Wednesday, April 20, 2011

L is for Lolly

I just finished listening to the latest Joshilyn Jackson audiobook - Backseat Saints. I love her stuff! Backseat Saints is her fourth book and I have listened to them all via audiobook with the author reading it. When I listen to audiobooks, I prefer the author to read it, that way you get exACTly where/what inflections they were thinking when they wrote it.

This book is just as excellent as the others. The main character, Rose Mae Lolly (audiobook, so that's probably all spelled wrong), is actually a tiny side character from a previous book (Gods in Alabama) but the author wondered what happened to her and so wrote a whole other book with Rose Mae as the central character.

Books like this have convinced me I can't write fiction. The way she seamlessly segues from past to present to past in her books is a thing of art. And there will be setups in the book that never seem like setups. It will be this tiny bit of seemingly unimportant information said in passing that later becomes a pretty significant detail to the story. It's amazing how she does it!

In a previous post, I said I was in a reading slump and that I was stuck on that Forest House book. I also re-informed y'all that once I start a book (or a movie), I can't leave it. I HAVE to finish it. It's like a compulsion. Forest House almost beat me. It took over 3 months for me to get through it. I considered putting it aside for awhile and reading other books (another thing I can never bring myself to do) but I decided against it. Then I got sick.

I never get sick. I come from good peasant stock and I rarely even get a cold. But Brothers and Sisters, I got knocked the fuck out. I was so sick that I called in to work and I work from home! I ached all over - the sheets hurt! - and I had so much snot that (and, yes, I know how gross this is) whenever I'd blow my nose only half would be in the tissue. I was in a sea of misery and mucus and pain.

I didn't want TV (which, in and of itself, tells people who know me how sick I was) and I thought about reading but when I looked at Forest House, it seemed too..... rich. Like having a stomach virus and trying to eat an entire sticky toffee pudding. You know how delicious it is and also you know if you try it, you're only asking for trouble. So I put it aside.

I read Secret Diary of a Call Girl. It was a book made from a blog and so the "chapters" were short and the book was deliciously salacious and I flew through it in a few days. It was the perfect chicken broth for my tired and aching head. On the cover, was a picture of Billie Piper who, apparently, plays the Call Girl in the Showtime series made from this book. A bit shocking to me since I only know her as Rose from Dr. Who! My library didn't have the book or the series. I ordered the book a coupla weeks earlier off amazon and it arrived just in time for my dog-sick days. I'm going to have to do an inter-library transfer to see the series.

After I got better, I trudged through the last 100 pages of Forest House. GAH. It ended badly. Like Hamlet only with more death and misery. sigh. There's 3+ months I'll never get back.

I forced myself through the rest of it because we were going on a small road trip and I wanted to read something else for that. I started and finished Christopher Moore's You Suck in TWO days! I flew through it, laughing out loud most of the time. It's the sequel to his Bloodsucking Fiends and it was perfection! I'm reading the third one - Bite Me - and it's going a bit slower. The first 30 pages or so are just backstory and having just read the other two... it seems a bit slow. But it's still funny!

I'm also reading short stories by Richard Matheson. How have I never heard of this guy before?? His stories are creepy and tense and well written. I was reading the 4th story in the book when I noticed the quote on the front cover, "The author who influenced me most as a writer was Richard Matheson", Stephen King. Wow. SK is one of my all-time favorite writers!

What else.... I'm on a crazy cookbook kick. I take my lunch to school 4 days a week and even though I'm making awesome turkey-spinach-thinly-sliced-green-apple-and-Havarti sandwiches, it's getting old. I've looked at so many cookbooks that it's all starting to blend in. And I never really have time to cook anyway! Any suggestions? It doesn't have to be cold food but there's only 3 microwaves and about 30 students with the same 20 minute lunch! I'm open to hot and cold stuff, it's just got to be something I can throw together quickly.

I also picked a book from the library and even though I'm in the middle of two other books, I started to read it while the kids played in the park next to the library. It's called The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky. Sounds like another cookbook but it's not. I'm only on page 24 and it's already engaging and funny and odd and I really like it! Oh, and the Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks). I had just started that but Dave finished his book and despite having over 300 books in this house he had nothing to read. (He's declared all my books to be "lame" or "too girly" and won't even attempt most of them.) He started the Zombie book last night. Guess the reading mojo is back and kicked into high gear!

Up next for audiobooks..... The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. Or not, I just checked and there's 20 people ahead of me! Any suggestions?

Reading is fundamental, Ruth!

Monday, April 18, 2011

K is for KAL

I signed up on Ravelry for a KAL. (For those who don't know, that's a Knit-A-Long and yes, most knitters know that A-Long is actually one word - along.) I normally hate KAL's since I never finish any and it's just pressure for no reason. Not that these KAL's are all serious with KAL police or anything. The only pressure is what I put on myself.

Anyway, I saw this particular KAL and it looked doable and fun. It was an ornament-a-month and that appealed to me since that's something I've been thinking about doing for the boys for a few years now. Every January we hit the after-xmas sales and let them pick a new ornament. We also have the ornaments they've made over the years. They are already pretty well set for when they have trees of their own someday! Even so, I've wanted to make them some ornaments. I was going to do 2 a month so in December, they would each have 12 to add to their collections!

I've done one each.

Here's D2's pickle ornament, Pickly...

I asked what face he wanted on it and he said he wanted it to be surprised at all the presents under the tree.

Here's T's Mr. Pickles....

I asked T what face he wanted and he said he wanted Mr. Pickles to be happy about the presents! They slay me.

So that's all I've done with this KAL. Well, these and adding to my queue the other 11 I want to make them.

As for the rest of my knitting goals, I'm hat crazy. I've made at least 6 hats this year, I'm halfway through one sweater, 1/3 of the way through 2 others and I'm working on several socks.

In other news....
I can't thank you guys enough for the tremendous outpouring of kindness and support about my last post! School is going really well and I adore it! It's challenging and fun and my 4 other classmates are great. The teacher is outstanding and I'm really getting it. Today, my brain wouldn't work as well as it did last week, but there's going to be days like that so I'm OK with it. It's weird because the slower I do the "writing" (which is what they call it - like typing but faster/more efficient), the worse I do. When I stop wrangling my brain and just let it flow, my hands do better.

Last Wed was my birthday (41!) and on Tues., Dave called and said, "I've got something that's going to change your life." I said, "Divorce papers?" (We laughed because that's how we do it!) He wouldn't tell me the surprise and when he came home, he handed me my birthday present.

I think I've mentioned in the past that Dave is the best at giving presents. If he had asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I would have said this exact thing he got me. I didn't ask for anything for my b'day this year, we spent $450 on a new laptop for school, we are paying about $60 a week extra on gas for me to get to school and the cost of school.... oy. But he still gets me a present.... it's one of those dealies that you plug into the bottom of your ipod and it plays through the radio! So I am no longer at the mercy of DJ's during my commute!!

When I came home from school, there were two lovely handmade cards from my boys on my desk. I took the day off. As long-timers here may remember, I NEVER work on my birthday (except once during Basic Training, when I had no choice). I did go to school because that's not work for me!

On Sunday, I went to my knitting group and LaDonna brought a 12 pack of giant muffins from Mimi's Cafe, Jen brought fancy cupcakes and they all pitched in to get me a gas card from Cosco!

What a great birthday!

Many years to come, Ruth!

Friday, April 8, 2011

J is for Justice

Lots to tell, you might want to get a snack….

I believe I’ve mentioned that I’ve been depressed lately. It was getting hard to breathe. I got a job and that eased up a bit but then it got as bad if not worse. I’d wake up and look at that desk and that chair and think about my job and how I talk to Xtards 40 hours a week and I’d think, “Is this my life for the rest of my life??” And after I take the kids to school, I’d go back to bed until I had to sign in to my computer for work at 2:30p. I’d stay in bed and sleep or watch movies and try to breathe.

I’ve had some bad times in my life. I’ve had some really Very Bad Things happen when I was a kid and I’ve had times that were just really difficult. Through the bad times, I always had a spark of optimism because I always knew it couldn’t last. I knew that something would change or I would change and it couldn’t be like that always. I think that’s the biggest difference between my brother and me. I don’t think when he was in the pitch black tunnel he ever realized that no matter what, eventually there would be light again when you came to the end of it. I think that’s why he had so much trouble with addiction all his life. He sees the here and now and needs an escape. I always waited for (or sought out) the light.

For the first time in my life, I had no hope. I couldn’t see an end to where we are now. No way out. I owe $50K to my in-laws for the business that failed and I sit at a desk in my bedroom and make $9 an hour. At 40, I find myself with no marketable skills. The massage market here is so flooded that even with my 10 years experience, I can’t get a job.

I looked around to see what was out there and thought seriously about going back to school. Dave kept telling me we can’t afford it and he’s absolutely right but I can’t sit around doing nothing either. Since the economy tanked my business and I have my current job now, I realize that making $9/an hour is never going to do anything to get us out of debt.

I have about $5K in credit card debt from trying to keep my business afloat and Dave has about $200K in debt from buying the landscaping business he has. His business is doing so-so. We make our bills and that’s it. With the economy, many people are choosing to take care of their own yards and there are tons of fly-by-night operations that will charge 1/3 of what we charge. (Doing front and back yard for $15?! There’s no way they are making money off that.)

If something doesn’t change, we will never be able to let the kids play sports or have music lessons or summer camp or a backyard in a real house.

I’m going back to school. Not real school. I signed up at the court reporting school in Denver. I know that may seem out of the blue but I have actually been interested in it since before I got out of the Army. I looked in to an at-home course right before I got out of the Army (waaaaaaay back in 1995-96, not everyone had computers and most online courses were scams) but using your GI Bill before you get out of the Army eats it up twice as fast as using it after.

When I got out of the Army I dicked around the Community College for two years, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up (I know, I know, still waiting), then I started thinking about the court reporting again and I was also looking into massage school.

I flipped a coin.

Just kidding, I didn’t flip a coin. There was no court reporting school in Tucson and there was an excellent massage school, so…… touching strangers it was.

Back to the present….

I was looking into online court reporting courses and Denver Academy of Court Reporting came up. I called and got information. I started making small hints and comments in Dave’s direction. I had a webinar with the school. I had a long talk with Dave. I went to take a tour of the school and Dave came with me. (We thought it was going to be about a half hour tops but we ended up being there for 2 hours!!). I called the agencies that hire out the court reporters. I emailed a lawyer and a paralegal that I know with my questions. (My main question being, in this age of technology, is this even a viable thing anymore? Apparently, all around is a resounding yes, so that’s good news!)

Dave and I went back and forth with it. There was quite a few of frustrated arguments but, as usual, I got my way (at least that’s what he said). His biggest fear is about the cost of school. I know it’s another big debt to be adding but in the long run, I’ll be making much better money and hopefully I can get a job with some benefits. His other, entirely valid, concern is the commute. The school is on the other side of Denver and the commute is going to cost $15 a day just in gas money.

One of the biggest frustrations I had in our discussions was the fact that he kept saying, “It’s not going to be easy. You complain that you don’t get enough sleep as it is and with school, you’ll be getting less.” “It’s not going to be easy….this.” “It’s not going to be easy….that.”

Finally I yelled at him, “I’m not looking for EASY. Stop saying that!! I am looking for something I think I would be good at and that wouldn’t make me want to kill myself rather than go to work!”

Dave: How do you know you’ll like it? Everything you’ve ever done, you end up hating!! Massage, your recruiting business, Target, the job you have now.

Me: What are you talking about?!? I didn’t hate massage or the recruiting.

Dave: You always bitched about every job you’ve ever had. Me: So do you!! When have you EVER had a job you even remotely liked, Dave? At least I enjoyed the massage and the recruiting. People bitch about their jobs , even if they love them! That’s why it’s called “work” and not fucking “Disneyland”. I liked massage and the recruiting but it wasn’t viable out here and I have to find something else. As for Target and my current job, we needed money so I found a job. It’s not something I want to do for the rest of my life!

Dave: What should we tell my parents?

Me: [trying not to explode into red mist, I say quietly….deadly…]They are NOT in charge of our lives. We’ll tell them I’m going back to school.

Dave: Are we going to tell them we shut down your business?

Me: [yelling again, screaming it actually] YES!! I wanted to tell them a year ago when we did it. Every time we see them [at least twice a week, btw], I get all nauseous and nervous wondering if they are going to ask me about the business and what the hell am I going to say? I’ll remind them of when your brother got laid off and he had to go back to school to update his resume/learning/life and get another/better job. This is no different!

Dave: Fine. We’ll just be like America owing China. We’ll just keep on borrowing money until we are owned by China.

Me: The difference is that this is actually a step to stop having to borrow money and to have a better life.

The next day I dropped the kids at school and went to the in-laws place to talk with them. By myself. Without telling/asking Dave. I know he would’ve wanted to come with me but I felt that this was my failure so it was my responsibility to deal with this. Like a big stupid-head, I started crying the minute I walked in the door but I laid it all out. I told them we had to shut down my business because it was costing money without making any money. I told them we were still going to do our best to pay them back and Dave’s mom said, “No. We’re going to rip up the papers [we did a promissory note] and don’t worry about that.” I said that was ridiculous and we are going to pay it back, it was just going to take longer. I told them about going back to school and that it was a commute and expensive but that I didn’t see any other way to have a better life for all of us.

Anyway, we had a long talk and I apologized profusely for not being able to make the business fly and explained that with the economy tanking, it just wasn’t viable anymore.

They were very kind about it all and Dave’s mom’s only concern was that the children didn’t “suffer” because of it. The only change the boys will see is that they have to walk to and from school now. It kind of freaks the MIL out but they are almost 8 and 10 and it’s not that long a walk (part of it is by a major road though and that makes me nervous too but so far, they’re fine).

I’m enrolled and writing this during a break on my fourth day of school. Everything I’ve heard about this program, the key is practice until your fingers bleed. One can get through the program as fast as one can pick up the speeds. After first quarter, one should be able to write (they call it writing instead of typing) at 40 words per minute (WPM) and upon graduation, one should be at 225 WPM. Every day I come home, Dave asks, “Do you have it down yet?” He’s only half-joking. It’s a 2 year program but you can progress through the speeds and the fastest anyone’s finished is 18 months. That’s my goal. The program has a 75% drop-out rate. That’s not my goal. That’s not even an option. I really like it so far and I am already getting it down. Dave also likes to tease me about my lack of tact/poker face. He’s all, “You’ll either start crying if things are sad or you’ll stand up in court and point to the accused and yell ‘GUILTY’ .” Hah, hah.

So here’s my day now…..

I work from 2:30-11p and go to bed. In the morning I wake at 6:45a to make the commute to school, I get there at 8a and set up to practice; I have class from 8:30a-1:30p. I haul ass home to sign into my computer for work by 2:30p. That’s M-W, I have class on Thurs also but that’s one of my days off, so I’ll be staying after class to practice.

I figured out how I can practice while working but I need another outlet so I’ll be adding to the 10 octopi already under my work desk. I also figured out that I can work an extra 6 hours a week to make up the gas money. Dave’s all, “You are NOT going to want to work another 6 hours a week!” and I countered with, “Well, you don’t’ want to mow anymore but we can’t afford to hire the employees we had last year. We all have to make sacrifices, you more than any of us, Dave. I’ll be fine.”

Another sacrifice is my Sunday knitting group. We meet every Sunday morning for about 4 hours or so. We switch off, one week in HR, where I live, the next in Parker, where I used to live. I won’t be making the Parker ones anymore. The cost of gas alone, combined with my weekly commute gas bill…. I have to cut the Parker meets. Sucks but it will give me more time to practice or to jump on for a few extra hours at work.

There is another student making the same commute and I’ve approached her about car-pooling but she’s all skittish about it and while she’s said yes, I’m having a difficult time pinning her down to it. I don’t know if it’ll work anyway since I have to leave so fast after work. I’m afraid I’ll have to change my schedule from 2:30-11p to 3-11:30p which is going to be less sleep and suck more.

I’m adding a donation box to my blog. I know some people object to those but they don’t have to use it and it’s my blog so I’ll do as I please here, right? Hah! If you like what I write and you feel like you wanna.... it's on the bar of stuff on the left. If anyone wants to buy about $30K in debt (at 10%, $250 a month payments) let me know. (Riiiiiight.) Or if anyone has a tiny car that sips gas or a motorcycle (and a few lessons) that I can borrow for a couple of years, let me know (riiiiiiiight). I’m going to start doing some other things to up my Stitch Saver business and any other (legal) thing I can think of to add income to our little debt the size of China.

Somewhere in all that, I’ve got to schedule time to practice, practice, practice to get through the speeds (and therefore, school) as quickly as possible to get out in the work force. Oh yea, and see the boys a few minutes per day.

I’ll miss my little guys most, Ruth!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I is for Insecure

T is in choir. He heard about it last Sep. and wanted to join. The day before the first rehearsal, he came home and said, “I don’t want to do it.” I asked what happened and he said that the choir from last year sang at assembly and he just didn’t want to be in it anymore. I asked, “Why? Were they really bad or really good?” He said they were really good. I said, “Are you nervous or scared you won’t be that good?” and he nodded. I told him, “T. You should still try it. The beauty of choir is that, even if you aren’t that great, they teach you how to be better! And who knows, maybe you’re already pretty good! The thing is, you’ll never know if you don’t at least try it.”

He was still skeptical so I told him a little secret, “Little Man, you have music in your heritage. Oma [my mom] plays piano and organ and she was in choir all through high school and college! She even has a record of her college choir and she has this really great solo in it. Her dad used to write music and had several songs published! I played flute in elementary school and jr. high. Music is already a part of you!”

That convinced him.

I said he should go to the first two rehearsals and if he didn’t like it he didn’t have to participate. Then we had a little life talk… I told him how awful it would be to go through life being too scared to try things he really had an interest in. I explained that without taking risks, he’ll miss out on a lot of fun and all the things he may truly love! I also grounded it in a touch of reality that there were going to be things he tried that he wouldn’t like, sometimes even things where he’ll fall flat on his face! But without trying different things, he’ll never know which way he wants to go in life. (I left out the part about me not liking the flute and how I really/still wanted to learn the piano.)

He went to the first practice, had a blast and is still in choir. He isn’t crazy about getting up so early to go to practice before school, but he’s still with it and I’m very proud of him!

T is the one to the left of the really blonde kid in the front row. Sorry for the craptastic pic's, we are still trying to figure out our new camera. Here's T and D2 with T's choir teacher. (D2 is so silly!)

I have this friend who is absolutely fearless. She thought it would be fun to go sky-diving and she went. She has over 100 jumps now. That led to a job in aviation and then she thought, "That looks like fun!" and got her pilot's license! As far as I can tell, if she thinks something would be interesting, she just up and tries it. That's crazy to me! I'm so jealous!

It takes me years to get to a point where I'm comfortable enough to try something I want to do. It took me 2 years to call the massage school to even see if they take the GI Bill. A simple yes or no and I could've started my life a lot earlier! Of course it was yes and I signed up a week before my class started. So lame!

I've recently conquered (well, attempted anyway) a knitting fear. I've said for years that I'm going to learn fair-isle. I have 2 projects on my list for this year that involve fair isle. They are both small-ish and I finished the first one last week. It came out OK, not perfect by any stretch but here it is....

(Wow, my new camera really does suck ass! Anyone know how to work a Nikon Cool pix?)

Anyway, I want my kids to be fearless and try anything and everything that interests them! Not in a flaky, can't-decide-what-I-want-to-do-with-my-life kind of way, but in a I'm-finding-what-I-love way. As I talked about in the last post, I'm trying to make some changes to set the example. More on that in the next post....

Fearlessly diving into the breach, Ruth!