Flex nibs and flexibility

Sometimes I think my brain inherently seeks balance. Or rather, that it craves balance, and I use my various hobbies and interests to help with that balance.

I find myself involved in a lot of long-term pursuits. I’m 3 months into a new job and still firmly “in training” – it takes at least 6 months, if not a year, to get the hang of everything. I’m walking to Rivendell (a 458 mile project) … two miles at a time. I’m continuing with therapy, where nothing happens quickly. I’m growing out my hair, which takes very little actual work (just gentle delicate care), but requires a good bit of patience at half an inch a month.

So when I turn around and think about something like knitting, I’m just flat out not interested in a project that’s going to take hundreds of hours of my time. I love knitting, and knitted things. But my stick-to-it-iveness is just running out on all the other things I have going. I crave projects that I can start and finish in an afternoon. Like making pickles. Or playing with fountain pens. Or writing a letter. Or playing with markers until I have a mandala.

In some ways, I’m a little sad – I miss the big crafting projects. I really enjoy doing them. I have a whole wall of shelves full of baskets of yarn and spinning supplies, and a closet full of sewing stuff. I know and love the satisfaction of working for a long time on something and then being really proud if it when I’m done.

But I just don’t have the attention span or the patience for anything that looming just now.

I started a knitted dishcloth about a month ago, and I’ve done about 15 rows. All in that first sitting. I’ve lost interest now. (I’ve repeatedly said that this is why I’m a blogger and not a novelist. I can write a story for 500 words, but not 50,000. I don’t have the attention span, and forcing myself to do it just makes me hate myself and my project.)

I also no longer have big chunks of time to work on stuff. If I get home from work at 5:30, take a 20-40 minute walk (35 minutes gets me 2 miles at a decent pace, but some days are more tiring than others), make dinner, eat dinner, and clean up/pack my lunch for the next day… it’s getting close to 8pm. I go to bed at 9pm. Blogging happens in that hour, as does any video gaming that might happen. If I have to take a shower, back that up by another half hour. I’m trying to reread The Lord of the Rings, but that’s not been working out so well – not because I don’t love it, but simply because I want to sit for more than 10 minutes at a time to read, and doing anything involves constantly stopping to look at the clock because I don’t want to run over.

Sitting down in my hour of project time and looking at 14 repeats of a 16 row lace chart just makes me want to cry.

But I can tackle a page of calligraphy practice. Or re-inking my pens. Or a letter to a friend. Or making a mandala. Or watching a bit of baseball and blogging.

I guess sometimes I just need “instant” gratification and to feel like I’ve actually accomplished something tangible.

2011 Recap, of sorts

I have been struggling with how I wanted to do a “New Year” type post this year. There’s kind of a lot to sum up, but at the same time, it’s hard to place it all into context. Then I saw TJ’s post, inspired by Sundry‘s, and I figured the internet was nothing if not a haven for creative borrowing. So I’m creatively borrowing.

2011 Recap

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

A lot of therapy related things. A lot of self-compassion related things. I also had the same job in January 2011 as I had in December 2011, which hasn’t happened before.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?


I don’t really make “resolutions”, or haven’t in the past. My one goal for 2011 was to get better at asking for help when I need it, and to be more compassionate with myself, as an extension of taking care of my mental health, and I think I did both of those things pretty well.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?


My best friend gave birth to a little boy, Caden, in October, and my coworker had her second little boy in mid-December.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My great-aunt Helen (Auntie) passed away in April, and a close friend of my family passed away very suddenly in December.

5. What countries did you visit?

None other than my own this year.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

A better paying, career-oriented job, and more mental stability.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

No dates, but a couple of weeks and month-long spans are pretty well cemented, thanks to pharmacy roulette. I’m not sure exactly which date my doctors changed me from “Major Depression” to Bipolar Disorder (Classic, Mixed type), but the resulting change in medications was pretty dramatic and created a space where I’m now functioning better than I have in years.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?


I stuck with therapy, held down my job, and managed to stick it through all the craziness. I also hosted Thanksgiving for 10 and Christmas for 8, both of which I’m proud of, AND I threw parties for Halloween and New Years.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I’m honestly not sure I have a good answer to this question. There are some things I did that didn’t go as well as I’d like, but overall, I handled 2011 proactively and with as much grace as I could muster, and I’m pretty proud of that, even if it was kind of ugly sometimes.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Ongoing mental struggles aside, 2011 was the year of figuring out my joint pain. I was diagnosed with a very mild case of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (either classic or hypermobility) and am now operating 90-95% joint pain free most days. This is a big improvement over June, where I could barely walk and doing simple things like writing with a pencil or brushing my hair was excruciating.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Technically I bought my iPhone at the very tail end of 2010, but that’s probably been the best gadget of the year.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage (duh), though I did also spend a good bit of money on clothing, thanks to the weight gain.

13. What did you get really excited about?

Star Wars: The Old Republic, Updating my Laptop, hosting holidays and parties, my little brother’s graduation with his Master’s degree. Having people come visit, especially my family. Lots of small things, really.

14. What song will always remind you of 2011?

Yael Naim’s New Soul

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:


– happier or sadder? much happier, though I still fight the depression and anxiety battles on a regular basis
– thinner or fatter? quite a bit fatter, thanks to the medicines
– richer or poorer? about the same.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?


Meditation, spiritual seeking, and self care. Also, going to the gym (which is hard, because I don’t get that “woo I feel awesome!” thing from exercise). Also playing the piano.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?


Doing nothing, while wishing I wanted to be doing something (especially something I used to enjoy)

18. How did you spend Christmas?

With my family, here at my house and then up with my brother and sister in law in Waco. It was wonderful, even if it did push the boundaries of my “amount of craziness I can handle” levels.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Um. I don’t watch much TV? So probably Mythbusters or Dirty Jobs.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

I really liked David Allen’s Get Things Done, Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go There You Are, and rereading some of my favorite children’s and young adult books.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?


I didn’t listen to very much new music this year, and if anything, I spent more time listening to Audio Books (in my car) than I did listening to music. This is unusual, and I hope 2012 is more musical.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

I saw only one film this year, so it gets to be my favorite (and it’d probably be my favorite anyway): The Muppets

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 27, and I had my mom here visiting. For my birthday, we put in my spring garden, and it was immensely fun.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Finding the right meds sooner. I’d like to say “not being crazy in the brainpan”, but I’m not sure that’s one of those things I can really change.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

I vacillate back and forth between “eclectic graduate student” and “nerdy bookstore clerk”. I’m slowly learning to be more grown up, and I’ve branched out most of the time from t-shirts and jeans, or at least I’ve started wearing fun and geeky t-shirts (mostly from Threadless or ThinkGeek) instead of just plain solid colored ones. I hope 2012 sees me learning more about style and putting together outfits, because I really enjoy doing it.

26. What kept you sane?

My husband, my friends, my cats, and my family. And my therapist. She’s pretty awesome.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.


That if you’re comfortable sharing your stories, it’s almost always worth doing so – supportive people are everywhere, and I’ve found so many to offer support and empathy that it’s made everything so much easier. So many people don’t talk about the ugly parts of their past or themselves, and I’ve found that sharing that – even though it makes me more vulnerable – nearly always brings me closer to the people around me who care and who matter.

Ursa Alumna

Being that today is all about football* here in the US (for anyone who isn’t out shopping), I thought I’d talk a little bit about being an alumna from a Big 12 school.

I frequently tell people I don’t like football, that I’m really just a baseball fan. That’s only half true – I don’t like all the woo-ha that goes into football. I got pretty burned out on it in High School, where I missed three games in four years, having had knee surgery, and in those four years my school went to the playoffs every year. Football started with marching band on August 1, and went every week until (usually) mid-December.

So when I got to college, I just didn’t have any “school spirit” left – I didn’t care anymore. I went to one football game the entire time I was at Baylor, and that one I left partway through. It just wasn’t my thing anymore.

As an alumna though, I find that I pay more attention to Baylor sports than I did when I was actually there on campus. I’m certainly not as into it as I am baseball, and the season is a lot shorter and there are a lot fewer games, but I watch them whenever I get the chance – which is helped by the fact that they’re in the Big 12 and a “local” school, so the games are almost always televised.

Part of my enthusiasm is, I’m sorry to say, that Baylor sucks a lot less than they did when I was actually on campus. It was kind of demoralizing to hear about losing repeatedly. In fact, it was generally just easier not to go, and to wait and see if they lit Pat Neff Hall up with green lights and rang the bells at 11pm. Then you could be happy about a win, but otherwise you didn’t have to be involved.

*****

This post is prompted by the fact that Baylor, on Saturday, did something that they’ve never done in the history of the school.

Baylor beat OU, 45-38. The previous record was 0-20 against Oklahoma. The current record is 1-20.

I almost didn’t watch the game, because I had other things to do (see: yesterday’s post about Thanksgiving), but I decided that I had some writing to do, so I’d sit with my laptop and give the Bears some time.

Boy howdy am I glad I did.

(Of course, I’m not going to watch much football today, because I only really care about college football, and I only REALLY care about Baylor, but still. It seemed a good day to make a football post and lose half my followers for being a sports fan. That’s been the theme this week I guess!)

*I’m speaking of American Football here, since that’s the game that’s a Big Deal today.

For the Love of the Game

I come from a family of people who love baseball. My grandfather is a good Italian boy from the Bronx, and so baseball was a huge part of his youth. He passed that love down to my father (and my mom), and so I grew up watching the Yankees.

Disclaimer: yes, I am a Yankees fan. I am from a family in New York and New Jersey, and there is nothing I can do about that. I am also a Rangers fan, and most recently an Astros fan (poor Disastros…) If you can’t stomach the idea of someone being a Yankees fan regardless of whether they win or lose, or whether A-Rod is a giant overpaid dud or Jeter is a class act, then this isn’t the post for you. I’m very sorry. (I’m not.)

Some of my most vivid memories as a child revolve around baseball, from going to the Rangers games every 4th of July to watching my little brother’s games in Little League.

We often went to Trenton Thunder games when I still lived in New Jersey (The Thunder is a AA Yankees farm team). At one game, when I was there with my brother, my dad, and my grandfather, we’d managed to convince someone to get a giant, leg-sized Coke to share. Then we all stood up for the National Anthem. Then we sat down. My grandfather did not remember setting the giant, leg-sized Coke on the seat when he stood up. He remembered only after he sat on it, flattening it spectacularly, and getting everyone on our bench rather successfully soggy and sticky.

At another Rangers game, one night when they were playing the Yankees, my father brought a broom and wore his Yankees jersey (My father occasionally is dubious on his levels of common sense). He intended to swing his broom around, yelling about a sweep, because the Yankees had won the first 2 of 3 games in that series. Instead, the Rangers won, and my mom made him sweep up peanuts.

My own attempts to play ball ended rather dramatically – my first practice in softball as a 4th grader I got hit in the face twice and hit in the back once, and I never went back. Other than enjoying a good game of catch in the back yard, I have no interest in actually PLAYING Baseball – but I still love it. I love watching it, even on TV (though I’d much rather be at the game). I love reading about it, following trades and keeping up with obscure stats (though I still don’t understand all the nuances, but I’m not sure ANYONE really does…).

The most recent thing coming out of baseball makes me sad though – my Astros are going to be forced to move from the National League (Central) to the American League (West). On one hand, this means little more than they’ll be the Rangers punching bag instead of the Cardinals punching bag for awhile. On the other hand, this means designated hitters.

It seems like such a little thing. In the National League, pitchers must bat like every other player. In the American League, there are players – Designated Hitters – who are there specifically to bat in the Pitcher’s spot in the lineup.

That said, there’s something endearing about the pitchers who really do put it all out there, swing for the fences, and run the bases with the rest of their team. They’re willing to contribute to their own cause, as it were.

As well, the designated hitter is, essentially, a one trick pony. The only thing a DH does is hit – he doesn’t have to be competent in a fielding position. (Same for the pitcher, but a pitcher is such a key part of a game that they still are essential parts of the team.) You also end up with a pretty significant change in stats and things like run generation, as pitchers aren’t generally known for being stellar at the plate. It also changes the pitching strategy, as you don’t have to worry about a tired pitcher at the plate in your lineup.

Still, all that aside, I just really like having pitchers swing the bat. It’s just… part of what I expect from my Astros. Even if I call them the disAstros. Because really, they’re absolutely terrible.

I’ll still be an Astros fan, if and when they move to the AL. And I’ll still be a Yankees fan, even if they don’t make their pitchers bat. But it’s one of those little things that I’ve come to expect as a Houston Astros fan that I wish they’d make part of ALL baseball.

You know, like peanuts and beer. And cola the size of your leg.

Board Games

Confession time.

I don’t really like board games.

Or card games either, for that matter. Or really, “games” in general. Not even Charades. Or Dominos.

I didn’t much like them as a kid, and I still don’t much like them as an adult. I’m not entirely sure why, considering how much fun people seem to have while playing them, but I just… don’t really have that much fun. It’s not that I don’t learn quickly (I do, and there are plenty of games with minimal rules) or that I don’t like losing. Admittedly, as a kid I was super competitive, and so is my family, and there were a few major fights about my not wanting to play and being called a party pooper as a teenager and otherwise being badgered/guilted into playing (ostensibly because I was “fun” and people “liked playing with me” but that’s neither here nor there).

I just don’t really like board games.

This is complicated because I play D&D, as any nights that we don’t actually play our campaign end up as board game nights – which I totally understand. Really what else are people to do as a get together? Watch movies? I have the Locke Lamora problem with movies too (made worse when I’m with my D&D group because D&D can often tread VERY close to triggery situations), so I’m kind of a downer when it comes to movie nights.

Which basically means I’m a big ol’ boring stick-in-the-mud.

There are a few games that I will tolerate, and some that I’ve even enjoyed playing. They’re usually light hearted, rules-light games that don’t require much effort, or they’re cooperative games where you’re playing as a group instead of against each other.

Games I Will Occasionally Play (Usually Half Heartedly):

  • Munchkin (in any of its incarnations)
  • Fluxx (in any of ITS incarnations)
  • Ninja Burger (if I can put up with the rules)
  • Shadows over Camelot (hopefully without the traitor, but I’ll deal)

I’ve played Arkham Horror, but to be honest, I’m not much of a candidate for the horror genre in general, and even that stupid board game gave me weird dreams. Yes, I’m a carebear.

I also don’t like those games where you have to guess embarrassing things about other people. I’ll put up with a few of them (usually the kind where your friends come up with answers and you pick between them), but generally mind-reader games kind of wig me out.

I feel mostly the same way about playing group/competitive video games, like rock band or any of the –cart games for consoles. Love being around, but have absolutely NO interest whatsoever in playing.

That said, I have NO problem being around while OTHER people play board games. In fact, I usually have a very good time on board game nights, happily not playing, knitting, and drinking a glass of wine. I can get up and do other things whenever I need to, if people get too intense, I can step away without slowing up the game because it’s my turn, and I still get to enjoy the social-group-ness of getting together with people I like who are also geeky/nerdy.

But I still don’t like actually playing. Thankfully most of our group is willing to put up with that particular quirk (and all the other ones…) because they seem to like my company.

Though I still feel a odd as fish.

Hooooo’s your favorite?

I have two favorite animals. They are, oddly enough, a predator/prey pair – owls and rabbits.

I’ve loved bunnies since I was very small, when I had an enormous collection of rabbit plushies, as well as a lop-eared rabbit named Buttercup.

Buttercup was half a house-rabbit, and she was pretty awesome. One of her favorite hobbies was stealing pencils from my desk and then running next to the railing with it, going THUMPATHUMPATHUMPATHUMPA up and down the hallway.

I’ve not had another rabbit since then, mostly because I have cats and I can’t really afford another pet, but someday I’d like to get another house rabbit.

The wiggly nose and the giant ears and the big furry feets just melt my heart.

Sometime around when I was five or six years old, though, I had two encounters with owls that secured them in my heart forever. First we had a Great Horned Owl in the woods behind my house. My dad and I used to sit outside at night and listen for him/her, and s/he hung around for quite awhile before moving on.

Because I’d showed interest, dad took me to a place nearby called the Raptor Trust, a local bird-of-prey rehabilitation center. Along with all the hawks and a bald eagle, the Trust had a large number of owls, several of whom were permanent residents due to injury. The Great Grey Owl took my interest first, because he was just so HUGE.

His look of perpetual surprise didn’t hurt anything either. These guys can get to be almost three feet tall (yes, three feet), and they’re one of, if not the, largest owls on the planet. The Great Grey at the Raptor Trust wasn’t very personable, but he’d been wild until he got hit by a car, so one of his wings didn’t work. Nobody blamed him for being a little depressed.

He was my first favorite, but then we met the Barn Owl.

The little Barn Owl at the Trust had been raised in captivity, a baby who had been raised improperly and wouldn’t be able to live around humans. However, her incredible curiosity and familiarity with humans made her pretty endearing, and she’d play a little owl version of “Simon Says” with visitors.

Those two owls remained my favorite for a long time, long after I’d moved to Texas (and stopped seeing and hearing owls, but contenting myself with identifying the various hawks in the Dallas area) and grown up and was no longer able to visit or donate to the Raptor Trust.

But one of the things about living in the swamp down here is that I live very close to several large nature preserves. These areas exist to protect the coastal and bayou landscapes and hopefully slow the loss of coastal wetlands.

And here in the swamp, I heard and fell in love with a new owl.

The Barred Owl.

I haven’t ever seen one in the wild, and I’ve only heard the one here a few times, but after listening to their call, I couldn’t help but be quite fond of them.

Why?

Well, different owls have different calls. The Great Horned Owl is the one with the typical “Hoo hoohoohoo” call that people associate with owls. The Barred Owl is similar, but the way you remember the barred owl call is to say, in a hooty voice, “HOO cooks for YOU? HOO cooks for YOOOOOOooooo?” and it’s AWESOME. (Great YouTube of a Barred Owl call)

Obviously I will never keep an owl myself – they are wild critters and don’t do well in captivity unless they can’t survive in the wild. They’re also notoriously hard to train (as are most raptors), making the Harry Potter series all that much more impressive.

And yes, I do audibly squee with each Harry Potter scene that involves the Owl Post, especially the ones with LOTS of owls. OWLS! (While the three pictured are my “favorites”, I love pretty much all owls. They’re so awesome!)

So those are my two favorite animals. I have them as pictures and figurines in my house wherever possible, and I’m hard to get out of the owl house at the zoo.

What are your favorite critters?

*For extra cute, have a look at this little owl, practicing his pouncing skills.