Saturday, December 14, 2013
Yeah, so that blogging every day thing didn't work out so well, now did it? I should know better than to set the bar that high. I mean, for God's sake. I'd just come off a jag of showering only sporadically and ignoring the laundry while trying to write a novel. Who was I trying to convince that I would be able to blog every day?
I worked all day today. And I mean pretty much without a break. I need to do about three weeks worth of work in the next week and a half because we are leaving for two weeks on Friday, and I feel like I just can't keep up with all there is to do. My client is converting from a computer-based server to a cloud based one and in the meantime everything is a bit of a hairy mess. All the emails I sent on Wednesday didn't get sent, so I had to pluck them out of my sent mail and resend. Big deal, right? My life is just SO haaaaard. I hate complaining about these kinds of first world problems, but that's what the day was like. Whenever I complain about the slowness or inconvenience of modern day technology, I'm always reminded of that Louis CK bit where he talks about how easily frazzled we get with things. Regarding my impatience with email: "GIVE IT A MINUTE, WOULD YA? IT'S GOING UP TO SPACE!". Indeed, Mr. CK. Indeed.
I am very much looking forward to coming home and baking cookies with Burdy. Every year, I make the man sit at our kitchen table and use the cookie pump. And every year, for the first 30 cookies or so, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Burdy complained this year that "one side of the pump was warmer than the other", making the dough slide out on one side and stick on the other. Then the whole ball of dough was "too soft". Then the mold through which he pushed the cookie was not good enough. Fair enough, Burdy. There IS a science to this, I agree. How we haven't figured it out after fifteen years of making these damned things, I don't know.
My husband is a very even tempered man. It takes quite a bit to rattle his cage. Calamity is dealt with in our house with a steady hand and a calm voice. If anyone is crying about the end of the world because we've run out of green ribbon (and before you even ask, NO, the red ribbon WILL NOT DO), it is me. Which should be obvious by now. My life is completely unmanageable because I cannot suppress the urge to break down into tears when simple inconveniences pop up. My adrenals have been a mess because I have equivocated the end of the world with running out of green ribbon. One day I will learn how to manage this maelstrom of nervous system activity. Today was not that day.
Yes, the crazy in our house is all completely under my jurisdiction. So, when Burdy finally DOES flip over to the dark side, he goes FULL GEMINI. A number of years ago, he was so upset about an ill fitting t-shirt, he ripped it off his body Incredible Hulk style. In front of company. One minute he was a little uncomfortable, and the next he was standing in our living room shirtless and breathing hard. That's just how he is. It's all or nothing with those Geminis. Us Aquarians have our nut-o-meter turned up to 11 ALL the time, but the Geminis dispense their crazy with very large gaps in between. When it starts, though, you should RUN.
When the cookie pump failed to deliver desired results, Burdy was mostly calm for a very long time. He very logically deduced why the thing wasn't working. He inspected all the moving parts. He adjusted, refilled, tried again. And then, just before Burl Ives belted out "Have A Holly Jolly Christmas" from the speakers, Burdy was roaring and angrily clawing dough off the cookie sheet and flinging it back into the bowl.
And it never fails to send me into fits of giggles. Seeing him get mad at the stupidity of poor design (and it's ALWAYS at poor design- never at people) makes me love him all the more. Poor design DOES deserve a punch in the gut. AND a lengthy diatribe about why it should have never left the factory floor in China in the first place. Poor, poor Burdy. Made to do the least desirable part of the cookie-making and not even getting a reassuring pat on the back from his doubled-over-laughing wife who is too afraid to use the cookie pump herself.
Burdy is much more suited to live this fully modern life than I am. Sometimes it makes for huge divides in the way we experience the world. For example, I am easily prone to anger when things don't work. Even though I can complain all the live long day about how the 50+ set is befuddled by new-fangled things, I am quickly becoming one of those people easily befuddled by new-fangled things. My computer has been doing things like shutting down during sleep mode and running out of battery power. The display driver craps out at least once, sometimes twice a day. Quite literally, even a black screen is not enough to make me upgrade because upgrading involves having to go to an over-lit store and deal with an overeager young person just barely off his ProActiv regimen who wants to talk me into something I don't want to buy and that sort of thing makes me want to end it all there in the earbud aisle. So, I put off upgrading until the very last minute. Even as my screen is failing, I'm convincing myself that "Hey, if I can't SEE ANYTHING on my screen for a few seconds a day, what's the big deal? So what if I get a terrifying error message that involves the words "fatal" and "unrecoverable"? I mean, it's not like it's the end of the world". Until my hard drive fails. And then it is the end of the world. Burdy is now convincing me that a Mac is the way to go. I know, I know, I know. HOW is it that I have lasted this long using PCs exclusively? Well, for one thing, I am a creature of habit. For another, I use PCs exclusively for work, and I have not been interested in learning a whole new system because I would only use that system at home (even though everyone and their mother who has made the switch SWEARS that Macs are easier to learn...). Sigh. First, automated checkers at the supermarket. And now this. Somehow, replacing humans with robots is easier for me to handle than switching computers. I don't really want to know what that says about me.
That morning, I made a last minute decision to go to the local craft fair. And because of timing and us only having one car and the parking situation, Burdy suggested I take Uber car. But I needed to download the app on my phone before I could use it... and that's all I needed to hear before my head wanted to explode. I mean, CRAFTS! HOMEMADE STUFF! That's all I could hear. And the bit about timing. So, I was running out of the house with my shoes untied and my coat unzippered and my hat in my hands to get into the waiting Uber car that Burdy had ordered via my newly installed app. The driver was SUPER nice. And he played Bob Dylan at volume 11 and it was great! And I got some great gifts. And then, magic of all magic, I happened upon the bus stop JUST as the bus was pulling up. Of all the times for the bus to be on time, this was especially nice. Metro KC? You just got one of your demerits removed. Keep this up and I might be able to forgive that pervasive smell of dirty human you cart around all day.
When I got home, I baked some more cookies, and then I got ready for my white elephant exchange with my bookclub. Last year, I brought a toucan-shaped pinata. I cannot remember how that thing wound up in my basement (estate sale? Someone cleaned out THEIR basement and thought I would like it? I picked it out of the trash? All these things are plausible), but there it was. So, I wrapped it. And then my friends fought over it. It was very gratifying.
This summer, I happened to purchase two donkey-shaped pinatas at an estate sale and they had been hanging out in our office (Pinatas LOVE to stand on top of filing cabinets. Don't believe me? Just ask one). I had every intention of bringing it to our anniversary party at the beach this summer, but then totally forgot in the eleventh hour... so, I wrapped one of those bad boys up in an old boot box and brought it. I can't tell which was more satisfying: the fact that the donkey fit perfectly into the boot box, or that I got to watch grown women (most of whom are mothers) fight over a dinged-up paper mache pack animal.
Today I had more cookie help from a friend. She came over and we had breakfast together and then I put her in charge of rolling the Wild Card Cookie. It was the first time making this type of cookie. Burdy and I mixed up the dough at midnight the night before and I was VERY suspicious about the butter/flour ratio. Most of the cookies I make are real heavy on the butter... and this one called for almost none. The recipe IS German, and for the most part, those folks are pretty precise and spot on when it comes to measurements, so I decided to trust. It was a good move. The dough was perfect, and the cookies turned out beautifully. My rule is that I taste test ONE of each kind of cookie (just to make sure I haven't left out anything vital like salt or baking powder) and these things were REALLY good.
Then we went to go look at a few open houses in our neighborhood (we are entertaining the idea of being indebted for the rest of our lives to a bank in exchange for the privilege of living indoors). Once again, I was underwhelmed with the selection and/or the decorating decisions of my fellow city dwellers. One agent very proudly boasted that the house we were standing in had been gutted and fully re-done in 1994. With appliances and furnishings from 1984, apparently. The kitchen was awful. Pale pink wood and a white 'fridge with shiny silver accent pieces glued all over it. Burdy and I both curled our lips derisively like we were going to have to knife-fight the cabinetry. That's how belligerent it made us. But that agent stood there in his orange shirt tucked into his ironed jeans and looked down his nose at ME like I was the fool for not wanting to live there. I know we can ultimately just tear out things like bedazzled 'fridges and ugly cabinetry... but for the price this guy was asking, the house should have come with a do-over button.
We went to a cookie decorating party later in the afternoon. While the kids screamed and played, the adults, looking slightly worn out, squeezed green colored royal icing onto oversized sugar cookies and dusted them with sugar crystals. Every child had a smear of green, red, or blue all over his or her mouth and teeth and it soon became obvious that "decorating" has a very loose definition among the three- and four-year old set.
I worked the whole day today. Well, I got up and dealt with some housekeeping issues, and then I made the drive over to my client's place and worked. My client was out doing errands, and I have a key, so I just let myself in, turned on the light and the heat, and settled in for a marathon of bookkeeping. I have gotten SO used to working in isolation that it doesn't even occur to me that it's completely abnormal. Since I quit most of my clients back in May, I have been spending increasing amounts of time by myself. I'm either in my house alone, or in public alone, or working at a client's place alone. In the beginning of this shutting-down-the-empire period, it was a little jarring. I went from a full work schedule spent with people to one where I spent more than half my time by myself. I think I've finally gotten used to this aloneness. I've read quotes here and there that talk about writing as the loneliest job on the planet. Not that I'm cranking out the Great American Novel over here, but I get it. I get that aloneness. And in the beginning, it was loneliness and now it's just aloneness. I have my work, my writing, to act as a companion. For thirty days, I sat in my cluttered office and never once felt alone. I had the characters of my novel to keep me company. They were as alive and dynamic as any real people. Were I reading this about any other person, right about now is when I would call the fire department to come and put an axe through their door to rescue them from their crazy convictions, but, now I'm one of those people (minus the ten cats, thank you very much).
Burdy and I reviewed the night before what had to be done today and it exhausted me just saying it aloud. The plan to fill out Christmas cards, the plan to clean the house for our houseguest while we are gone, the plan to drop off keys to our nearby friend, the plan to pick up the Christmas crackers from the store a few blocks from work, the plan to deliver cookies to our local friends, the plan to mail the rest to the East Coast, the plan to buy sunscreen in between a trip to the gym and returning the overdue library books, the plan to cook that damned spaghetti squash that's been sitting in the fruit bowl for a week and a half now, the plan to pick Burdy up from work, eat a depressing dinner in the food court at the mall, then go get that new computer because the old one is dying.... and, of course, the plan to pluck our luggage out of the chaos that is our basement and pack our bags, because, HELLO? We are leaving in three days.
I went to my writing group tonight and read aloud from some of the novel I wrote during November. Feedback was good and helpful. I need to work on writing convincing, historically correct regional dialect. Y'know. Just the easy stuff. Why do I take on projects this big? Because I can't do the light and fluffy stuff, I keep telling myself.
Computer is on its last legs; this was its last trip to writing group. The new Mac is getting all the THINGS downloaded onto it right now. Huzzah.
Worked all day. Went and bought the Christmas crackers and an absurd amount of chocolate. My grandfather always used to hand out, like rations, bars of chocolate for Christmas every year. It seems downright psychotic now, but we thought it was HYSTERICAL that we had to line up, height order, a la the Von Trapps, with our hands by our sides, before he would hand us our bars. The whole thing had a perfunctory/militaristic feel to it, like being handed a diploma instead of a raspberry liqueur filled bar of European chocolate, but it was a tradition in our family. And we loved it. I don't ask my family members to line up or anything, but every year I sneak a bar into their stockings to carry on at least part of the tradition. My style is slightly less Generalisimo and a little more Elf On The Shelf.
I also bring the goods for another tradition- the Christmas crackers. My mom grew up with them in England, and I love the idea of the Fourth of July (firecrackers!) and Halloween (treats!) all showing up for Christmas. They take up QUITE a bit of real estate in our luggage, but it's totally worth it. Most of our family pictures in years past feature us in multicolored tissue paper crowns. I love those pictures.
I stayed up late filling out cards tonight and cleaning the house. How is there so much to clean? I don't understand. How do two people generate so much STUFF to clean?
Tomorrow I can go blow off some steam at the gym AND run around buying aloe and sunscreen. Such a strange thing to be holding sunscreen while you're wearing gloves and a hat. Have another doctor's visit tomorrow to discuss the gut situation. All systems are go; I can't wait to tell my doctor. This whole not eating sugar/wheat/dairy has been INCREDIBLE. I felt something this week I don't think I can remember feeling in ten years: hunger. I am processing my food much faster now. How mundane, how banal. Aren't we ALL processing our food? Well, I wasn't for a while- at least, not very well. Now I am. I can FEEL it. And it is an AWESOME feeling.
DAY 12 - THIS IS IT. THE TWELFTH DAY.
Alright, so I've kept the Panama trip under my lid because, holy crap. It almost doesn't feel real. The packing, the rushing around town two weeks before Christmas... this has all been in preparation for a massive two-climate trip. We WERE going to Panama to just hang out and decompress for a while before flying back East to be with our families for Christmas this December... but then we changed our plans a little bit. Because my NAME TWIN lives in PANAMA, y'all. So guess who we're going to see? THE OTHER LAUREN ZIEMSKI.
The world is going to implode, I swear to God.
I can't. Even. WHAT?
I need to prepare myself for the awesome that is about to happen.
To be continued...