Sunday, August 19, 2012

Relaxtion is Not Just for the Dead

Bear and I recently took a week's vacation with his family. When you pile a whole bunch of people into a house that are related, with a few that are related by marriage or dating or friendship (trust me, flocks of a feather stick together), I was  expecting that the house would eventually implode under the weight of familial adversity. Actually, it was fantastic. It truly was the turning point of my summer, even more than the move, about how I view the world and how I handle things. The thing is, even though we moved, we still work in Big Town, and we still live in the same valley. While we "got away" from the depressing student-occupied Warrens, but not from the general feel of it all, I needed a bit of shock therapy to go with it to really pound the idea home. So, less than 48 hours after we moved in completely--the house still in shambles--we drove 7 hours away to leave it all behind.

The view from under my brim. Warm ocean, warm sand, and not too invasive seagulls. Beachside success!

It started just 4 hours after getting to the house. Following all the hello's and hugs and moving crap into our room...wait, didn't we just end this? I thought we had finished moving! Damnit!...I went out on the porch to view the scenery with Bear. There was a tree full of fig-gorging birds across the street and a blue roof where a solitary black-headed seagull laughed like some sort of sea-side chicken, with that funny way of ending by throwing back his head twice like he was enjoying a good joke. I kept chuckling, watching a herd of ducks come and--even though they were sorting through the dropped remains of figs--chase off all the swarming birds at the top of the tree, because let's face it, ducks are jerks and even the other birds know it and don't want to risk it. It was aviary comedy hour across our little tiny street. And suddenly I thought, "I have absolutely no anxiety whatsoever," which I stated to Bear and then promptly started to worry about not having any anxiety whatsoever. We both laughed at that.

That was how my week went. Even Bear, who was ecstatic just at the mere thought of our new Home back up in Little Town, smiled a ton that week, relaxed more than I've ever seen his Zen-self let go, and showed a lot more affection without getting all uppity about PDA's in front of the family. Small things made us happy: ocean water, fresh seafood, a single yarn shop hidden in a family home (okay, that was just me, Wombat, and Goose, not Bear), the early morning tint of the sky, and a humongous praying mantis. We planned to go clamming, but lost out to the price of equipment and without much worry or disappointment agreed that next year, with better planning, would be better. Life was easy. It was enjoyable, and being with the family was a fantastic time of bonding that we continuously touched upon while still being autonomous. Holy hell, we were...relaxing.

Awesome praying mantis that ended up attacking me. These little guys sure have big cahones for being much smaller than people.

Awww, he's grooming! Then I tried to move him with a piece of paper and he promptly flew right into my face in a furious flurry. I squealed like a baby being hit with a cat.
The beginning of the spread. Bear and I cooked for 11 people on the grill: yellow squash, acorn squash, corn on the cob, shrimp, and fresh clams and oysters. We also had sides of bread and salad.

These are straight from the cove nearby. Very fresh. They cooked up in about 10 minutes on the grill and tasted AWESOME all by themselves. 50 clams and 12 oysters.

Relax is not an easy word for me. Vacation isn't either. Long story short: my family has a large history of working-class ancestors. I'm also starting to think it's mixed with generations of Catholic guilt, a bit of genetic obsessiveness, and a large dose of Irish stubbornness. Relaxing is for the dead. Vacation is the permanence of heaven. Therefore, living is for working. Even as a kit, I was extremely busy all the time. Rise at 6am, walk to school at 7am, school to 3 or 4pm, then rush home for dinner, and back out the door for whatever ensemble I had (I was in 8 or 9 fall/winter/spring was filled with 3-4 total; the summer was reserved for working weekdays in my teenage years and drum corps on weekends) until 9pm, when I would get home, do my homework, and pass out in a pile of books around midnight. Mum and I just didn't take vacations with our schedules . So relaxing is confusing. I have to be doing something, calculating my next project, figuring out what I have to do next. There's just no time to take time off!! Bear doesn't have this problem. He can even meditate without obsessing on a thought for too long, which baffles me. Meditating makes me anxious. Everything does.

I have to thank my boss, Drathaar, and our Boss, for reinforcing the ideas of relaxation through behavior and advice previous to this trip. When I confirmed this vacation back in March, Big Boss advised to "not check the internet, not check email, and generally stay away from all outside communication devices." Initially I turned my nose up at this idea. Eventually it was what saved me. Drathaar, on the other hand, reinforced this through telling me not to worry about the work key, which accidentally wormed its way into my backpack after a busy Thursday (my last day before the trip, and the day before the last moving haul and clean-up of the Warren apartment), and then not bothering me all week with any emails or such. They were adamant about me leaving work behind for a week.

I also like to think I'm more essential in the grand scheme of my job than I actually am. Honestly, work isn't going to fall apart with me gone for a week. It didn't when Drathaar went to the mountains for a fishing trip; it doesn't when Big Boss goes on work trips or small vacations. Things will work themselves out, and unless you are running a country or some such, it's not going to be an utter catastrophe if you take a leave for a few days to a week and don't spend all your time checking emails. Occasionally is fine. I did once a day. That's about all you need to do if you're "essential personnel" to the working of a business/job. If you're not, well...don't even go near a phone or computer. EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE.

Relaxing shouldn't be for the dead, and vacation shouldn't be for winged angels playing harps in the clouds. We should all get at least a day off from this busy, crazy society we've developed. It is important to reset, to get outside ourselves and see how small we are, as well as enjoy ourselves at least occasionally. Really enjoy ourselves, I mean. I thought I was taking this past year off after grad school, and in actuality I know now it was fraught with constant anxiety over getting a "big job," working, making big plans for life...stuff that should just come over you as it happens while you're taking the next right steps. Yes, plan out your finances, apply to jobs, and start coming up with your next big project. But don't let them take over your every waking moment. If you can't take a moment out every day to take a step back and just enjoy where you are, try one weekend a month, or a week a year. Get away from constant social technology and enjoy who you are, at that very moment, and the beauty of the world around you. It doesn't have to be fancy. A walk in the park is fine. Hell, find anyplace that has some green, some sort of nature, and just do it. Good lord, how we are surrounded by plastic, metal, beeping things, and invisibility!

The real test, though, is the follow-through (Bear wrote, or rather said, this). It's true. I've now learned how great it is to relax. Will I continue? I don't know. I know I can try. Really hard. Because I like the way I feel right now. House is a mess? Psssh, I'll get some done tonight and tomorrow, and the days after that. I'm cool with it right now. I'm currently sitting on a couch occupied by hats, blankets, a bottle of Head Lube (for the bald Bear), and plastic bags. Last week I would have been silently freaking out, overwhelmed to the point of being unable to move or do anything, by the mess' presence. I don't know how I'll handle those types of things in a week. I know, though, that I can try with all my heart to continue what I've learned on this vacation.

Keep on chillin' when you can,

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gone Fishing

Sorry for the lack of posting this week, but Bear and I are taking a very important lesson in life about relaxation. True relaxation with no internet and very little outside communication. In light of this, I'll be back on Sunday with my realization about why this trip has been such a huge turning point in my life right now. Until then, friends...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Apocalypse Now

The horror. The horror.

I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to have a yard sale this past weekend. It was, to put it lightly, one of the worst choices I have made in terms of planning, expectations, and execution. Combined with the unforeseen circumstances that arose... it was just a plain bad idea.

It might have to do with the fact that I've never done a yard sale before. I don't really go to yard sales. I'm more of a flea-market and farmer's market type, because most of the yard sales I see have tons of baby stuff and at this point in life, and hopefully for quite a few more years, I don't need any baby supplies. So, my prices were probably higher than what people were expecting or wanting to pay. Added onto this is the fact that students who economically power Big Town move out in a whirlwind frenzy of furniture throw-outs, resulting in a lot of free furniture by the side of the road. Why buy what you can get for free? And the students desperately searching for anything less than new prices I hoped to draw in were obviously a week or two too away.

So, at 9AM, Bear and I rolled over to his parent's place and began setting up. After helping me cart the tables out, Bear left to do the last of the large furniture moving (with the help of some family friends) and painting out at the new Home. I was all alone. I sat outside for 6 hours, seeing a grand total of about 12 people, 4 of whom actually bought things. I made a grand total of $32 and got rid of very little. My craft table sold two dishcloths, thanks to my Boss-Boss dropping by to support me in my efforts (I have to admit, I do have awesome admin and co-workers)! What really irked me though was a car full of primly dressed women who stepped out and walked around my little set-up. One woman told me she just "didn't feel like paying $8 for this tablecloth," even after I explained to her that it was brand new, never used, and very large. It was also embroidered beautifully with fall leaves, and I was peeved after the fact that I let it go...especially to someone so uppity. She eventually bid me down to $5, because at that point I was just desperate to get rid of something. Anything. Another one of the Prim-ers ooh'ed and ahh'ed over my craft work, then stated to a friend--as I was sitting in front of her--that my green alpaca clutch purse was "so beautiful, but soooo expensive" (it was $15 if you were wondering).

I have some choice words for people like that. First, don't passively-aggressively try to bid down the artist through sideways methods. I'm right here, talk to me. I may be offended if you want to barter over my craft work (because I know about people like you, so I automatically lower my prices anyway from what I most likely deserve for supplies, effort, and time), but I will be kind in my denial and appreciative of your chutzpah. I like honesty. Second, if you think that's expensive, sweetheart...go bedazzle yourself at Walmart. Go buy the cheap crap you're used to, and leave the nice stuff to people who understand the value of hand-made crafts.

Now I have some choice words for people like me. Yard sales are probably not the place for selling your crafts. People are looking for deals, and not just good deals, but bottom-of-the-barrel deals. Flea markets are better for the prices I was asking, and are probably better for selling some craft-work if there's no craft shows around. It was a poor choice for my first public sell, and it didn't really help my esteem much.

So, onto the unforeseen circumstances. It rained. Okay, it didn't just rain, it was a maelstrom. I managed to get my delicate stuff inside, but all the furniture, lamps, and my entire craft table got to sit out in rain and wind so bad that I couldn't see anything. I lost all my books, the bookcases fell apart as we picked them up later, and three of my antique kimono-fabric pillowcases I made were soaked and ruined. My other craft stuff survived, but I was sorely put-out by the whole ordeal. This could have been fixed by having more than one person running the yard sale. Even with a storm that rolled in that quickly, we could have gotten the crafts inside and I could have saved myself that particular heartbreak by having an extra pair of helping hands. Having another person would have also allowed me to get up and go pee, take a break from the sun, and actually get some food. From 10AM to 4PM, I sat outside, sweltering in the humidity, without food, without sunscreen, and without relief. The next unforeseen circumstance was heat exhaustion.

It turns out I got an awful sunburn. By the time we got home, I stuffed my face way too early with Chinese food and then proceeded to get very, very ill. Bear was so worried that he began coating me in wet papertowels and turning the fan on to face me directly. He said that I was delirious, not sweating, bright red, and in a bad way. All I remember from that night is thinking that Bear was angry at me for being such a baby. This was not anger, but rather extreme worry over my condition. That Bear got to that point of distress is a decent indicator of my situation, because Bear doesn't worry about much. He's got a very laid-back attitude and is a reasonable man. I ended up being okay by the next day after Bear forced cups on water on me every time I lost the previous cup to illness, yet he said it was still a scary night.

This, my friends, was an apocalyptic decision. It marked the end of an era for me. I took it as a sign from the universe or whatever runs this show that I should stop obsessing over hocking my used stuff and just give it away. This whole thing was about downsizing, wasn't it? Everything I saved from the rain or that's still in the old place that I can't use won't be going up on Craigslist anymore, it won't be going to a yard will be donated someplace or other where other people who are in need can get to it. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I'm blessed in this life. Some people aren't so fortunate.

In closing, sorry for not having any pictures with this post, and for not updating in a bit. Things have been, if you can't tell, pretty crazy around the Warren and new Home. I'll post at the end of this week about the finality of moving in, finishing painting, and other topics as we complete the moving cycle. Then I'll be moving on to specific projects we're taking on in the house, and the real fun and DIY will begin!

Stay hydrated (not thirsty),

Friday, August 3, 2012

Men Plan, God Laughs

Or rather, we plan poorly, and God says, "What the hell, guys? That's not the way you do it. Oh, whatever. It's your life...I'm not gonna tell you what to do with it."

Bear was a total sweetheart and pretty much painted the two walls in the livingroom himself, on top of doing the first coat of the stairwell edging, putting together the bed, and moving the drawers for the desk and bureau upstairs in the morning. I was exhausted from my Sunday morning job of playing with and watching over a very rambunctious 3.5 y/o (normally there are more of my "little monsters" at the nursery, but it's been a slow summer), and when I finally got out to the house and took his mom for a tour, I realized how tired I was. Being the champ and sweetest man he is, he told me to turn on the portable air conditioner and take a test-run of the new Queen bed. I slept like a log for 2 hours.

When I finally woke up, he was already on the second wall edging. Good lord, man. Impatience to finish is his forte, and right now it's the perfect fuel to drive the paint-train all the way to Endsville.

We had some pretty tough hurdles this time around, though. Namely, a very bad drywall job from way before our current homeowners. Whoever did this either didn't really care, didn't even know what the heck they were doing, or a bit of both. I'm not sure what's worse. It is compounded by the fact that the current paint is semi-gloss, which is an absolute b!tch to paint over, and the fact that the stairwells are so tall.

Bad drywall. Bad.

Our goal right now, being a bit on the empty-wallet side and not planning through enough, is to just live with it until next summer. Next summer we'll rent some scaffolding and clean up our job with a new gallon of white eggshell paint. I was all for doing it with the ladder and some wooden boards, but Bear must have been recently spoken to by OSHA after our employment of chairs as height-adjusters, because he said that idea was "extremely unsafe and likely to cause injury." Anyway, Bear is shorter than I am, but I still had to paint this with...a paintbrush on a stick. Literally, we taped a paintbrush to a paint-roller extender and I got to it. Can you believe it?!

Yes, you can. Because I did an awful job, regardless of the lumpy drywall base I had to deal with.

Impatience and apathy do not mix well.

At this point, even with the fan downstairs running, it was murder-my-child hot. I was soaked in sweat, dribbled in paint, doused in frustration. And I. Did. Not. Care. I was at the end of the rope with patience for such an awful drywall job that a frothy-mouthed Lewis Black was made to look like a calm, reasonable saint. I was dizzy, hungry, tired from my job in the morning, and fed up. By the end I was cursing loudly and wildly waving the paintbrush stick around with enough chutzpah to send Bear up to check on me. We did two coats and said, "Hell with it. It's done for now. There's always next summer. The color is up within reason, and that is good enough."

Onto the livingroom. God just shrugs his shoulders at this point. And laughs. I'm pretty sure a higher power has a great sense of humor after watching humanity for hundreds of thousands of years.

The ceilings in the livingroom are 10 feet tall, and the walls are coated with some odd, textured crud. We were certain after Bear painted one wall that this would take two coats minimum. We were certain that "We have made a huge mistake" in buying only one gallon. Luckily, now that we've sold off some more furniture we can afford to get another one when we finish this upcoming weekend. Again, paint is expensive. Who knew trying to get a little color in our Home would cost us the piggy bank and the dresser it sat on. But it's working out, because we got rid of furniture we don't need, sold it to people who do need it, and got paint in return. Things usually work out in the end.

You can't see it, but the wood has old paint on it. Bear has plans to go back and fix up the wood, because it's original and just too darn pretty for him to leave it like it is right now.

The biggest wall down. One more coat of paint to go.

What you don't see yet are the two windows and doors that we'll have to paint around. And based on Bear's current job with careful edging, it looks like that'll be my job.

Bad Bear. Bad.

He is not, as I said, a patient man. Who can blame him? At this point, he had done so much in the day that he just wanted it over with. We're going to have some thinking and testing to do to see if we can get those mistakes off, or if it'll have to wait until next summer when we buy the white paint and repaint the ceiling in the stairwell. For now, we're okay with it, because most of our mistakes will be hidden by furniture or less-perfectionistically-searching eyes than ours. That's our other problem. Perfection. We want it, it's not possible, and we can't stand it. Even Martha Stewart, in all her glorious neatness, is not perfect.

But Bear and I have a story we like to remember when we start getting overtly fussy about perfection:

A foreign man was traveling across the world looking for the best Persian rugs. Each one, he was told by his friends back in England, was absolutely perfect and took hundreds of hours to create. Being a collector of the finest wares of the world, he put his mind to buying the most beautiful and faultless Persian rug he could find. He searched for weeks across Turkey, finding rugs that were elegant, but too dull, or colorful, but with ugly designs or bad weave. None were to his standards. Then, he came to a shop the locals said housed a devout Muslim man, an artist who Allah had blessed with the gift of absolute human perfection in creating the most perfect rugs in all of the Middle East. So he went to the man's shop and perused as the creator looked on and explained to him the meaning of the designs and the effort it took to make a single rug. He seemed very pleased with his work, but not arrogant. Finally, the English man said, "They are all splendid. Indeed, they are the most intricate, colorful, and plush rugs I have ever seen in my travels, in all my life, and most possibly in all the world. But, my good man, each of these rugs has a mis-stitch in them! Look here!" The artist smiled and bowed to him, saying, "Yes, sir. They each have a single flaw. I put one in each rug so that I may be humble." Feeling ill-used by being mislead into believing the rugs were faultless, the English man threw up his hands and angrily said, "You have tried to trick me and I must begin my search for the perfect rug all over again!" Still smiling, the artist said, "Then you must search a long time, for only in the home of Allah are the rugs without flaw. I am only human."

See you at the yard sale,