30 Days of Sandy Sue Altered: 5

More Great Animals

I’ll be hard at it, painting my bedroom on Saturday, so will post #5 a few hours early.

Goat Boy

Bears

Betty's Eyes

Dance!Dance!

Oldest Living Thing

Smelling His Finger

30 Days of Sandy Sue Altered: 3

Some Great Dogs

No-Nonsense Dudes

Broke Free

He is the Hero

Never Marry a Cowboy 2

Linger

Westward Ho! Day 8

Port Townsend, WA (8:30 AM) to Roseburg, OR (5:00 PM).  386 miles.
Notables:  I’m really sick of The Time Traveler’s Wife audiobook.  I know it’s a big bestseller, but I like the movie better (Plot vs Really Dopey Romance).
Tunes:  The Best of Jackson Browne.

John and catUp at 4:00 to pack and sit with my journal (I do wish I could be one of those people who oversleep once in a while. I might as well wish I was 23 and French).  Then, it was one last meal at the Fort’s big dining hall (another delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs with salmon and fresh greens, fresh fruit, toast and good coffee), one more round table of laughs with my new art-buddies from all over the country, and I was back on the road.

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John was in top form as we threaded our way through the forests.  We pointedly avoided any more ferries or tollways.  One bollixed crossing was quite enough.  And I love forests even more than the desert, so it was like driving through my personal version of heaven.  Even the rest stops offered a bit of forest to explore between dumping car-garbage and visiting the loo (I’m afraid John’s rubbed off on me a bit).

IMG_0429We paused at this lovely stop just north of the Washington/Oregon border.  Everything was so green.  And it was 73°.  Green and warm and foresty.  Tiny angels whistled in my ear.

And tonight, another mind-blowing bed and breakfast.  Doris and Mike live a little outside of town.  As I followed the proper twisty country road, I spied a huge buffalo chewing its cud on some guy’s front lawn.  Or pasture.  Whatever the green stuff is that swaddles a buffalo.  I was too intent on finding Doris and Mike to think anything other than, “Huh.  Folks do things a little different out here.”

Doris is what my grandma would have called Just Good Folks; hard-working, generous, no-nonsense.  The house is gorgeous, filled with antiques and Doris’ oil paintings (we nattered about art for a while).  She showed me to the laundry room and invited me to eat supper with them, their son, and another AirBNB couple.  This is not standard B&B fare.

IMG_0431Supper was delicious with lively conversation.  I imagine boarding houses must have been like this in the Long Ago; strangers gathered at a table and resting, safe, under the roof of a Good Woman (and her Good Man).  It feels very homey here.

And now the smell of fresh laundry dominates my room.  Clean undies!  I can fall asleep with the window cracked to let in the Very Different scent of the Pacific Northwest; more ozone, more oxygen, more ocean-washed than Flatland air.

IMG_0435The chickens out in their pen are quiet now (um… yes, we ate chicken for supper).  I visited them before they tucked their beaks under for the night, because chickens this fat and beautiful deserved to be visited.  And I knew Cheryl would love them (you’re welcome).

Now it’s time for me to tuck my beak under my wing.  Sweet Dreams and Pleasant Poultry.  And may you feel the road rush under your wheels.

Sometimes

Reteach Loveliness

My grandpa and his horse with a glass eye.

My Cyber Life

handmade greeting card, collage artThese days, what with my Zero Money Initiative in place, I spend most of my time at home on my computer.  And I’m finding a whole new life there.  It’s Pinterest, really, that’s sucked me into this Ether World.  I’ve found dozens of Pinners who share my interests.  And since my taste wanders all over the place, there’s a lot to keep me enthralled.

There are the nerdy fan-folk—the Tolkein aficionados, the Trekkers, the Joss Whedonites.  I’m in Nerd Heaven, wandering through all the rare photos, video clips, jokes and articles about my TV shows and movies.  There are the science puns, and inside jokes, and cross-over weirdness that combines Star trek with Firefly and Sherlock Holmes.  My geekiness runs rampant.

Battle Cry, The Hobbit, Thorin OakenshieldThen there are the serious armies of movie star fans.  Any male actor, living or dead, generates a plethora of appreciation (Female stars get plenty of attention, too, just not so many shirtless photos or comments about fainting).  Here, I have found my obsessive/compulsive, delusional tribe—women all over the globe tipping the scale from fan to stalker.  I breathe a little easier knowing I’m far from the craziest end of the spectrum here.  I’m actually rather refined and discriminating in my male appreciation.  Tasteful, even.  Ahem.

sheep, IrelandI can explore my love of Ireland and dream about going there by connecting with Pinners who are either from Ireland or who have shared their vacation photos.  I can listen to the music, meet infamous sons and daughters of the Eire, and learn the country’s history.  All the beautiful sites, the people, the festivals—they let me taste of the Emerald Isle while I scheme about how to get there.

endangered species, animalsThen, there are all the boards devoted to nature—weird and gorgeous wild animals; amazing forests, rock formations, fauna and flora.  There are Pinners gathering information on preservation, animal abuse, conservation, and every aspect of green living.  I’m constantly amazed, shocked, inspired and delighted by all these lovers of the world.  I can indulge in my love of elephants and skunks.  And there’s no end to the folks who love cats—great and small.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, TV, Joss WhedonMy cyber and material worlds are starting to mix, now.  I’m spending more time at the library searching for things I saw on Pinterest—books on visiting Ireland and England, movies like “War Horse” that I thought I’d never watch (but found out Tom Hiddleston/Loki  and  Benedict Cumberbatch/Sherlock Holmes are in it).  I picked up the first season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to watch some early Joss Whedon, and checked out a great mystery novel by Tana French on a Pinner’s recommendation.

I’ve heard Pinterest described as a horder’s dream come true.  A person can collect all their favorite stuff without taking up any space (or creating those scary towers of books, papers and clutter every proper psycho-killer’s home requires).  But, for me it’s gone beyond that.  Yes, I like to create my boards with a certain amount of flair and artistry, but I look forward to learning something new, digging deeper into a topic, sharing a funny video that I hope will make others cry and lose urine like I did.  It’s a new way of interacting, a new kind of community-making.

And it makes me happy.  That’s something to stick a pin in and hang on the wall.

Shuffling Through Marshalltown

I just got back from my afternoon walk—a slow-motion shuffle around three square blocks.  All the better to see the lilac bushes greening and crocus heads swelling.  Iris blades like emerald knives slice through the winter brown.  A warm, moist breeze calls Spring to come forward.

This is my fourth walk since coming home from the hospital yesterday.  Each time I go a little farther, see something a little different.  At 1:30 in the morning, stars talk out loud and warm, velvet air slides over skin.  At 8:30 the Saturday traffic takes over, rushing to compete with the trains wailing in the yard.

Sometimes I’m the only human being on the street.  Sometimes I’m one of many.  The homeless shelter and emergency food bank are just up the street, so people in need pass by often—families, singles, elderly.  People who roll their entire lives with them in wheeled garbage bins.  People with nothing.  People who fight and swear at each other.  People who scold and natter at themselves.

Teenagers wander by in groups leaving their detritus of gum wrappers and Red Bull cans.  The library is next door, and the Kwik Star down the street, so I imagine they gravitate between the two.  But, what do I know about teenagers?

And the dogs are always out.  A plethora of Chihuahuas in all shapes and sizes.  They’re like a box of left-over Valentine’s Day chocolates—nuggets, and cherry centers, and dark mousse—all excited, all yipping in their tiny rodent voices.  There’s a black and white Bull Terrier who sits on the corner all day long, staring at the flower shop.  And a Pit Bull with pink eyes who seems bored out of her mind.  A trio of Corgis race up and down their fenced yard like jousters challenging the entire neighborhood to a duel.  Behind the dog noise, feral cats slink along the alleys, quietly going about their feline business.  They’re happy to let the dogs grab all the attention—anonymity is more their game.

If I could bend over, I’d start picking up the refuse winter leaves behind, but I have to leave that for now.  It’s enough to be outside, in the unseasonably warm, feeling the stretch of my stride in my sore belly, walking my way back to whole.

Be Careful What You Ask For

A few weeks ago I set the intention of Creating a New Life.  I forget sometimes that the Universe is not always gentle in how It responds.

One aspect of building this new life is to find a way to contribute to and be a part of the community.  I thought that meant working as a volunteer in some capacity.  I tried the Animal Rescue League, and felt pretty successful about my day there.  But, when it was time to go back this week, I was in a deep depression.  I rescheduled, hoping I could go back when the depression lifted, then ended up canceling altogether.  As much as I celebrated my ability to get there on time and put in three hours of washing windows and collecting dog poop, I had to admit I couldn’t tolerate the animals’ emotional pain or the way the staff has to shut themselves down to deal with it.  It was an experiment.  Now I know.

However, the Universe plopped other options in my lap.  Through calls and emails, I found a local group of Unitarian Universalists.  The core group of about 30 people are just starting the process of affiliating with the national UU organization.  They’re enthusiastic and welcoming.  I felt right at home.  At the second gathering I attended, I was impressed by the meditation and talked with the woman who led it.  She said a poll of the members showed that most people are hungry for more spirituality in the services, but the board wasn’t sure how to provide that.  Like me, she and her husband would like to start a meditation group.  And then, she invited me to lead the meditation at the next service.  A way to contribute and be part of the community.

I also volunteered to do the program at last week’s T.O.P.S. meeting.  Usually, someone will read an article about weight loss or nutrition.  I decided to tell a bit of my story and speak about using awareness with compulsive eating.  The response floored me.  People lined up afterward to talk to me, about their own struggles with mood disorders or those of loved ones, about the concept of awareness (how does that work again?), about standing up in front of a group and telling something so personal (maybe I could do that, too).  This week I received emails and cards from members of the group about my presentation.  Yesterday at the meeting, folks were still talking about it and thanking me.  I offered to do more programs as needed.

Then, last night, I followed up on a connection I made at my dad’s funeral this fall.  My cousin, Ray, confessed to me at the funeral reception that he meditated regularly.  He seemed agreeable to sitting together sometime, so I vowed to myself that I’d push through my social phobia and call him.  I procrastinated.  I didn’t know Ray except as a name and a face in the haze of distant relatives.  But, I had a feeling.  I made the call.

Last night I discovered a kindred spirit, another seeker.  Last night we shared our stories, sat meditation together, shared more stories.  Ray loaned me a book that I didn’t know I was looking for, a piece of my story, October Roads, that was missing.  What a gift to find him, precious fruit on my own family tree.

Yeah, be careful what you ask for.  The Universe will provide.

Getting Out There

I just finished my first shift as a volunteer at the Animal Rescue League.  I’m exhausted—and triumphant.  I actually put myself in a pseudo-work environment and didn’t suffer off-the-charts anxiety.  I did leave early, but that was because my back was killing me after washing all the windows (inside and out) and doing poop patrol in the exercise yard, picking up 15 gallons of dog do.  My backache feels more like a badge of honor than overworked musculature.  I did it!  And I signed up to do it again next week.

This is a huge step for me.  Every time I’ve tried to work an “easy” job in the past few years, volunteer my time, or commit to anything requiring a set schedule or responsibility, my illness has galloped off into the sunset.  I’ve always said that the hardest part of being bipolar is the inconsistency (okay, there are a lot of hard parts, but this is my number one gripe).

I told myself going into this volunteer position that it was just one afternoon with dogs and cats.  If I didn’t want to do it again, I didn’t have to.  The staff at the Shelter are extremely laid back—they gave me a task then let me alone to do it.  I liked that.  While I went through the building washing windows, I could stop in the cat room for a while and see who all was in residence.  Whatever work I did was appreciated, whenever I wanted to schedule myself was okay.  The only pressure I felt I put on myself to do a good job while I was there.  Even then, a few streaks in the windows and a few missed dog muffins were just fine.

I think I can actually do this.  At least, I’m going to try.

A Mental Hidey-Hole

The sense of this episode is one of being overwhelmed.  It’s like my brain has lost all elasticity and resilience.  I’m unable to problem-solve even small hiccups in the day much less figure out how to deal with unusual tasks.  My cognitive ability seems mired in glue, and at the same time my body perceives each decision to be made as a threat.

For example, the apartment management notified us that the bedbug-sniffing dog would be coming around to all the apartments today.  They do this every 3-4 months, since we have a history of infestation.  Still, it’s an ordeal, since I have to pack up the cats and all their paraphernalia two hours before the dog arrives.  Usually I take them to a friends’ house, but they’re having work done on their basement, so I had to devise another plan.

I was at a total loss as to what to do.  My mind spun.  I tried to approach the problem, but the vortex whipped me away.  Finally, after crying in the pool at the Y this morning, I suddenly thought of calling my mom and taking the cats out there.  Problem solved, but I was exhausted and frayed.  Mom asked me if I wanted to take home some tomatoes a neighbor had brought her, and I burst into tears.  Then, my neighbor in the apartment building called to say the inspection had been cancelled.  I sobbed so hard Henry came running to see what all the racket was about.

All of a sudden I have appointments and meetings written all over my calendar through the end of the year (a normal week will have one item, at most).  And even though I write them all down so I won’t forget, I keep forgetting.  I can’t hold them in my head.  And when a few do stick, they bump around in there like mad hornets.  These aren’t things I can blow off.  I had my annual physical, and there are specialists to be seen, lab work to be done, boobs to be squished.

Between episodes, I could manage all this just fine.  But right now it feels like non-stop attack.  I want to find a hidey-hole like my scaredy-cat, Emmett, and tuck myself into a ball so small no one can see me.

What this tells me is that I need to eliminate everything but the essential right now, keep social contact to no more than two people at a time (that seems to be my limit), put off making any serious decisions (like buying a new swim suit), and do what I can to soothe the exposed nerve endings.  I can’t avoid situations like today, but I can choose not to go to a party and a church supper this weekend like I’d planned.

It makes me sad to give up those social opportunities since I don’t get many of them.  But, it’s just bad timing.  Better to live in reality than suffer in denial.  At least that’s what Henry says.  When Emmett comes out of his hidey-hole, he’ll probably have a different opinion.

What’s that Big Hole?

Oh, yeah.  It’s where my dad used to be.

I woke up sobbing this morning.  Really the first big blow-out of emotion since Dad’s passing.  I kept thinking about Roger.

One of my dad’s best friends, Vern Landon, also died recently.  Vern and Dad went to high school together, farmed near each other.  Mom and Dad, Vern and Helen travelled all over the world on group trips when they retired.  Needless to say, Dad and Vern were close.

Yesterday at the gravesite, I heard someone crying behind me.  I turned around and a man my age reminded me who he was.  “Roger Landon,” he said.  I grabbed him up immediately, and we held each other while we cried.  I hadn’t seen Roger in 30 years, at least, but all the times he and his dad helped with baling hay, or working with the livestock, or picking corn rushed back.

In the spring of 1973, Mom, Dad, Vern and Helen took a trip to Las Vegas.  My grandma and I were alone on the farm when a huge snowstorm hit, cutting power and blocking all the roads.  Our cattle were starting to calve, and Granny was in a panic.  That’s when Roger showed up on his snowmobile and helped us get the cows and the calves safe.  He was my hero, and I had a crush on him from that day forward.

Standing at my dad’s grave with the October wind whipping around the sheltering tent, I knew Roger wept for his own dad as I wept for mine.  We shared so much history, and now we shared our grief.  He disappeared into the crowd after that—the rest of the family didn’t have a chance to talk to him.  I’m grateful that my girlhood hero made himself known to me and shared his heart.  It’s a gift I’ll cherish from a day filled with magic.

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