In which I have an epiphany

It’s Sunday morning. I’ve got my earbuds in; Eric is knocking around the kitchen, making a double batch of clam chowder and carefully cutting all vegetables into perfect cubes. (He’s the patient one in this relationship.) We’re having friends over for dinner tonight and he’s taking care of the menu. Technically, this isn’t something I can eat, what with the potatoes and the flour used as a thickener, so I’m making myself a pot of butternut squash soup. Tangent, I used my crock pot to cook whole butternut squash I got at the farmers’ market (still no oven, I’ll alert the media when THAT ever happens) (oh wait, I am the media) (awkward) AND IT TOTALLY WORKED.

I’m so pleased with myself for that little victory, honestly.

Anyway, you might be asking yourself why Eric is making a meal that I can’t eat. I don’t see it that way. He has taken it upon himself to create a menu and cook the whole ordeal. Okay, I did pick up some bread, I guess I get credit for that. 😉 He is doing all that so I don’t have to. And instead of having to explain my diet, we can just be like, Hey, two soup options! 

That’s such a relief.

*

This past week was rough. Deadlines deadlines deadlines because of holiday special sections. Coming home wrecked. (I forgot to check myself.) Feeling cranky and tired. Feeling defeated and overwhelmed before I even got out of bed in the morning because of all I needed to accomplish.

I was headed into work on Friday and thinking about how I just need … help. I was praying / pleading. Because dreading the day before you even get out of bed cannot be healthy.

The answer came rather quickly: I am collapsing under the weight of my own expectations. All the lists, all the schedules, all the planning for how the day will go. Nothing ever goes as planned, so I spend a good chunk of my day trying to retrench when things go awry. And instead of celebrating all the crossed off to-dos, I focus on the one or two that I inevitably don’t get to and how I therefore failed.

I started thinking about how I was dreading our trip to Banff and how I did so well because every morning, I set the intention to just be open to whatever gifts and lessons the day should bring. (Good or bad, the gifts and lessons don’t distinguish between the two.) And that trip ended up being amazing.

And then I thought about V’s comment on last Monday’s post about declaring this the year of less — how we might have less stuff, but not less chaos and overwhelm because we take on too much. How we don’t give ourselves a chance to breathe or really even figure out what our priorities are.

I got to work and pitched my to-do list. I went from task to task without any preconceived schedule. I had fun with my co-workers. I left the office at a reasonable time. Johanna and I went to a play later that evening that stars two-thirds of our editorial staff (meaning: I am the only reporter NOT in the play) with two more of my co-workers; we saw all kinds of people that we knew and I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the crowd.

Jo and I also had a dance party in the car during the trip to and from the venue. Our moves are pretty good when we’re sitting down.

Saturday was similar. It’s my market / chore day and I hate it. I decided to skip the to-do list. I went to the farmers’ market at opening in my PJs (well, jeans and a sweatshirt, but I didn’t shower). I came home and started prepping that butternut squash and a slew of sweet potatoes. I dried some apples. Jo eventually got up and we hit The Store That Must Not Be Named and then the coffee shop — we need to get coffee more often — and then we went to visit my grandma. She decided that she needed three bananas and some grapes, and was kind of mad at me when I refused to take her money. (“You don’t let me do anything!”)

We took our time at the store and still got out of there in less than an hour; it’s nice having a kid who shops for their own lunch items and snacks). We took Grandma her produce and she was so excited. Apparently you don’t get a lot of fresh fruit in assisted living.

Usually after all my store stops, I’m just done: No more people, no more activity, just leave me alone. But again, I did not feel any sense of overwhelm or defeat at the end of the day. And I slept through the night.

I don’t know how long my brain will let me stay in this honeymoon period. I am not wired to think this way — I am naturally deadline-oriented, newspaper gig or not, and I have years and years of routines I’m trying to overcome here. Monday will be the real test: Newspaper deadline, and traditionally they do not go well. If I can get out of there and still feel mentally and emotionally sound, that will be such a victory.

Every morning in my journal, I write out my to-do list. This week, I am forgoing that in favor of a gift and lesson list — just a recap of a few things that happened the day before. (Friday: Co-worker fun time, acupuncture; Saturday: Visiting Grandma, time with Johanna.) I’m essentially trying to replace one routine with another because I don’t think I’ll succeed otherwise.

I may never be a free spirit, but I don’t need to be my own worst enemy, either.

Dear everyone,

I’m going to just get this out here at the start: I LOVE when Daylight Saving Time ends. I am not a fan of that whole ordeal in general — pick a time and let us just live with that — but since it’s, like, the law of the land (or at least the law of the state, since Arizona, those lucky bastards, don’t participate), I don’t have a choice but to go forward each spring and back each fall. I’ve kind of forgotten where I’m going with this because I get worked up on the topic, which goes to show that I probably need more hobbies. Basically: There’s something mentally and emotionally satisfying when you get to set your clock back an hour in the fall. I know that time is a construct and that I’m not really gaining back the hour I “lost” in the spring. But it feels like I am. And I like that feeling.

We spent Halloween at home. Johanna had basketball practice and it was a newspaper deadline day, so my original plan of going to my grandma’s assisted living center and watching her hand out candy and the costume parade didn’t materialize. Ah, well. It wasn’t so long ago we were rushing around on Halloween, taking the girls around town to various friends and family — that’s trick-or-treating when you don’t have neighbors. I kind of miss it.

And now it’s November. The year is ending. The holidays are beginning. I’m making a list of all the other lists I need to make. 😉 I’m trying to remember to check myself before I wreck myself (Eric: What does that even mean? Me: … Um, it’s just funny), but I forget until I’m wrecked and by then, it’s too late. WHY is it so hard? My theory is that I’m already so anxious that I can’t see past the minute I’m living. And I’m not even living in the moment, I’m living in the future and all that I’ve got scheduled / need to do / might happen. Just because you know what you SHOULD do doesn’t mean you do it.

I think I have writers block. The ironic thing about writers block is that you’re still writing, you just think everything you write is crap. I’ve written and deleted more words from this post than I care to admit. They’re just all wrong. Even the words I’m keeping are wrong. I know what I want to write, but the words keep going on tangents and in the end, it’s not what I want to say at all.

It could be that I’m writing too much. I’ve got so many assignments at work. There was a time when I didn’t think you could ever run out of words. Now I’m wondering if maybe you can. That maybe you need a break to let the well fill back up.

Not really possible when you get paid to write. One big lesson I’ve had to learn at the paper is that sometimes, you just need to get that story out the door. I may not like what I’ve written, but no one else cares. They just want the story. It’s frustrating and a relief all at once. I don’t know how else to describe it.

It’s no longer fun. Which is sad because I used to love my job so much. I get now why reporters tend to burn out.

I’m going to just stick to Monday posts for a while. I like spending my weekend mornings writing my two weekly posts, but lately it’s been hard to write even one. I’m strictly saying that the words are no longer fun at work — this is fun — but the not fun of work is leaking into my fun on the blog. I need to regroup.

–TW

The Great Walker Switch-a-roo

Tangent: I just survived CERTAIN DOOM when Bean decided it would be a great idea to dart between my feet as I was mid-step in hopes that I was headed to his food dish. It’s not empty or anything, he just really likes company.

Anyway, thought that was an important story to share.

I will try to keep this story to the point, but that might be difficult because the words are rambley this morning:

Last school year, Abby announced that it would be fine for Johanna to move into her room, as Abby’s is twice as big as Jo’s. Well, we built this house when Abby was 3 and Jo was nowhere in sight, but we assumed we’d have another one soon and that the girls could share the big room. (Abby was adamant she was going to have a sister named, of all things, Pepsi Shoe.) Jo didn’t actually arrive until Abby was in kindergarten, and by that time, we felt they needed their own rooms — I couldn’t have Johanna waking Abby up in the middle of the night for diaper changes and feedings, after all. So Jo got what was supposed to be Eric’s tiny office.

And that is where she has stayed.

Well, actually, now that I think about it, Abby took the small room (she was 3, remember) so Jo got the big room, which was also our computer room / TV room. When Abby was 7, she decided she wanted the big room, and Jo was 1 and didn’t really care one way or the other. But she’s been in that room for 13 of her 14.75 years.

So last spring, I guess, Jo decided it was time to move. She slept in Abby’s bed one night … and was like, nah, I’m keeping my room. And I was like, well, we can move your bed too, and she was all, too much work, let’s wait.

Johanna enjoys the path of least resistance. Abby blazes through life by sheer force of will. We’ve got two very different kids.

Abby thus spent summer in her room, and Johanna decided she would move sometime after starting her freshman year. Then the two of us decided we’d wait until Eric went elk hunting in October — give us a good project to work on while enjoying our girl time.

And also he wouldn’t have to witness me, like, slamming a full sized bedframe through two doorways and across our wood floor. Eric and I have different methods for going through the world, too.

The day came that second week of this month, when Eric and his brother left for Wyoming with special tags they were quite excited about. Both came home with huge animals, just FYI, and it’s okay if you don’t understand the appeal because I don’t either. Although I do appreciate the organic meat in my freezer (and the fact that it’s humanely “harvested,” as hunters like to say).

ANYWAY. Day one, Jo and I worked on getting the beds switched. I bought Johanna a new bed frame (just the bottom part); we got Abby’s bed out, Johanna’s bed in, and then we set to work on getting the frame set up.

Easy, really, except I forgot that Jo has two mattresses and they both fell through the frame when she sat down for the first time.

DJFLKSDJFKDJFLKDJFKDFJKDFJSLKFJ:ASJIFh.

Okay, that’s fine. I went to the hardware store on day two, told the clerk exactly what I wanted and she found me a board, then directed me to the back where I could get it cut to size. The whole thing took less than 20 minutes and $4. My feminism was roaring!

I picked up Jo from school, we had dinner and then we got to work putting the new (very nice smelling) slats on the frame.

They were two inches too big.

Look, I don’t know if it’s because the guy didn’t cut them to my requested 39-inches or if my hastily Googled “how big should twin bed slats be cut” search was wrong. I didn’t measure. In my defense, why would I? So Jo and I just look at each other and she’s all like, we can wait for Dad, and I was like, NO JOHANNA WE DO NOT NEED A MAN WE CAN DO THIS, although what we did need was someone who could run power tools, to be perfectly honest.

(This is one of those times where I cursed my father-in-law for falling off his ladder and dying. I’d have called him that first night and he’d have taken care of everything and we wouldn’t have lost two days to sheer stupidity on my part. God, I miss him.)

So I go down into Eric’s shop and eye his table saw. I have zero training and a great love for all my fingers, so I decided to find a handsaw instead. I did — and I found a clamp, too, which I used to steady the board while I cut. You know how in the movies and things, people saw back and forth perfectly and it goes super quick? That was not my experience. But I did manage to saw through far enough, only back, never forth, so Jo could whack it on the concrete and sheer it off. It was not pretty. They were not even. But they did the job: The bed held.

YAY ME!

Oh, geez, the words are making me add this even though my mother will read it and freak out: Every night while Eric is gone, Mom checks in to make sure Jo and I are locked in and not hanging a sign outside that says HEY BURGLARS AND MURDERERS COME ON IN! And I’m always like, yes, we are safe, doors are locked and all is well! And then the next morning after this little saw escapade, Bean was running around inside after I had let him out. I asked Jo where he came from, and she said, the basement, and I was like, did I forget to close the garage door or something? I didn’t even think I opened it, and upon investigation, I saw that Eric’s brew room door was wide open; Jo had used it to bang the slats on the concrete and didn’t close it hard enough when she came back in. And I was like, huh, that explains why it got so cold last night.

Anyway, on day three, Jo and I started moving some of her stuff into her new room and Abby’s stuff out of hers (namely Abby’s books), and on day four, Jo had basketball practice and came home beat, so we were like, eh, good week’s work! and left it at that.

Eric came home, surveyed our work, had to cut another board because one of mine kept falling down (eh, details) and all was well.

Last week around Wednesday, Abby decided she was going to come home for her three-day weekend (special university holiday) — and I was like, uh, Jo, we need to get back on the moving wagon because otherwise, Abby wasn’t going to have a place a place to sleep. (I should also mention Abby decided she wanted it to be a surprise, but, being my child — or perhaps my mother’s granddaughter — she thought it would be good if someone knew she was coming. I monitored her progress via Find My Friend.) And we made great progress in a two-hour time slot: Chucked all the ex-boyfriend’s crap that Abby had hidden, got her desk cleaned out, moved clothes and emptied her other set of bookshelves.

And when Abby came home Friday night, the girls spent some time (after we watched the new episode of The Great British Baking Show) winnowing down more of Abby’s possessions. The thing is, Mom, she told me at one point, everything I want is already in my room at school. I think what we really need is some sort of keepsake box that she can put awards and photos and the like in, but that is another project for another time.

Like maybe Thanksgiving weekend.

Anyway, the point of this story, a bit over 1,400 words later (sorry about that) is that Johanna is now in Abby’s room, Abby is now in Johanna’s room, although actually they’re just back to their original bedrooms, and it was a big ol’ project but … I don’t know, it was kind of fun and Jo is so happy and also good timing on the Abby visit part.

And Bean, who loves cuddling with Johanna on her bed, has taken the move in stride. He seems just has happy in the new room as he did in the old.

The end.

Finding true quiet

I’ve written a little about my quest for more output and less input (or maybe a lot, who can remember?). That’s an ongoing goal for this, my 47th year — and it’s led me to an interesting offshoot that I didn’t necessarily expect:

Finding “true quiet.”

What the hell IS true quiet, you might be asking yourself. I know I did. My life is very loud — not necessarily because of people talking or cars honking or whatever, but because I’m bombarded with messages 24/7. On the radio, in music, on television, in magazines, on social media, on various websites, at the office, in the newspaper’s opinion page … I’m never alone with my own thoughts unless I make an actual effort to shut all that down.

I mean, how will I know what I think if I can’t hear myself think?

I’ve found a few chunks of time during my day where I can tune it all out and just sit by myself in (relative) silence: During my morning journaling time, with my pens and my notebooks and the cats; during lunch, when I find a quiet spot and read (or blog, like I’m doing now); on my commute, when I shut off the radio, breathe and think about the day ahead / what I’m grateful for / whoever needs some good vibes (after dropping Jo off at school — she’s a radio listener); and in the evening after my chores are done and I can sit by myself and read or write.

At first, this was REALLY HARD. Torturous! You want me to sit without any distractions? In the quiet? No music or phone? Talk about scary. I’m finding it less daunting the more I pay attention and seek the quiet out, although I am not always successful, may as well admit that right now.

Sometimes I like the noise.

One thing that helps set the tone for the day is waking up “phone free.” (I first wrote about that HERE.) When I started this whole ordeal, I could last maybe 10 minutes before I reached for that thing. Now, I am up to about 25-30 minutes, which is about as long as my journaling routine lasts.

I’m basically trying to break one habit with another. It seems to be working.

I also try to remind myself why I have a phone throughout the day, when I catch myself unthinkingly reaching for it: To connect with my family and friends. I do NOT have a phone so I can scroll through headlines about celebrities I don’t care about or watch comment wars unfold on social media.

I’ve found that mostly, I really like the quiet. Sometimes I don’t want to sit with myself and it’s harder, but I figure those are probably the times I need the quiet the most: What’s this nagging thought I don’t want to think? What is this feeling I don’t want to feel? What is this issue I don’t want to confront? But usually, I’m happy to do the breathing exercises, to write in my journal, to read a book, to pump out that blog post. I’ve even started to look for quiet time at work — because wow, when I can focus, that story I’m working on seems a lot less daunting. And gets written a hell of a lot faster.

Anyone else thinking about this? Have any tips for us, the phone-addicted? Or stories of quiet moments?

TBT: When Jo got fish for Christmas and we were sure they would die in like three days

Trisha’s Note: I have been working on a real post, but I’m not happy with it yet, and also Johanna’s almost 4-year-old goldfish took the toilet plunge last night and it reminded me of this post that I put up in January 2016 about getting her two goldfish for Christmas and how we didn’t expect them to live very long. (The other one got flushed last year.) We definitely got our 28-cents worth. Original post HERE and real post Monday, I promise.

A Christmas wish fulfilled

There’s something very stressful about goldfish.

Eric had the bright idea this Christmas of gifting Johanna a fish tank. She had been begging for a puppy this year, but recently gave up on that front and began lobbying for goldfish.

I can only assume this is because of the repeated number of times she has been told that our family does better with pets that ignore us, i.e. cats.

Look, I don’t even have houseplants. There are reasons for this. Goldfish technically do ignore you, so that’s a plus, but they are also notoriously fond of keeling over quickly, which is a strike in the “downside” column.

So much relaxation!

Another downside: Having to pick up the pieces of a heart broken over a fish.

But oh, the look on her face Christmas morning when she unwrapped the tank, the joy of arranging the decorations just so — should this plant go by the barrel or the sign? — and the happiness of finally bringing Gumball and Darwin home.

(Gumball and Darwin, incidentally, from The Amazing World of Gumball, a cartoon-ish kind of ordeal that Johanna cannot get enough of.)

It was enough to make me think that maybe this was a good idea after all.

Erring on the side of caution and practicality, we’ve explained to the child that goldfish do not have long lives, and at 28-cents each, are exceedingly replaceable.

“You might go through a lot of fish,” I warned.

“That’s okay!” she chirped.

I was hopeful that the lesson had sunk in when she made a list of 30 potential names — enough for a year’s worth of fish, I’m assuming — until it occurred to me that she was just excited and this was her way of coping with the wait to go to the store.

“You might want to keep a hold of that list,” Eric said.

“I will!” she beamed. “I wrote it in my journal!”

“That’s Darwin,” Johanna says confidently. Then pauses. “Or THAT is Darwin.”

Still, between the idea and the reality falls the shadow. (T.S. Eliot knew what he was talking about.)

“Abby said not to get too attached,” Johanna told me after a conversation with her sister on the way home from the store, “but I think it’s too late.”

I’m happy to report that Gumball and Darwin have managed to survive an entire two weeks under Johanna’s watchful eye. She finds them entertaining and relaxing, and likes to give minute-by-minute updates: Darwin is a bit of an explorer, while Gumball likes to hide behind the plants. They both like the barrel feature.

But while she thinks her new pets are enchanting, the rest of us find them nerve-wracking. The Walker family is on high-alert, with our collective fingers’ crossed that Gumball and Darwin manage to live … well, a little longer.

Maybe we should have just let her get a dog.

Dear everyone,

I’m writing this post in front of the woodstove. It’s raining outside and that’s confusing the kittens, who seem to take water falling from the sky as a personal affront. Pearl and Goose are coping by taking a nap; Bean has decided he’d rather run around and cause a ruckus.

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Rain rain … actually, you can stay, I don’t mind.

Incidentally, we went from summer to fall in a 24-hour period. There is even fresh snow on Mounts Hood and Adams. This has put an end to writing on the deck … but I rather enjoy watching the rain fall and the fog drift while drinking my coffee on the couch, or reading under a blanket in the recliner. I’m trying to remember that with each season comes its own perks instead of mourning summer. And also that fall in Oregon is lovely — much better than our springs. I’ll be back out on the deck.

Johanna is ready for the cold. She wants rain and snow and fog. “I’m a winter baby,” she’ll say when I express my doubt that anyone could really look forward to such weather. True; she was born in mid-December. Is it because I was born in July that I love summer so much? But Abby was also born in July and she loves fall. I suppose it makes more sense to assume it’s personal preference rather than birthdates. Not that I care about logic. 😉

So, update on the sink situation: We have one again! It is with complete and utter joy that I announce that the part we needed to replace came last week (it was TINY) and Eric was able to take apart the faucet and complete the repair in under five minutes. We have some cabinet damage under the sink, and although the drywall seems to be holding, we had an unfortunate crop of mold growing where the drips were the worst. Eric bleached the heck out of everything, which certainly improved the smell — it was very musty. One leak in the faucet = a big mess, that’s what I’ve learned, with water gushing everywhere. I am on high alert for any and all potential leaks now and am also so grateful to have water in the kitchen again.

I have a monthly reflexology appointment and I was telling the therapist about my sink issues — it hadn’t been fixed at that point — and how with the sink and oven both down, I was waiting with bated breath to see what else went south. Wait, you don’t have an oven yet? That went out months ago! she said, incredulous. And I was like, Well, Eric likes to take his time with decisions. And she was all, IT’S JUST AN OVEN. That made me laugh. I get it; I could pick out a new one in under 10 minutes, no joke. But Eric doesn’t. To him, it’s a swirl of brands and prices and installation options.

And I’m used to how he operates.

Input vs. output (HERE) was one of my September goals, and that’s been a good thing to work on actually, just in that I’m thinking about what I’m consuming now rather than mindlessly scrolling around on my phone whenever I get bored. I took Twitter off early on and that’s helped immensely, as that was my major time suck (Instagram and Snapchat remain because that’s how the girls like to communicate; I never loaded Facebook and don’t like it anyway). It’s harder to open up my laptop and go online, so I don’t waste nearly as much time messing around. I’m not sure I’ve written any more than I normally would — only because I tend to write a lot anyway — but I have been reading more (current book: Becoming by Michelle Obama. She is an excellent writer and I’m enjoying it very much).

And reading more is always a good thing.

I’ll post final thoughts about No Plastic September on Thursday … and will post on The Simple Year on the same topic, as Alex has apparently fallen off the map.

All right, now I want your updates.

— TW

The rule of three …

Ever heard the adage, “Bad things come in threes”? Well, we’re two down in the Walker household and I’m left to wonder what the third will be.

Bad thing No. 1: Our oven tried to kill us.

Bad thing No. 2: A flooded kitchen.

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Hey look, it’s Oregon’s own Multnomah Falls! Also representative of what’s going on with the kitchen sink … Photo by John Westrock on Unsplash.

I mean, okay, it wasn’t FLOODED flooded, but we’ve got a leak that Eric has traced to our (relatively new) kitchen faucet (two years old, I think?). And for reasons I cannot even begin to fathom, when the water is turned on at the entry point, water leaks everywhere in epic, massive proportions (by which I mean, we’ve got these two valves under the sink that turn on and off and feed the sink and dishwasher — I don’t know what I’m talking about, can you tell? — and when they’re on, water leaks whether or not the dishwasher or faucet is on; why a leak in the faucet would affect the dishwasher, I have no idea, but then again, my plumbing skills are nil so).

Let’s just say we went through A LOT of towels before we figured out where the leak was coming from under the sink. Or should I say “leaks.” There are four: Three under the sink and one on the faucet itself.

Hey, upside, I’ve been meaning to clean and organize that area for months now — nailed it! But only because everything under the sink is now on my counter.

In order to run the dishwasher, we must turn on the hot water valve, make sure we’ve got buckets and towels galore, and then bite our nails for two hours or whatever it takes for the dishwasher to do its thing. Listening to water drip is not relaxing, FYI, nor is forgetting to put a towel behind the faucet and returning to your kitchen to find your counter a watery mess.

I try to take advantage of having water at the sink to clean counters, wash non-dishwasher safe items and fill up my teapot with water for later use, etc. I mean, I may as well. Water is everywhere.

It took Eric a few tries to get the faucet company to actually take his call, but once he finally did, he was able to get a replacement part sent under warranty … which should be here sometime this week? Maybe next week?

HA HA HA. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Just kidding. I’m totally crying.

Nah, it’s actually not so bad. I mean, aside from all the wet towels and remembering to empty bowls of water before they get too full and overflow. We’ve got three other sinks, so when the water is shut off in the kitchen, we have options. Although, fun fact, I have a few issues (I know, shocking) and water from the bathroom faucet is NOT THE SAME as water from the kitchen sink, but I’m being very, very good and very, very patient and solving THAT potential mental crisis by refusing to think about it. And also by telling myself that at least it’s not water from the laundry room sink. That really would put me over the edge.

What will Bad Thing No. 3 be? There’s only so much in the kitchen that can go wrong, but it’s all suspect.

P.S. Okay fine, there’s no rule of three because science says so. Humans look for patterns is all. Um, still though … 😉