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I have a hummingbird feeder. I also put out a pie pan with a pile of pumpkin guts and seeds, and another with water. Just now I saw two hummingbirds fighting over the feeder and a pair of Steller's Jays, one watchful on the balcony rail while the other plucked pumpkin seeds out of the pile and then they flew off to a nearby tree branch, set down the pumpkin seeds, and started pecking at them.

The sky is full of grey light, pale thin clouds drifting over watery blue. The aforementioned tree still has many goldy-green leaves on it--but not that tree's leaves, they are leaves on a parasitic vine that also has dandelion-like hairy seed puffs the size of my fist all over it.

Autumn is nearly turned to winter. We might have snow tomorrow, not to stick but just to fall and decorate the view.

Karaoke!

Nov. 23rd, 2016 09:52 am
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I did karaoke for the first time last night! It was a birthday celebration for two coworkers. I work early hours so went home for a quick dinner and to pick up the car (I take public transit to work) before meeting everyone at the karaoke place. I added a few songs to the queue, but then noticed that my coworkers’ music choices were vastly different than mine and deleted some of my picks. As it turned out nobody had heard the first song I chose to sing and only one person had heard the second—Alexander Hamilton! (Which I totally nailed.) I also sang a duet with another coworker, who sings in a local choir.

This ticks two boxes for me: I’ve wanted to try karaoke for years, and I want to be more social now that my marriage is over. I had a great time! I sing for my own pleasure, I don’t think I’m a great singer but I do sing loudly and with enthusiasm, and I really enjoyed sitting around with acquaintances, listening to other people sing, and eating the munchies various people ordered. Don’t know why it has never occurred to me to grate parmesan cheese onto tater tots, it definitely works.

This morning I thanked the organizer and told her I really look forward to doing it again.
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TW for child abuse, self harm, intrusive thoughts, suicide attempts.

Jude and his 3 college dorm mates are good friends; they struggle to become successful adults and find supportive relationships.

If this had been a novel of slow, even less-than-complete, recovery from childhood trauma, it would be a masterpiece. Instead, the hopes raised by the incredible authorial voice, the beautiful language, the skillful transition from one character to the next, the complex and fascinating development of the individuals, just tease you to go deeper into the dungeon of dismay and distress at the core, and the end, of this tragedy of a book. No better prescription could be written for a person who is currently happy but wants to become depressed enough, hopeless enough, exhausted enough, to decide to end their life.

I had a rough childhood, though nowhere as rough as Jude's; and my therapist many years later told me that not everything can be healed, that you have to choose to go on living and hoping and finding good in life even with a bandaged wound. This book is a brick in the head against that idea, discouraging any possibility of recovery and continuing life after tragedy.

If there are people who need to learn empathy because their lives have been too easy, too happy, too fulfilling, too rich with love and compassion and experience, then let them read this book. For the rest of us, we already know anything helpful this book might teach.

[Substance of this review also posted at Audible.com.]
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The last five years have passed like a dream and a nightmare.

I was depressed, I had intrusive thoughts on a daily basis, I was in pain, I was disabled. I had a horrible illness/injury, and went through multiple surgeries to repair and recover as much as possible. Things happened in my family that are not my story to tell but affected me greatly and negatively. And my marriage was not strong; we didn't so much break down as mutually discover that it had never really worked the way we thought, the way we wanted.

I spent a lot of time living only for each day, focusing on making it through one day because that was all I could handle. I felt powerless to move my life past the day I was in, dealing with the challenges and emotions of that day.

Gradually things have gotten better. I'm healing, I'm doing more things and thinking better. The intrusive thoughts have diminished in frequency and are easier to dismiss when they occur. The slow wind-down of my marriage relationship is leading me to different possibilities for the future, the opportunity to make different choices.

I'm ready to take my life off hold. It's not going to work like an on/off switch; very few things in life do! But I'm sliding the bar further away from "just get through today" a little bit at a time. I can imagine a future; I have hopes and goals and plans. I am ready to walk out of this room I've lived in for the last five years and find my future.

Forgiveness

Oct. 1st, 2016 04:04 pm
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Tomorrow at sundown we begin the Days of Awe with a celebration of the New Year, Rosh Hashanah. As is my custom, I hereby grant forgiveness to anyone that asks it of me and also ask that if I have harmed you, please forgive me and if you can, let me know how to do better in the future.
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I've started weight lifting. Details behind cut in case it triggers you.

Read more... )
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I don't like Facebook.

I don't like the control it takes over the news you see (whether personal news from family and friends or local and international news about other people). I don't like the requirement to show legal id for your name...but apparently that's changed, they have a way they will verify you by showing you photos and you supplying names for those people. I don't like the way everyone you know (coworkers, friends of friends, people you buy things from) all want to be Facebook connected. I like forgetting about work when I leave the office: most of the people I work with don't share my hobbies and I don't share theirs, we are not friends, we are FRIENDLY.

I would say that I don't like Facebook tracking me all over the internet, but I don't object to Google doing it.

And I have a goal: I want to make more local friends and have more of a local social life, now that I am coming out of my long national nightmare of health problems, and getting divorced. I'm afraid that Facebook might be the most effective way to accomplish that.

Apparently everybody plans things on Facebook now. They plan their birthday celebrations, the weekly trivia night at the local bar, a trip to the park for a festival, the day at the beach...all on Facebook. I'm missing a lot of opportunities because I don't have Facebook.

So, internet ax-murderer friends: what are your thoughts on whether I should join Facebook? After all, I can always quit if it's not working.
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Had a great day at the beach yesterday with my sons and my grandchildren. It was sunny and warm (for here, mid 60s F) with a breeze that was almost cold once you were off the hot sand. Of course the water was cold-it's always cold, and it's colder in the summer than winter (we get a warm current off the coast in the winter).

We all got there around 10 am, set up our spot with 3 sand blankets, 3 camp chairs, cooler, and our newest prize: a shade structure. It's like a tent, made with high SPF fabric, but it doesn't close on all sides so you can get a view and a breeze if you want while still sitting in the shade. It was very effective and sometimes we'd sit a chair or two in it and the grandkids would sit at our feet or lie down on the tarp floor for a rest.

We'd packed a cooler with lunch makings and snacks, and lots of water and ice. Grapes, cherries, crackers, ham, cheese, hummus, brownies and lemon bread, and so forth. We walked down to the water and along the water's edge half-a-dozen times, threw stones in, picked up shells to examine and discuss, flew kites and read books and talked. We watched people catching crabs, and throwing balls into the water for their dogs to fetch, and kayaking.

Just before we were all too tired to pack up, we packed up. And went to the restaurant at the edge of the parking lot for dinner before we got in our cars and headed home.

It was a good day. I will remember this good day.
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This is a safe place if you want to talk about a father who doesn't or didn't deserve to be celebrated. My father is one such.
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I'm going through some changes, including relationship-wise. I am creating a filter for that, which is opt-in. Comment if you want to be on that filter, and please respect my privacy by not reposting anything from that filter.
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In an article at The Atlantic Neal Gabler cites:
In a 2010 report titled “Middle Class in America,” the U.S. Commerce Department defined that class less by its position on the economic scale than by its aspirations: homeownership, a car for each adult, health security, a college education for each child, retirement security, and a family vacation each year. By that standard, my wife and I do not live anywhere near a middle-class life, even though I earn what would generally be considered a middle-class income or better. A 2014 analysis by USA Today concluded that the American dream, defined by factors that generally corresponded to the Commerce Department’s middle-class benchmarks, would require an income of just more than $130,000 a year for an average family of four. Median family income in 2014 was roughly half that.


Worth reading the entire article.
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There is a sense in which I could claim to be self-made, to have gotten where I am only by my own achievements, to have boostrapped my way out of poverty. That sense is that no one person helped me. I didn't have a family member, coach, teacher, counselor, pastor, or friend who spotted my potential when I was young and then encouraged and helped me fulfill that potential. Nobody made me a small loan that made all the difference, or let me crash with them for a few weeks, or paid my rent while I took an unpaid internship. Hell, nobody even told me I had potential!

And yeah, any of those things would have made a huge difference in my life. Trump talks about the small loan (of a million dollars!) that started his business; there was a time when a loan of just $10,000 would have made my life different, but there was literally no one in my life who could lend me that money, even though I had a job and could have paid it back in a timely fashion. There was one week, right after I got divorced, when I mistakenly paid a bunch of bills without keeping back grocery money, and I did have a friend who rescued me that one time by buying me a week's worth of groceries. And that matters (I mean, I still remember how panicked I was and I am still grateful for that save) but it was a one-week cash flow problem and could have been solved by going to a food pantry.

But I don't think of myself as self-made or as having bootstrapped myself out of poverty, because the only reason I made it the small distance I did is because we have a society that lays the foundation, and that foundation is paid for by other people in the community. I had the advantage of free school lunch, of free public school, of low-cost public transit, of jobs protected by laws so I was safe and paid a living wage; landlords couldn't discriminate against me when I tried to rent an apartment. And yes, I worked hard and spent a lot of time worried about the future (still do).

And even if I did make my own success, nobody should have to live like I did; nobody should have to be that anxious all the time, and work that hard, and only just barely survive even so.
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Matt Fraction, a comic book author and a fav of mine, writes about whether and how knowing about the problematic aspects of an artist affects how we view their art:

It’s harder when the art elaborates and elevates the shitbaggedness of the artist.

[...]

People are complex. Art should be too. I don’t know who any of us are to judge people based on persona and performance alone. And yet, and yet and yet and yet. Pablo Picasso put a cigarette out on françois gillot’s cheek. He beat Dora marr unconscious. Then he painted Guernica.

Guernica I love to spend time with; Picasso not so much. What we can do is change how we talk about it – about Picasso, about Guernica, about painting and painters (artists, period) and art itself. We have to.

I draw my line when I feel like the art enables, excuses, or justifies the abhorrent? Allen, Crumb, are perfect examples. I care about that shit too much to just not care.
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Went back to work last Thursday; very tired, very low energy, other symptoms. Saw my allergy doc today, who reports that nearly all her patients have a long-lasting upper respiratory virus/infection, and because we have asthma and/or allergies, it's taking even longer to heal than it does for people without a chronic issue. However, I am scheduled for a CT scan just to make sure nothing else is going on.

I am tired of being sick and sick of being tired.
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Most of what is on TV today is not what the guide says, which makes it hard to (a) find anything I actually want to watch and (b) identify what I am watching now.

The guide shows a lot of terrorist movies (e.g., The Siege) but the stations are not showing those movies, in what I guess is a response to the Brussels attacks. So, props to the stations for being sensitive.
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This is becoming disturbing.

I've checked in with my docs every 3-4 days. I'm taking all the prescribed meds and as of tomorrow (Wednesday) will have missed 2 weeks of work. I am resting, mostly in bed during the mornings and sometimes in a recliner. I sleep at night. I am eating and drinking water. I have no fever.

My breathing is improved, but not back to normal. I have an intermittent cough, headache, sinus pressure, and I am EXHAUSTED. Low energy, rather than sleepy-I can't nap, but sleep well at night. I am emotionally fragile (might be exacerbated by meds-prednisone sometimes does this).

My doctor is trying to get a CT scan scheduled; there is some insurance-related delay.

I have horrible guilt about missing work, as if it were my own fault I'm not well yet. Yes, I recognize the silliness of that but the feeling doesn't go away. I have the miseries.
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I wasn't getting well fast enough, so my allergy doc wanted to see me...and she went through a thorough exam and decided I probably have a deep sinus infection. More meds! A special antibiotic that is good at reaching this kind of infection, and two additional inhalers, and a steroid, and some paralytic cough treatment just in case. And a little over 24 hours later, I'm finally feeling just a bit better today than yesterday, instead of worse.

I'm off work until next Tuesday on doctor's orders, and on mostly bed rest, because a possible side effect of the antibiotic is tendonitis or a shredded tendon so she wants me to limit movement!

My family is cooking for me and fetching me water and doing as much as possible so I can recover. I'm bored sometimes, but that's an advance on being too low energy to breathe.
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So...emergency room visit two nights ago. Late in the work day I started a bad headache and trouble breathing which didn't improve when I used my inhaler, and by the time I got home I was worried enough to call my allergy doc (who is also managing the asthma). She recommended an ER visit, so off we went.

I am pleased to report that the ER staff correctly ruled out a heart attack, given how often I've read about women's symptoms being dismissed or misinterpreted. However, after an EKG, blood tests, and an x-ray, an ER doc told me it was exacerbated asthma. I got a nebulizer treatment, some IV steroids, and eventually was sent home with a dosepack of oral steroids (although the doc said he was still hearing some wheezing in my left lung).

Of course I stayed home from work Thursday, but I figured I'd be feeling a lot better soon. WRONG. I spent all day Thursday in bed, and decided I needed Friday off too. Luckily I had a prescheduled appointment with my primary care physician for Friday (today), and we discussed this recent episode along with the usual annual exam stuff...and she told me she didn't think I'd be ready to get back to work on Monday and to call and check in with her Monday so she could decide about Tuesday. So I guess I'm actually pretty sick.

Which is obvious to everybody, because I can barely say a full sentence without stopping to breathe and cough, nor walk further than across the apartment without dropping into a chair and wheezing. I'm weak! I've had asthma attacks before but apparently they were mild, and easily resolved with an inhaler.

So, I'm alive, and I'm being well cared for, and I've given myself permission to take as long as it takes to feel better. That was the hardest part, and I did it.
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I'm beginning to think that the bigger, more important difference between me and SOME PEOPLE is not ask versus guess, but honor (face) versus dignity (behavior) culture.
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Perhaps the groundhog was right.

Last weekend when I was sitting in the living room enjoying view of the darting hummingbirds, the birds would perch on the bare branches of the two trees combing the sky. This weekend the trees are fringed and beaded with..not green, but beige and brown like moonstones and tigers eyes. The only green I see is the prickly-looking evergreen, brushlike behind the combing almost-bare branches.

One of the trees is always late: it holds its leaves through December and won't leaf out until May. But the other one is setting buds to bloom before it ever has leaves.

The weather may not be springlike, but the trees are on the same schedule they always use regardless of temperature or precipitation: the only thing that matters is the length of the daylight.

Yesterday evening a tragedy happened in the street outside my office, just as I was preparing to leave work. I didn't see it happen, but the aftermath was ugly and sordid and sad. I didn't take it well; it brought back bad memories, and brought up bad feelings, and almost brought up my lunch (adrenaline will do that). But my family took care of me and I relaxed gradually through the evening and this morning the trees are doing their thing, changing with the seasons. It only seems quick because I didn't see them for a week.

The trees keep on doing their thing, and I will follow their example.

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