large frogs seemed content enough to stay, but the smaller ones, which we easily replaced, had unbelievable escape skills.

Then one morning I came out to the frogs to find Bubba floating contentedly with a pair of frog legs hanging out of his mouth. I screamed at the volume and octave that only a ten year old girl can achieve and my father came running. I couldn't speak at first and then I started saying it quickly over and over again. There's a frog eating a frog! My father was completely unphased by my revelation of historic precedent and quite possibly highly amused. He looked at me calmly and said, "I thought you knew they were cannibals" Obviously not. That was my last summer with the frogs. I dumped the whole 30 gallon trash barrel into the back yard that day, not caring if they could actually find their way back to the pond or wind up trapped in the filter of one of the neighbors swimming pools or worse, roadkill on a rainy night. Cannibals??? How could he possibly think his child would knowingly keep cannibals as pets???

I tell this story now because I'm about to share someone else's first loss of innocence. He probably won't remember and I or his mother will have to tell him the story when he's older, most likely, over and over as tears run down our faces.

Now in Texas, exterminators are just a part of life. My sister has found an environmentally friendly one that uses nothing that will harm toddlers, cats, or unborn babies. Calling and scheduling an appointment has been on her list since February. "Bugman" Yesterday she finally called and got an appointment for today. She and my nephew went to the library and grocery store in the morning so they could be home for the bugman between 12 and 2pm.

It wasn't until the two of them were waiting that my sister realized that they had hugely different expectations of what was going to happen that afternoon. When my nephew said "Maybe he will say "Bzzz-bzzz and sing songs about bugs," my sister knew she was in trouble.

When Stefan, the bugman, arrived, my nephew was obviously disappointed. He wasn't dressed like a bug and he didn't bring any bugs with him, my nephew was quick to point out. But when Stefan announced that he would be looking for bugs, my nephew gamely volunteered to help out. He just wasn't all that happy when he found out Stefan's plans for the bugs they found, like the wasp's nest in the bathroom window.

So, I chronicle this for my little two and a half year old nephew. My sister blames herself for not better explaining what was going to happen, but it's not her fault the little guy is so capable of putting things together, even if he makes the wrong picture sometimes.

Welcome to the real world, little man. May its wonders outnumber its disappointments.