And What Do We Learn From This? or, Sometimes, Nothing Is Something

So what the hell was that all about? The “Pardon Our Dust” thing?

I wanted to change up the look of my blog. I thought it needed some freshening.

I spent the last four days messing around with a new theme.

I dithered over palettes. I added new fonts.

I spent a lot of time trying teaching myself enough additional Illustrator to make a banner that with images I had made or chosen previously to symbolize the blog.

After a lot of trial and error, Googling and help chats, I finally figured out how to create a “clipping mask” in Illustrator to round the corners of the image I made of my face and shoulders, with the heart on the sleeve.

I wanted it round.

Like me.

Mike liked my roundness.

I got mad about how much elements of the “Creative Cloud” that I wasn’t using cost.

I unsubscribed.

Then I freaked out (hey, no project is truly complete without a little OCD smeared on!) about whether I’d still have the right to use the stuff I had previously created if I didn’t keep subscribing.

The (very nice and helpful, by the way – thanks Adobe) chat people said I can keep and use what I already downloaded and created. (Sorry, OCD, take a seat. Or a knee, as the case may be.)

Then, as I was scrolling through the blog with the new theme applied, to make sure I liked the (eleventy-hundreth) palette I had chosen, I noticed that all my “featured images” from past posts had disappeared.

Apparently, I neglected to notice where, if anywhere, there was space for a “featured image” in the new theme.

I’m fond of some my photos used as “featured images,” and refer to them occasionally as “that picture up there” in the posts where they appear; I didn’t want to spend weeks going back to putting them wherever they might fit in the new theme.

Which made me take another look and realize that new theme was a bit too cutesy or “whimsical” to encase my content on grief and loss, despite some other content that is funny. Or that tries to be.

So, feh.

Back to “2016.”

When I switched back, I remembered the reasons I chose 2016 in the first place.

It’s clean.

It has elements I want and doesn’t confuse me with stuff I don’t need.

And Mike died in 2016.

Which reminded me that, when I started the blog, I chose the “2016” theme as a way to keep Mike close while trying a new thing without him, missing him.

So good things came of the whole manic, circular, redesigning exercise.

I got new art that I made myself, even though I’m a total amateur as a designer. I won’t have to settle for banner images I don’t like much, anymore.

I learned more about using tools I’d have to use if I ever need to modify that art again.

I tweaked things a little – a slightly modified color here or there. I’m not even sure exactly what I changed, anymore. But during the process I learned which parts of the “palettes” go where, and where I can use a custom color.

I got the pleasure of days filled with creative flow: that feeling you get when you are working on something you care about, and you forget what time it is and you only think about how to make your project better and get it right.

I also got to remember my Dad with gratitude.  He taught me to apply reason to observation to solve a problem, accomplish a task, fix things that are broken or assemble things that are new.

He called that process “using your bean.”

Dad enabled me to “use my bean” to accomplish something I didn’t know how to, but very much wanted, to do.

Dad also had an expression, usually uttered with sly determination and a not a little glee, while forging ahead down an unknown country road or pressing on through eight inches of recent snow on less-than-optimal tires: “We’re takin’ her through!” he’d say.

I don’t remember ever getting stuck, when Dad was driving.

And then finally, it all came back to Mike, whose bravery and generosity in the last weeks of his life were breathtaking, heartbreaking and inspiring. Memories of Mike and of 2016 were, and still are, central to helping me move forward, fight my fears and carry on. They help me “take her through.” I’m grateful for the bittersweet reminder of him whenever I think about my blog’s “theme,” in both content and design.

So, “redecorating” my blog turned into a pretty good Harold.

Still climbing life’s spiral staircase, I remain,

Your clumsily creative, sometimes manic, mostly anxious but still takin’ her through,

Ridiculouswoman

Retreat – or, Duck and Cover

In elementary school, we had “disaster drills.” We were instructed to get under our desks and cover our heads.

This was supposed to protect us from apocalyptic horrors.

For mere tornadoes, we were marched into an inner hallway in the building, to sit on the floor facing the wall, with our arms over our heads and our heads on our knees.

We sat through a few really vicious storms that way, and survived.

I’m suddenly undergoing a burst of “nesting” – rearranging furniture, buying furniture I can’t afford, planning to paint again, trying to finally finish this house, so that we might actually have people over, to use those holiday-themed guest towels.

The result so far has been some really pleasant together time for my daughter and me, with a cozy fire and no TV (moved to the basement, in a nice finished room, but it will take time to get used to that; I bought myself cheap TV and set it up in what I am calling my “boudoir.” I have always wanted a “boudoir,” and I’m almost done with it. Just need some decent drapes and a chaise to recline –  fetchingly  – on.)

Wait – who am I kidding about guests? And who the hell is ever going to see me reclining fetchingly? We don’t have guests. Neither one of us really wants them, unless they are related to us, and even then, we take them one, or two maximum, at a time.

As for anyone else in my “boudoir,” well, dream on.

So much for “New Year’s Revolutions” . I was going to open up my Facebook page to “friends of friends” and change my LinkedIn page to describe what I want to be.

HA. Today I posted that I’m quitting Facebook. The politics have started again. I can’t take it. It brings out the worst in me – the opposite of what I’m trying to be.

Duck and cover. Sound the retreat.

Hide in the rearranged, redecorated, slightly nicer cocoon.

I need an actual, real job, that pays a living wage and provides health insurance.

I’m not going to get one this way.

But my job search is laughable. It has become painfully obvious that even in an allegedly tight labor market, no one is impressed by my very lengthy resume, pockmarked with caregiving gaps and peppered with short-term failures between too-long stays at high-stress, high paying jobs. Or maybe it’s just bad old (OLD – HA) age discrimination.

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Dont tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!”

-Emily Dickinson (according to Wikipedia, that’s the closest transcription of what she actually wrote – when it was first published, the editor changed “advertise” to “banish us” and “June” to ‘”day.” WTF?)

“Put yourself out there, something will come along.”

HA. Frog, meet bog.

“The Soul selects her own Society –
Then – shuts the Door –
On her divine Majority –
Obtrude no more

Unmoved – she notes the Chariots – pausing –
At her low Gate –
Unmoved – an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat –

I’ve known her – from an ample nation –
Choose One –
Then – close the Valves of her attention –
Like Stone”

– Emily again – and editors again screwed around with her punctuation and word choices – many versions say, “To her divine Majority present no more” but I’m sure “On her…Obtrude” is right because it’s just more – Emily-ish. (Dashes, HA.) The few analyses I found claim it is about limiting socializing to just a few companions, but to me it is about choosing one’s own company over socializing with anyone at all.  The One chosen was the self. Buzz off world, leave me alone. Quit bugging me. Get off my lawn. She likes her own society. Valves of attention closed. Like a kid with their fingers in their ears, yelling, “I’m not listening.” Nothing will change her mind. Stone. Unmoved and unmovable.

I’m no Emily Dickinson and I don’t want to be as unmovable as stone, but periodic retreat is a thing with me. Maybe it’s the OCD, maybe it’s grief, or fear – of running out of money, of not being a good enough parent, of nothing good ever happening again. Of boring you with boring me. Of aging and seeing my mother’s face in the mirror. Of a small, meaningless life, heading for a big birthday in June, sans even the admiring bog.

Maybe it’s this endless sloppy winter and spring nowhere in sight.

Maybe I’m just “tired of being strong.” (Connie Nielsen in Gladiator)

Is there any value in retreat?

Cocoons become chrysalides from which beauties emerge.

Let’s hope so. We’ll see.

Until then I remain,

Your confused, withdrawing, backpeddling, solitary, guestless and unfetching,

Ridiculouswoman

Menacing Midwinter

The glass exploded. One just like the one pictured there, on the windowsill.

It didn’t “break.”  It didn’t “shatter.”

It exploded.

I could not believe how much glass was in that glass.

It was everywhere – inside and under the dishwasher I had just taken it out of, under the fridge across the floor, into the living room and the breezeway.

Tiny shards of it in my fingers and the meat of my hand.

WTF?

I had just taken it out of the dishwasher, and accidentally tapped it – just tapped it -on the underside of the Bulgarian-installed quartz countertop.

And BLAM.

It exploded.

Rational minded me instantly assumed that I had chanced upon the perfect point on the glass that was scratched or hairline cracked or otherwise weakened just enough to cause some sort of scientifically explainable reaction.

Kablooey.

I had to vacuum the inside of the dishwasher along with the kitchen and breezeway floors, missing a church service I wanted to attend, because it was unsafe for my daughter or Sophie the cat to walk through the kitchen until I was sure it was shard-free.

Earlier that morning, the relatively new television started acting weird, too, providing sound but no picture – just an odd sort of lavender glow.

Turns out I had connected the HDMI cables in the wrong inputs after switching out the DVR for a no-charge simple cable box (which still makes me mad – that even though I get internet service from this provider and I could watch TV via internet only, they still make me have a box and their salesperson was unable to give a technical reason why  – grrrr.)

Then the shelf on the new hutch on my new desk half-collapsed – one of the pegs that holds it up just suddenly fell out.

What’s going on?

There was nothing significant about the date that I could remember. I don’t remember what I was thinking about, other than considering giving up on my book, and missing Mike, and feeling a little lost about my future, when the glass exploded.

After I got the glass cleaned up and the shelf fixed, I spent a lot of time trying to complete an online job application, and just as I was finishing it, my computer spontaneously shut down.

Just turned itself off.

Wind? Was there a power surge and the strip cut the power? But the lights on all the other chargers plugged in to the strip were still on.

Weird.

These past few days, every time I veer in the direction of giving up on my notions of writing, speaking and singing, something interrupts, or switches off, or falls apart, or explodes.

It doesn’t feel like encouragement.

It feels like menace.

I wake up in the middle of the night in a sweaty panic, wondering what the hell I’m doing and what could happen, all the bad stuff that could happen, in my capacity as a professional-class worst-case-scenario OCD worrier.

My heart races. I cringe and writhe, remembering long-ago embarrassments, mistakes, and failures, imagining they will all happen again now, and be much worse. I read nonsense on my phone for two hours to try to calm down and go back to sleep.

And then, today: a sparkling bright, perfect winter day. No extremes. Just a spotless blue sky, sunshine and fresh snow on the ground.

One day of calm, after the vortex, and the ice, and the wind and the windblown snow.

The house has stopped creaking and snapping and kerpowing, now that the temperature has moderated, but I predict a spate of “giant potholes that ate Chicago” blog posts and news stories, come spring, because of the insane temperature swings we’ve had. A thaw-and-freeze cycle that cracked steel holding up Lake Shore Drive is surely causing concrete and asphalt pavement to crack and crumble all over the area.

Old Sophie caught a mouse last night, and lovingly left it’s gnawed corpse as an offering  in the middle of the library rug.  She’s still got it, the old girl. I just wish she wouldn’t flaunt it in the middle of the library rug.

But we’re gaining daylight – the sun is up when I rise, now, and I can still contemplate a walk in the late afternoon.

It’s too soon to say we’ve turned a corner – March is yet to come, all lion and lamb, and it always, always snows one more time in April.

Waiting for the clock to run out on the agents who have my query and trying to screw up the courage to start another round instead of giving up, I remain,

Your anxious, worried, but like the backyard rabbit who survived the vortex by hiding under the deck, as yet unconquered by winter extremes and associated all-night-vigils,

Ridiculouswoman