Monday, September 19, 2011
For me, as for so many, it's been quite a summer - weatherwise, moneywise, you name it and you can bet it pretty much sucked.
I've gained ten pounds, but I'm beginning to deal with that trend and reverse it.
The tenants who have basically been ....what's that term when people wall themselves up inside a castle and just stay there til the warriors outside get bored and wander off?....well, anyway, they were evicted April 15th and and left *drum roll* last Monday, after trashing my mother's house pretty thoroughly. Plus it cost me $2000 to have their !@#$ - excuse me, their personal belongings - removed by bonded movers and stored in secure facilities. And before you ask me why I didn't just drag it all out on the front lawn and set fire to it, the answer is: that's the way Pennsylvania does things.
A word to the wise: the situation you do not want, under any circumstances, is to have your house rented to a lawyer, being sold to another lawyer, and the whole shootin' match overseen by your own lawyer. Flurries of threats and filings and appeals and protests and what all - it'll be several years before I'm out of all this. Plus the poor real estate agent (the only person who wanted to sell my house as much as I did, I think) is in the legal swamp with me. Circus, circus.
But I still managed to sell my mother's house, albeit for a little less than a third of what it was worth in 2008. But whining about that is like focusing on the fact that I used to be a size ten - it has absolutely nothing to do with today's size or real estate market. The settlement will be literally 72 hours before the bank forecloses on the farm, giving me just enough time to pay my overdue mortgage. "My Life as a Precision Instrument"
My husband has been dead now for almost a year and I finally figured out that what I still think of as normal *isn't coming back* - this living alone deal is the new normal.
Something else obvious I discovered is that depression feeds upon itself. You don't get out of bed - or off the sofa - because you don't want to, don't have the energy to clean up, eat and drink whatever because you can reach it from the sofa (true, all true), let the library books all go overdue and the cars go uninspected. Then one day you look around and you have $100 worth of library fines, four tickets for uninspected vehicles (two because technically they were also uninsured, since I'd changed the insurance policy to my name but not the titles and that's how NY works), a lawn that hasn't been mown since July, no clean clothing and no clean dishes, and the house looks exactly the way you're thinking it might. Ever watch Hoarders? Not quite that bad, but give me a few more weeks.
Had a friendship-changing argument with pretty much my only local friend over what amounts to personality differences. The immediate repercussion from that one is that I had to reschedule my colonoscopy so that my daughter can give me a ride to and from. Oy.
One of our dogs died (he was ancient, and it was truly just as well, but still.....) and was almost immediately "replaced" by one of the kittens of the resident barn cat. By and large, they hate and fear me, hissing and running when I come in to feed them (I know, I know), but this one came up to me, mewed and bit my nose when I bent over. What can you do? Several large vet bills later, the kitten still known only as Boy Cat has overturned the household, upset the other cats and now everyone is peeing all over the place in protest. *sigh* (NB: a product called, I believe, OdorKlenz, works very well.)
Anyway, (this is where discovering the obvious comes in) who *wouldn't* be depressed living like that?? So it's time to either shoot myself or get myself in hand, and since, given a choice between homicide and suicide, I'll pick homicide every time, the getting-self-in-hand thing wins. So, what's the first step?
I waxed my eyebrows.
Hey, ya gotta start somewhere. Now I'm going out into the world to try to straighten out a few things paperwork-related, then I'll come back and, instead of collapsing on the sofa and watching reruns of either Hauntings or Hoardings while lunching on Cheez Doodles and beer, I'll make myself a salad.
I'm sure there's more exciting and fun-filled stuff to report, but I have to get underway before I lose my momentum.
(I just read back over this piece and realized why I drink. Seriously, this is so out of hand. But despite all that, I have come up with a new plan - making plans, no matter how unrealistic, saves me every time - which I will tell you sometime soon. I couldn't let you all go on such a cynical note. There is Hope - and I promise I won't use phrases like "things with feathers" or "springing eternal" when I tell you about it.)
Saturday, June 18, 2011
(Beware: this one is going to be long - and also over at mumsananarchist.livejournal.com)
For those of us raised either as or by Depression era babies, it's hard to get rid of things. I don't mean like those poor folks in the tv show Hoarders, but we tend to hang onto Stuff, I think, just "in case we might need it one day." For me, as a mixed media artist, it is particularly difficult. Hey, I might need that single butterfly wing one day, for real!
The hardest part for me, since both my kids are grown, my mother died and I'm widowed, has been to figure out, reasonably, rationally and logically, just who the hell I am. I'm not someone's daughter, I'm not someone's wife, I'm not someone's mother (well, I am, but it's different when they're 20+), I don't seem to own any businesses anymore, nor work for anyone else. I'[m not writing for money either right now, or designing or anything else I've ever done for income.
I'm exceedingly lucky in that, even though money is tight, I have my mother's house to sell (if you need a house in suburban Philadelphia, let me know - I've got a nice ranch house you might like...)l, which will pay off this one and leave me enough left over to think about things for a few months. Granted, it's only worth 60% of what it was two years ago, but it's still money, and I could use some of that.
I'm slowly becoming part of the farming community here, which is a genuinely new experience for me. I'd realized years ago that people out here tend to leave one another alone unless there's trouble, then they all show up to help one another, but I hadn't realized the extent to which this is true. People that I barely knew, people that knew my husband slightly, have all stepped up to bat, not by bringing funeral pies and then forgetting about me (which is how I was raised) but by showing up with suggestions and manpower and hay contracts and machines and wood and tow trucks and IDEAS - and the scope of that has just been astounding to me. This is particularly true as this is an area in which women are not viewed as damsels in distress - most of the women around here could easily have written the famous Harriet Tubman speech themselves.
SO, the thing that ties these apparently disparate paragraphs together is that I've realized I don't need to hold onto everything. I don't need a big tractor (I have a little one that I use for everything, plus lots of things to attach to it for various purposes), I don't need to keep it "in case I want to do something that calls for a big tractor." I can hire a neighbor to plow or whatever. In twelve years we'd given exactly two hayrides. I don't need to keep three hay wagons in case I want to give a hay ride. I can borrow one from my neighbor to the west. I'm never (God help me, NEVER) going to make small square bales of hay again - it's an incredibly labor intensive job and probably one of the reasons farm families had twelve children - so why am I not selling the baler? Because I might need it some day?
I'm keeping the things that are so ancient and rusted that they're only worth their scrap weight, because I'm learning to weld and I honestly may want some parts off them (mixed media artist graduates to cutting metal with fire - what's not to love about that?) I'm selling the rest, because sentimentality be damned, this stuff is worth actual money (maybe twenty thousand altogether?), the chances of my actually needing it ever, let alone before it disintegrates, are minimal, and if by chance I do need one whatever, I can buy it *then*. I don't need to hang onto the one I have now, "just in case."
So a few of my new farm community neighbors are going to help me get all this stuff together (half of it I barely can identify, let alone use), get it cleaned up and moved to a good spot on another road, and sell it for me, answering all those questions I wouldn't have a clue about. Sure, of course, I'll give them some money for doing it, but not nearly enough to cover the hassles they'll experience doing this for me. They're doing it because they're good people, and they want to enable me to get on with my life instead of being stuck in a sea of Stuff, miserable and confused.
Not only that, but I have half a dozen phone numbers I can call day or night, in case two dogs and a shotgun aren't enough, in case I need a woman's shoulder to cry on or a man who knows his way around a wood furnace that's four degrees short of boiling.
We get a lot of opportunities in life to interpret any way we wish. We can bemoan our fate and grow bitter and sad, and there's a certain self-righteous appeal in that, or we can draw ourselves up tall and see the good all around us, people and circumstances willing to help if we'll let them. It's been hard for me to opt to go with the good - artists are *supposed* to suffer, right? ... and smart people are totally self-sufficient - but I'm learning. Baby steps, baby. Baby steps.
PS - that blessed community of friends includes you guys right here on SP. There were times I think I would have gone out of my mind without your kind words and sensible input.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
23. I'm basically pretty fearless. I'm not afraid of snakes (I'd have them as pets if they didn't insist on eating things that are alive and needing heat all the time) or mice or even spiders as long as they're outside. I do admit a certain amount of displeasure with the cellar spiders, probably because the "ceiling" is so low. I am afraid of polar bears, but where I live that's not really an issue. I'm not afraid of the dark or the paranormal or anything that goes bump in the night. I'm reasonably cautious about my fellow humans (I do lock doors and the like), but with two dogs, a shotgun and a healthy dose of common sense, I don't lose a lot of sleep.
24. I have great legs. Even at my age and weight, I've still got great legs. And I know how to walk in high heels. A lot of women teeter or sort of clump, but I can walk gracefully in four-inchers. So much so that I lived in heels for years, and destroyed my feet, leading to me being the first kid on the block to have a joint replacement - big toe, 39 years old.
25. I generally have a "can do" attitude. Around my old, rambling (and for a good ten years, completely abandoned to squirrels and rain and all that sort of thing) house, I'll tackle just about any repair or renovation. I don't do roofing, and I don't do electricity - anything else, I'll give it a shot. I read up on the project, ask around if possible, then go for it. It doesn't always work out, and in some rooms, you can see my learning curve if you look from one end to the other (that was the lesson in installing cove moulding,) Some projects I thought would take years wound up taking only hours ... and some projects I thought would take a weekend wound up taking years. But I'll always give it a try.
26. I'm extremely punctual. Early, in fact. And I hate when people set their clocks ten minutes ahead to trick themselves into being on time, because once I know the clock is wrong, I'll calculate the correct time every time I look at it, and that's annoying to me. If I'm not on time, it probably means I totally forgot or will show up quite punctually...on the wrong day.
27. I'm a darned good gardener. When I was still gardening professionally, I billed at $35/hr, which is expensive, but I'm worth it. I know what I'm doing and I can accomplish it quickly because I know what tools I need, I have them, and they're sharp and ready. Sure, you can hire college kids to do the job, but they'll rip out your grandmother's phlox, make messy edges using the wrong shovel, and you'll wind up paying more for them because it'll take them forever to do a lousy job. Hire those boys to mow your lawn and rake your leaves - I'll do those jobs, but it's a waste of your money and my time. Just don't come by my house to look at my work. Classic "shoemaker's child".
28. This may sound silly, but I follow directions extremely well. People think I'm a good cook, but I'm not - I just know how to follow a recipe. I'm supposedly so good at building those things that "require assembly", but it's just because I go to the trouble of laying out all the bits and identifying them, then following the directions one step at a time instead of assuming I know how something should go. Ditto sewing; I can sew quite well - tailor, even - because I do the things in the order they tell me to. I figure it takes five minutes to read through the directions first, and often a whole lot longer to disassemble and reassemble because you "assumed" that it was time to put the doors on and now you can't get the shelves in.
29. I love to label things. I have three label makers - two of the newer kind that print electronically (bought the second because the first was lost) and one of the old kind that made sort of embossed letters. I label all kinds of stuff - boxes, of course, but also light switches (old house = confusing array of switches), file drawer contents, anything where reading a label makes it easier to know what's inside. Occasionally I will label things incorrectly on purpose, or just label things ("lamp", "hairbrush") simply to entertain myself, but we won't talk about that here.
30. I don't always feel obligated to finish what I start. I know lots of people who, once they begin reading a book, feel that they have to read through to the end even if they aren't enjoying it. I feel that there are too many books to read and enjoy as it is - why waste time on the unenjoyable? I won't finish painting a room if I'm not certain that was the color I wanted. I'm usually glad I did that and didn't waste more time and money painting something mint when I wanted celery. I have no problem putting off finishing a task because I need to think about it - the tub is still awaiting its tile surround because I keep changing my mind and tile is a lot harder to re-do than paint. And there are things that, even though I bought the necessary supplies to do something, I lost interest in it before it was even begun (anyone need twenty year old macrame string?) But there are things that I will see through to the end, just because it feels good to put paid to the thing. And this set of thirty Special Me qualities is one of those. Done!
Friday, May 27, 2011
21. I honestly, genuinely do not care what people think about me. I mean, everyone likes to be liked, and I'm always polite - sometimes painfully so - to known detractors. But in my bones, I don't gave a single damn about their opinions. I will go to the beach (example, here - no trip planned) and I will wear a bathing suit. I won't intentionally offend their sensibilities (wasn't there some famous saying about not scaring the horses?) by wearing a bikini or something, but I will wear a bathing suit without a skirt or what appears to be torso armor, and anyone who doesn't wish to see me thus can damned well avert their eyes.
I also understand that people (almost all teenagers, for example) will declare, "I don't care what anyone thinks!" and then go do something that they see as outrageous. But as I patiently explained to both my daughters at some point, that means you're still letting other people control your actions, only this time, instead of doing what they want you to do, you're doing what they don't want you to do. You're still, in effect, letting them decide what you will do.
(Go back to the tolerance blog entry to see the rules on not hurting people.)
22. I don't sweat the small stuff. Family story: I was driving somewhere with my husband as passenger. A car cut me off and my husband angrily demanded, "Are you going to let him get away with that?!" I replied, "No, of course not dear. Could you get out the gatling gun please?" and he didn't speak to me for the rest of the trip, I think.
I'm a little behind on outdoor tasks here. The lawn is now literally knee high, but instead of fussing about it, I've decided that I no longer have a lawn - I have a meadow! A lovely, fresh meadow! How delightful! Admittedly, this is a lot easier to get away with out in the country, but the principle remains.
I really try to take things in stride, and for the most part I'm pretty successful. Forgotten items are done without or the menu is changed. People are given the benefit of the doubt. The unexpected is incorporated without fuss. Library fines are paid without complaint or embarrassment - I forgot, It happens. (More and more frequently forgotten, it seems, but we can talk about that another time...if we remember.)
I wasn't always this way. I remember agonizing over what to wear to a first-grade parent-teacher conference. But I began to observe how ratcheted up people got over the smallest things, flying into tantrums, verbally abusing unwary strangers, and generally making life miserable for themselves. Not so much the people around them, but for themselves.
At first I was cautioned that if I went on this way, I'd be thought of as a doormat, or a shy, insecure person who couldn't speak up for herself. But I discovered it didn't feel like that at all. It felt like freedom.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
I think about things a lot - more than most people, I suspect. Sure I occasionally think about the human condition or the fate of the universe, but usually it's stuff that no sane person would even come up with, let alone dwell upon.
For example, this morning I woke up with the song "Little Bunny FooFoo" in my mind. For those of you who have somehow managed to avoid this classic, the lyrics go:
Little Bunny FooFoo
Walking through the forest
Scooping up the field mice
And bop them on their heads
I swear to you, my first conscious thought this morning was: why would he do this? Scoop them up with what? And what were the field mice doing in the forest to being with? Aren't they by definition supposed to be in field, where theoretically they'd be safe from Little Bunny FooFoo? "FooFoo"???
*sigh* I need more coffee.
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