Sometimes we do stupid things...

I've been researching archival printing lately, thinking about trying my hand at, you know, actually making my work generally available to the public. Strange, but there you have it. So while my husband was out of the house for a bit and the kiddo was asleep, I spent almost two hours working on something that might look neat turned into a physical piece of art.

I started in Illustrator and then dove over to Photoshop, happily coloring and layering, etc, for a good hour or so. Happy with it, I fiddled with a few things, flattened the image, and then saved it for the web.

...

Then I realized I had never saved it as an un-flattened not-a-jpg.

DAMNIT.

...okay, whatever. We shall see how thoroughly bad of an idea that was at a later date. But for now, I'm happy with my utter mess of an artistic failure:

Getting back into it

We moved into a new apartment and, for the first time in a while, I have a corner to call my own. I can put on some music (in this case, I have been binge-listening to Spotify's "Most Beautiful Songs in the World" playlist), bust out my tablet, and just go to town. 

I read this article and liked this quote, since it applies to me so well:

“Being upset that your first oil paintings aren’t turning out is almost rude in a way, because it is saying that you don’t think you need to put in the work to get your teacher’s results.”

Anyway. Taking this in mind, it occurred to me that I should be drawing/writing/etc every day instead of just "knowing I'm capable of more than what I'm producing" and maybe proving it by, you know, producing things in the first place.

So.

Here is what I did.

Normally I draw in Corel Painter (Number), but I decided to give Sketchbook Pro a try for the first time in a while. All-in-all, I'm pretty happy with how it came out, which is rare.

I'll take it.

On Growth

There is a part of us -- all of us, I'd say -- that spends a good amount of time wishing for things to happen. Sometimes we are also doing our parts to MAKE these things happen, but a good portion of hopes and wishes aren't as simple and straightforward as that. Regardless of our religious beliefs (or lack thereof), we often wish for little miracles, little random bits of chaos in the form of good fortune, regardless of whether or not they'd be good for us in the long run.

As I sat there in the dark bathroom, idly reading on my ipad while those precious three minutes passed, I found myself fighting over what I was expecting. In the sink sat a plastic stick covered in my urine, and on top of that laid the hopes and dreams and potential terrors of the rest of my life.

We had purchased a three-pack of pregnancy tests a while ago, and I had completely forgotten about them. There was only one left, I realized, after I pushed aside the boxes of tissue resting in front of them and partially obscuring the bright pink box from view. That partial view had caught my eye on the way past, my head full of panic and worry (like always), so it felt as good a time as any to bring the box to light.

You see, I had been feeling kind of off for a while, lacking energy to do anything and finding myself on the verge of tears over and over again. While everything else going on pointed to an especially bad bout of depression, this part of me in the back of my mind was hoping for a more organic explanation. Maybe the exhaustion could be blamed on my body working toward growth. Maybe the tears were caused by a flooding of hormones. And, if my math were correct, I'd be around two months along, hypothetically...but admittedly, I'm bad at math.

In the real world, the one where random hopes and dreams have no direct bearing without, you know, actual work, I knew the existence of  two pink lines on that pee-covered stick would be disastrous -- and no amount of anyone telling me how "no one is ever truly prepared for kids" would make this any more or less true. My husband, stepson, and I live in a two-bedroom apartment where we constantly trip over things, stub our toes on other things, and just generally sit in one or two spaces because there's not enough room given the way we tend to operate when home. Adding a baby to that mix seemed like the seeds of pure madness.

So despite my fear of waiting several years to grow our family, I know that my body giving me the go-ahead is not at all ideal right now. It's basically the worst idea we could have, barring maybe selling my stepson into white slavery for a bag of M&Ms, no matter how delicious candy sounds sometimes.

And yet...

Part of me just wants to know it's even possible. I have enough trouble having faith in my body after fifteen years with a broken pancreas -- and now I want to put it through the hell involved in having a baby? Am I nuts? I mean...maybe I am. But I defy anyone to look at my husband's son and tell me realistically to not feel better about the idea of creating a kid with that man. Maybe the good parts of my husband would cover up some of the bad parts of me that might get passed along, and vice versa.

To make a long story short, this is one instance where I can sympathize with Tolkien's Gollum character. I feel like I'm talking to myself, fighting even, over the pros and cons of my own potential Precious. I shake over it. I teeter on the edge of crying. I wish for both sides and dread them all the same. And in the sink next to me, tucked away behind the plastic cap, was my answer, soaked as it was in my own bodily fluids -- some small reference to the birthing process I discovered I would not be going through in approximately seven months' time.

The twin waves of relief and despair keep crashing into one another on the narrow strait that is my own personal island. There will be more three-minute waits in the future, and more fear over the results (both before AND after reading them, I suppose). That is the way life goes in the journey of creating life, from what I have heard. Knowing my body is saving us from very bad timing doesn't alleviate the pain of knowing it hasn't happened for us yet.

Shadows and It

It was a thing made of shadows, but you wouldn't know just by looking at it. Its appearance was in the eye of the beholder, though if you looked at it full-on and for perhaps a little too long, you would notice something wasn't quite right -- you just wouldn't know that it was because your brain was creating its appearance more or less before your very eyes.

How it looked to the beings around it never really mattered since the shadows only knew one thing: how to do its job. Things needed doing, so it did them. Plain and simple, easy as that. This particular job pulled it toward a particularly seedy bar, but the shadows didn't notice that sort of thing. It could walk alone through every "bad section of town" without so much as a flinch, armed with only the knowledge that it could not and would not be harmed, so nothing really mattered -- save, that is, for being in specific places at specific times and handling business as directed.

Had someone ever explained to the shadows what a machine was at a very core level, it would have nodded and understood. Its sole purpose was to do as it was told in the most simple and direct way possible. Were it capable of enjoying its work, it would have, though it probably wouldn't know why.

The bar was crowded and loud, and had the shadows been paying attention, it would've noticed the place was full of locals, some talking, some dancing, and almost all of them drowning something in alcohol, be it sorrows or perhaps their standards. Its mark was in the far corner, a scrawny young thing chatting with a significantly older gentleman who kept plying him with drinks. The shadows paid attention for a moment, a brief flicker of doubt crossing its mind.

The young man? it wondered, while everything around it throbbed a silent yes. Honing in on him again, the shadows saw his being as a flimsy wrap-job around copious amounts of flailing darkness. If the shadows smiled, it would've managed a smirk. But the truth was, it didn't exactly have a mouth, therefore never actually having a reason to learn how to smile, which was almost a shame. If it ate, this would end with the perfect meal -- but it didn't eat, and would therefore miss out on the likeness completely.

It crossed the room without much notice, until it stood beside the mess of a young man who had recently drained his drink. His old-man companion found himself heading to the bar to refill his drink for some unknown reason, leaving the scrawny boy alone with it. The shadows knew he was talking, most likely having a conversation with it that it was not actually participating in, but this was how it worked. Within minutes, it was drawing the young man outside and down the nearest alley by some pretense that only the young man himself would know.

There was no one near, this much it knew. It didn't care, but a lack of witnesses was far simpler and much more productive and safe. (Why clean up the universe if it would cause more messes in the process?) The boy stood in the alleyway, only half-gazing at the shadows, just inebriated enough to know something was wrong. He kept fumbling with his clothes, starting to unbutton his sweater and then stopping, beginning to take down the zipper of his pants and then pulling the tag up again. It would've been amused, were that even a possibility. But now, it was on.

The shadows leaned toward the young man and knew his darkness was being jostled under the boy's thin casing. He probably believed this person had just pushed a few fingers against his chest, which wasn't exactly the case.

The scrawny man shuddered for a moment, his eyes now wet and wide. "I've done bad things," he squeaked, his voice suddenly shaky. "Please..." 

Consent was neither given nor taken away by the time the shadows were upon him. Had someone been watching, the boy would've appeared consumed, almost blinked out of existance. But in reality, he was more or less being ripped open and emptied into the void that made up the shadows, not unlike a crab pulling a coconut apart to get at the fleshy bits inside.

In the end, his darkness was destroyed, as was the thin veneer keeping his chaotic inner self intact for small amounts of time. His memory would remain for a while, but like all memories, he would fade. The shadows didn't judge, but not because of any sort of feeling about judging in the first place. It just had better things to do, and more places to go -- more darkness to track down and destroy before the darkness would unleash itself fully and do more damage to others.

Without a word or even a moment's thought, it was gone and away on another job. It would always have work to do, and since shadows never sleep, it had no reason to wait in between.

On Warrior Women

(Inspired by this post and subsequent link-reading)

 

The call had gone out nearly an hour earlier, and he could see the warriors beginning to arrive, decked out to the best of their ability in their best gear -- which, unfortunately, in the case of some lesser citizens, amounted to only a shovel and their best boots, both fresh from the fields. But there were many of them, and many more coming. At the end of the day, it was likely they would successfully defend their lands, no matter how badly the advancing enemy challenged their attempts.

He found himself in the midst of many of his childhood friends, and the friends of his younger siblings. They had grown tall during summers spent pretending to be great warriors like their fathers and grandfathers before them, never quite realizing how likely it was they would find themselves in this very position one day. But what child truly knows of war until war takes its place at their hearth? Even now, ready as they were, nothing seemed real.

Across the sea of people, he saw her -- the chieftain's daughter, her head brazenly uncovered, her eyes wide and intense. He felt his heart stop for a moment, trying to find the right angle to make its way out of his body by way of his throat. He had loved her since they were children, and at this moment, with his hand on his sword, he could think of nothing else but her.

She was shorter than he, but that wasn't difficult. He would always be stronger and better at defending himself, but she proved skillful with smaller blades than he and was certainly faster. For someone so small, she was fierce and intimidating, too, which she used to her advantage. When she smiled -- as she was now, across the horde of defenders -- she bared her teeth and laughed madly. She was as terrifying as she was lovely, at least in his eyes, and when this was all over, he hoped to have proven himself in battle well enough to be given a chance at winning her hand and heart.

The sound coming toward their throng was deafening, all footstomps and the rhythmic noise of weapons beating against shields. It was an intimidation tactic, they knew, but it was still hard for most to not to feel fear despite the knowledge. The more battle-hardened warriors in the group raised a throaty yell, waving their weapons in the air until everyone next to and behind them took up the same cry. He looked across and saw his love screaming intensely, adding her voice to the harsh snarl being thrown against the beats from the opposing side.

It all washed away when the two groups finally collided and was replaced with individual screams and the sound of weapon meeting weapon, or worse: weapon meeting flesh. Despite the horror raging on all sides, he fought valiently, and knew that she did as well. He intended to count how many he slayed -- how many he kept from ruining their home! -- but the number would be gone in an instant when he looked up to find her in the crowd. Within seconds his eyes would come upon her joyfully skipping from combatant to combatant, her face and hair and coverings completely soaked in blood and sweat. She seemed not to notice, even managing to save him once or twice when he lost himself in finding her.

"Thank you," he called to her back as she returned to the hunt, her warrior mind refusing to stop until every invader was stopped and put down. It wasn't only her homeland at stake -- her family and her family's honor needed defending, and she was up to the task. The chieftain, no doubt, would be endlessly proud of his blood-covered daughter whom he had taught with his own hands. 

How sad it would be then when they would find her later, hidden among the dead and dying on the battlefield. She didn't cry out, her insides slowly becoming outsides as she watched, her eyes no longer intense but hardened to the reality of her predicament. 

"You'll make it," he stated, knowing he was wrong.

"Unlikely." She wiped off her brow with the back of her hand and left a fresh trail of blood in its wake.

"Let me at least get the healer."

She slowly raised her hand. "This is the way I have wanted to die my entire life. Do not disrespect me so badly by getting in the way."

"Shall I stay?"

In an instant, tears rose to her eyes. "Please." Her throat caught and the tears fled her eyes as her wounds gushed. She passed with her hands tucked in his and his name on her lips. Days later she was placed on a small ship with her father's sword in her arms, the fire burning well beyond the citizens' ability to see her. Neither he nor her father was quite the same after that, but no one really expected them to be any other way. Death and war have that effect on people.

Things to Write - Tell a story that begins with a ransom note

It took three of them to handle the task at hand: two sprawled their stubby little bodies across the page to keep it in place while another held most of the crayon to his chest and left wax marks this way and that, sometimes trailing over errant fingers and toes in the process. There was much bickering between the three strange creatures, and much excitement -- so much so that they didn't hear the fourth member of their party come stumbling upon them, huffing and puffing and flailing his little arms until he collapsed in their midst and completely wrecked what they were doing.

The crayon was dropped and the paper-holders stood up, all three glaring down at their comrade with a mix of anger and dismay. Urg the crayon-bearer tapped the collapsed creature in the ribs, making him flinch. "Did you get them?" He poked him again with his big toe. "Garg, did you get them?"

He moaned and rolled over, and raised his hands in the air. "I return triumphant!" The others leaned forward and let out a collective "oooooh." In his hands were a collection of tiny sticks.

Urg was the first to get suspicious. His crooked eyes narrowed. "Where did you get them?"

Garg pushed himself to his feet carefully to avoid snapping the twigs. "Dunno. Got 'em from some man."

Blurb, who held down the left side of the paper, thrust his hands on his hips and stuck his potbelly out in front of him. "What man, eh?"

Garg shrugged. "Didn't give a name."

Oof, the keeper of the right side of the paper, scoffed. "Tell me, Garg: did you trust him?"

To this, Garg pondered for a moment. "No, can't say I did. Shifty sort of man, too quiet if you ask me, and a little too eager to get rid of the sticks in the first place..." The other three looked at each other warily for a moment, and then looked down at the sticks in Garg's hands. After a moment or two, they raucously declared the sticks "PERFECT!" and went back to the task at hand.

Garg moved off the piece of paper and looked it over from the sidelines. "What's it say, then?"

Oof and Blurb shook their heads and looked to Urg -- he was the only one who knew letters, so he was the one in charge of the note. "It says," he began, clearing his throat, "'we have your baby. If you want him back, we want gold. Lots of it."

Garg scratched his strange little chin for a moment with the end of one of the sticks and agreed it was a good note. Urg made a few more strokes of wax down on the paper and declared it finished, leaving Oof and Blurb to roll the paper up and carry it off. Garg and his sticks took up the rear behind the others as they marched through the designated family's house.

Blurb rubbed his palms together as they surveyed the front room. Lights were still on and various family members were still awake in separate parts of the house. "This'll be good! Haven't done this in years, so it's bound to be amazing!" He did a little dance for a moment before Urg smacked him upside the head.

"Calm down or you'll ruin everything."

"I can't help it...this is a big deal!"

"Big or no," Urg reminded Blurb, "if we don't get out of here with that baby, it's an even bigger deal! So shut up and wait until we've got something for you to do." Blurb flattened and the four passed a few hours in relative silence until the house was asleep.

When the time was right, the four carefully scaled the stairs to the second floor and headed into the nursery. The room was dark, save for a nightlight in the corner of the room. One by one the little men crawled up the side of the cradle and dropped onto the mattress.

"Why do we want this thing again?" Oof asked, his frog-like voice croaking just loud enough to make the baby's eyelids flutter. "It's all pink and wiggly and it smells awful. Are we sure the family will want it back?"

Urg rolled his beady eyes at Oof but decided to otherwise ignore him. "Garg, the sticks."

With a noise of surprise, Garg jumped into action, once again pulling the sticks out for everyone to see. "Let's see here..." he trailed off, giving the sticks a good shake one by one. Despite being made completely of wood, they tinkled like the smallest of windchimes, and each of the four felt heartened. Garg positioned the sticks to mimic the relative shape of a person, conjuring up some small spat of magic to connect the touching edges. The bark began to not only change color but plump and soften as well, increasing in size beyond a reasonable measure.

"Alright, almost done," Urg said. "You two, tuck the note under that bear. Then we need to get this baby out of here before anyone notices something is amiss."

Garg put a few finishing touches on the stick-figure before standing back and admiring his work. Oof and Blurb were fighting over note placement -- "Let's lean it against the bear so it looks like he's the one giving them to note!" and "Can you not just do what you're told? You know how Urg gets about these things," mostly -- while Urg was doing some baby-recon in order to figure out their escape route.

When everything was taking shape (especially the stick-figure), they turned to their apparent leader with an expectant "now what?", to which Urg shook his head. "Can't do it."

"What do you mean, 'we can't do it'?"

"We spent all this time. We have to do it."

"This is ridiculous. Do you know how long it took me to find those sticks?"

Urg stood by the baby. "It's too big." He leaned against the baby's skull, his entire body able to comfortably use it like a wall. "Can't be done. Not enough of us."

The three others started to squabble with Urg, not noticing the sound of screaming having been winding up in the baby's throat. The stick-figure baby was also beginning to make noises of its own, set off by the real baby's finicky cries, and the four strange little men found themselves completely overwhelmed.

Oof and Blurb were the first to abandon ship, most likely because they had the least to lose. For a moment Urg attempting to grab the baby by the collar of its jammies and Garg bemoaned the loss of the sticks before ultimately running off in pursuit of their comrades. They sadly never saw the expressions on the parents' faces when they arrived to their wailing baby's side and found themselves staring down the barrel of two screaming infants where only one was expected.

They found the note under the stuffed bear and wondered if this meant there was actually supposed to be a third baby somewhere, never mind wondering how much "lots of gold" was supposed to be. But first, there were more crying babies to attend to.

Things to Write - You are an astronaut. Describe your perfect day.

If there is one thing I have never actually wanted, it is to be an astronaut. I may be fascinated by space by the pure fact that we know so little about it, but the myriad ways of potentially dying in space haunt my brain, even though I'm not at all in a position to be jettisoned out of the atmophere. To make a long story short, in this scenario where I am an astronaut, trying to envision a perfect day ultimately boils down to "whatever results in the least chance of me dying alone in the inky blackness that makes up most of the Universe."

I've certainly spent countless hours looking at astronaut-taken photographs and can appreciate the beauty of the universe from an astronaut's privileged position. But my understanding is that an astronaut doesn't simply "hang out" in space: there are things to do, things to maintain, and things they are required to do every day in order to survive in what I would only describe as a potentially hostile environment.

For anyone not aware, if you're in space and something catches on fire, you can't just call the fire department. If you hurt yourself, you can't just call an ambulance. I'm not really Good at Things(tm) so maybe if I were, the idea of free-floating away from all conveniences wouldn't be so all-consumingly terrifying.

I could go on for a long time about the terrors of space and why I won't want to go up there, but I guess I'll just say this: if I were an astronaut, my perfect day would be the one where someone at NASA realized their mistake and took away my astronaut license, leaving me to stand on solid ground and deal with the potential disasters inherent in living on Earth.

Things to Write - Write Facebook status updates for the year 2017

I hate the premise of this, mostly because I can barely figure out what I'll update my Facebook status with next week, to say nothing of two and a half years from now -- to also say nothing of how any of you people handle your own personal Facebook situations.

What is comes down to for me is this: I have very little faith in the improvement of the human race. So I suspect that the Facebook of 2017 will be much like it is now: political arguments and human drama balancedout by distracting and soothing pictures of babies and animals, punctuated by the occasional hilarious or poignant video.

There will be wars and disasters in various parts of the world, some we will try to raise money for and others we will try to ignore. Some people will hate the president and others will love the president, and other people will just scroll by those posts as quickly as possible in order to get to the next batch of adorable baby/animal pictures. Some people will bitterly comment on friends-only posts about how much they hate all the photos of babies and animals and weddings because they're not in the same boat. Others will beg their friends to post more photos of their kids because sometimes those photos are the only hope we have in the future. Fights and love-fests will break out side-by-side, and you will still wonder why that random person unfriended you despite your Facebook presence being nothing short of amazing on a regular basis.

Facebook will probably remain a good place to keep up with corporations or brands (okay, and family members too, but clearly that's not the point), and some people will probably still be playing Farmville. Or is it Hay Day now? Maybe it'll be ZOOOMG and you will stil have that one aunt who consistently asks you to help clean out her lion cages. (That's how those games work, right? I somehow managed to avoid them against all odds.) Either way. Most likely a number of us will continue to use Facebook the same way we always have, unless Google has managed to take over our lives completely and made Google+ a reasonable alternative.

My ultimate hope for the future, all else be damned, is that by 2017 we will live in a world where people stop sharing Onion articles and believing them to be true. It's unlikely, but sometimes I like to put faith in the impossible.

Things to Write - A house plant is dying. Tell it why it needs to live.

Dear House-Plant-who-is-dying,

Hi. I'm Nina, and I have been directed to write to you regarding your current sad state of health. I've been asked to discuss reasons to live, but given I don't know the specifics of your circumstances, I don't think I can go about this the way it was intended. That will not, however, stop me from plowing head-first into this, so let's see where this goes.

I don't know what type of plant you are, but I wish that I did. The prompt makes me feel like your life/death scenario involves an option on your part, which I was lead to believe by high school biology was not really how this works. Far be it from me to argue with book over a hypothetical plant, but someone thinks I'm up for this, so I guess I'm going to run with it. 

Our natural inclination when it comes to someone or something being in declining health is to wish for that decline to end -- but not in a fatal way: we want a status quo maintained, one where everyone involved is happy and feeling good about life. But, like plants having the mind to take their own lives, that isn't how life works.

Let me be "one of those people" for a moment and bring up an excellent line written by Chuck Palahniuk in Fight Club: "On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero." It isn't a matter of if as much as when, which I think some people forget when dealing with someone or something clearly reaching the end of their life span. Death is something that can always happen "later," maybe when it's more convenient, or when we have had our fill of that person, enough to live without anything more than their memory. But we can never truly get our fill of someone or something, and death is seldom if ever convenient. 

I'm rambling, dear Houseplant, so let me get back to you.

Maybe you're tired (do plants get tired?), or maybe you don't get enough sunlight or water. Maybe the house cat nibbles on you or perhaps you have a nasty aphid infestation dragging you down. Perhaps you're having trouble with your chlorophyll, or maybe your housemates aren't talking to you as frequently as they once did and you're endlessly lonely. Regardless of the reason, things are grim and, as a plant, you have limited options. Most involve waiting around fruitlessly (I'm sorry for the pun) and hoping someone else notices and helps you out in some fashion.

As a plant (again, as my understand from biology class nearly 15 years ago led me to believe), there isn't much else to do. So what is there to live for?

My initial instinct is to go, "fuck" and be bummed out for a while, pondering how empty your life must feel even if you've been mostly well-cared for the entire time. I don't want to outright say, "I can't blame you, so maybe casting off your leaves for the final time is your best option" either because that's awful. But I don't want to lie and say, "it'll totally get better, just wait and see!" because I don't believe in blowing sunshine up anyone's ass, even if in your case, it might actually help.

The point is, what you have to life for is ultimately up to you. Just remember that the people around you telling you to keep going are thinking about everything positive and beautiful your existence provides them, even if you can't see things that way. Wishing life on people and things is selfish, but understandably so. That doesn't mean we aren't allowed to die, since 100% of us are going to die completely ignoring how anyone else feels about the situation.

No one can really determine your quality of life as well as you can. People can be supportive of you and want you to flourish again and again, but they can't name your struggle and they aren't the ones who determine what you can actually soldier through. What I think personally doesn't really matter, especially if you've already made up your mind (which, arguably, you haven't, since you lack a mind to make up), and no amount of wishing otherwise will make a plant keep flowering and blooming beyond its capability (caveats exist, I'm sure, but I never finished college so I'll admit a dearth of knowledge on this subject).

As requested, though, here are a few things you may miss if you decide that you are ready to go (I can't say "be one with the earth," really, since your kind generally has that covered pretty well):

-the beauty of a sunrise or a sunset (in your case, maybe beauty doesn't come into it, but I'm okay with projecting, given the circumstance)
-the refreshing feel of water misting across your leaves (presumably, anyway)
-the "ooh"s and "aah"s of passersby who are taken in by your beauty
-those first days after being replanted into a larger pot and letting your roots stretch out in the space
-the pride of new growth every year

...the problem I'm having seems to be that I can't get away from things that either happen rarely, things that involve massive amount of ego-stroking, or things that might have no real appeal to you. I mean, don't get me wrong, but these aren't things that I use to talk myself out of a rough patch, so why would I use them on you? I can't think of the last time I actually *watched* the sun rise or set. Maybe you've never been misted. Maybe no one appreciates you. Again, I don't know.

What I do know is, it's ultimately your choice. I'm a firm believer in the idea of allowing someone to die with dignity, as much as I am a believer in not doing anything too risky in too rash a fashion. If you sleep, I would say sleep on it. I won't beg you to stay since we've all got to die sometime...but know without a shadow of a doubt that the world will be less lovely without you in it.

<3
nt.

Things to Write - The Worst Thanksgiving Dish You Ever Had

It's a little shocking to me when I try to think about Thanksgiving meals gone awry, and my mind comes up with nothing but good meals. I think of my mom's stuffing, or the bacon my in-laws drape across their turkey, or the time my ex's mother made Yorkshire pudding...! 

How in the HELL can someone so negative as me not come up with a single bad Thanksgiving meal, especially when you take into account the fact that holidays often stress me out for a variety of reasons? My mind just kept running through good meal after good meal, delicious food insulating memories of tense days. 

Then, it hit me.

The first time I lived on my own, it was in the fall. I was working two jobs and mostly staying home, attempting to jumpstart my dating life while spending most of my downtime with my faithful companion, Zena. I met someone quickly but he was out of town for Thanksgiving and my family and I weren't getting along particularly well, so I went to the store and got myself fixings for a low budget thanksgiving meal.

Specifically, I bought two things: a Stoffers spinach souffle, and a turkey loaf.

Let me start by saying that I love that spinach souffle beyond reason. This is a longstanding love affair that I refuse to give up on. It would be perfect, and I remember being excited that the souffle and the weird box of turkey required around the same amount of time in the oven. Within minutes, my meal was on its way to Donesville, so I had an hour to sit around and do nothing for an hour.

I don't remember this part of the day, but if I know myself at all (and I would like to think that I do), I most likely brought my aging iBook into the bathroom and browsed the internet while sitting on the toilet. It was a rough day, and all I wanted was comfort; in a weird way, the bathroom has always been my happy place, and remains that to this day.

Speculation aside, the food cooked and eventually I pulled it out of the oven and tried to arrange everything on a plate. The problem with turkey loaf is that it's essentially a rectangular cube of meatishness. I chose to leave it in its corrugated metal tray full of tasteless gravy and plopped the whole thing down on my plate, clumps of souffle leaning against its sides and getting stuck in the divots. 

What I realized is that I only liked the spinach souffle when it was cooked in a microwave: the consistency is perfect, with creamy undercooked bits eventually mixing with overcooked crunchy parts...but cooking it in the oven didn't have the same effect, much to my dismay.

The turkey loaf was worse, in a way I can say with neither an attached "thankfully" nor "unfortunately." It was dry and devoid of flavor, which I somewhat expected. It was still somehow a shock, but not a shock that kept me from finishing the whole mess.

I refused to admit defeat and ate all of it, but I certainly never tried to replicate the saddest holiday meal I've ever made myself eat. There's a line there that isn't worth crossing, even for the weird definition of nostalgia that my brain occasionally employs.

Things to Write - What Can Happen in a Second

Sometimes I feel like I have some form of OCD. Is that normal? Maybe that's normal when you already have a diagnosed mood disorder that you aren't actively (medically?) treating ("just" major depression with a few accessories, so clearly something I can leave alone, clearly) and the understanding is that these sorts of problems typically only get worse. Regardless! The point is, I will sometimes find myself checking and rechecking something (especially somethings that involve knowing "how many" somethings there are) because I feel like I've forgotten or miscounted. I second-guess my own mind constantly, but because I can't exactly remember if I've already second-guessed myself before (...was I counting something else, perhaps? Did I miss one? Was that number a two or a five? Maybe a three of an eight...?), it just keeps happening over and over again. Or maybe three times. Five? Maybe four. Definitely more than once, but I suppose that's kind of a given.

It's technically a problem, but it's one I try not to fall into that often --I don't use change when paying for things; I only play board games involving counting if the things being counted are easy to break down into non-confusable numbers or symbols, or, barring that, if my husband or stepson are around to do the counting for me; I don't do a lot of specific math for fear of messing it all up or getting stuck counting and recounting until I make myself cry; and, in a similar vein, I don't leave the house much in case I get confused over something, especially on "bad vision days."

The math thing is the worst on days where my eyes decide they don't want to focus properly -- hell, everything is worst on a day when I can't properly see. On "good vision days," I can see individual leaves in the trees, their edges clearly defined and awe-inspiringly beautiful. On "bad vision days," I can lose Robin in a store and spend what feels like several minutes stumbling around in a haze made worse by encroaching tears. It's hard to explain because I can *see,* but I can't see *well.* I wouldn't trip and fall into anything or go out an in-door, but the finer details are completely lost and makes getting my bearings incredibly difficult.

On the plus side, "bad vision days" mostly only happen during times of intense stress. On the downside, that throat-catching hyperventilating panic has started to bleed over into "normal vision days" and, like their "bad" cousins, makes it increasingly difficult for me to comfortably go out in public without the worry that my vision will essentially fade and I'll be alone and lost. It's disorienting and smacks horribly of losing your parents in a department store as a toddler.

When I'm willing to go out in the world, I will eventually shed my panic and start looking at things -- you know, the way people do when they're in a commercial paradise. Inevitably, I lose sight of my husband, and the dread creeps up my spine as I stand on tiptoes or look up and down aisles searching for him. It always takes longer than you'd imagine to be reasonable, especially considering I had the great fortune of marrying a very noticable man -- he's a big guy with a bright orangy-red beard and a penchant for wearing hawaiian shirts and interesting hats. There are many like him across the world, but usually there are few enough in the immediate vicinity that it's simple enough to pick him out of a crowd. When I find him again, I lock on and move strategically toward him, panic held at bay knowing I haven't accidentally abandoned myself (since I'm normally the one to initially walk away).

I move with speed, taking the shortest route possible in order to push my anxiety toward a downward spiral. I zip around people, rush down aisles, get a few steps away -- and then --

This is where a second makes all the difference.

Let's step back for a moment: we leave me there, a step behind my husband (his back to me, reading the back of a dvd held in his hand, his torso clad in a blue Hawaiian shirt, head covered in a tweed newsboy cap), one my hands extended to make my presence known by way of a friendly back rub. There's the initial pang of relief washing over my face, but there -- right  there -- in that split second before contact is made, complete panic begins to resurface. But why?

This same thing has happened in movies over and over: a kid gets lost during Christmas and looks around wildly and sees their mother's coat! It's brown, they know, and has that fur lining that's slightly darker in color, so they chase after that coat...then, after they've happily tackled the knees of the person believed to be their mother, they reel back in horror and realize they've just chased down a complete stranger! The child then runs off and all number of terrible Hollywood-movie-things happen before they're ultimately reunited with the missing parent. End scene.

For me, it's back to the counting problem, which is ultimately a noticing problem -- is the person I'm about to touch in a very personal gesture of affection wearing the right shirt? Is that the right hat? Am I sure Robin's beard is that color? Did I just completely forget what he looks like, even after all of these years? It's a panic-packed second, and it's completely unfounded given I've never taken down the wrong person. But it happens. Every. Single. Time. And it happens mere instants before contact has been made, even if I've spent the past several minutes making my way toward him with my eyes locked securely on the back of his capped head.

It doesn't matter how many chances I've had to make sure I know it's him, there's that one single zap. "Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it's someone else, maybe I'm about to make a complete fool out of myself and scare the crap out of this poor person." I can't tell if I'm lucky or not that this happens as my body is relying on momentum to propel me the last few centimeters toward making contact. I don't know if it'll ever go away. But that second is strong enough and solid enough that it can fully throw off my emotional groove for the rest of the day. 

Let it never be said I don't take the tiniest of things seriously.

On Things and Doing Them

I've spent the last entirely-too-long with my head on work and weddings and different things and have been utterly lacking in the creativity department. This, as you might imagine, is less than ideal. My husband Robin (AAAHHHHH, SO WEIRD TO SAY THAT...*ahem* I'm good, don't mind me) and I were walking around the bookstore today and came across an endcap with a few books with lists of things to draw and things to write -- so we might've picked those up for clearly nefarious plans.

So! Starting tomorrow, my plan is to do one of each a day and see if I can get back into the swing of creating something daily again.

Here goes!

Huzzah. (Now to play around with the website for a while because I know how to have fun.)