Friday, December 1, 2017

Arachnophobia

In the old house, pre-Treepocalypse, this once happened.

My Unit: "...and there was a big fucking spider under the fridge that was alive. It may have been -- what's the kind with the fiddle on its back?"
Me: "A brown recluse. Was it a brown recluse?"
My Unit: "I don't think it was brown enough. I just saw something red on it before I sprayed it [with vinegar]."
Me: "That would be a black widow."
My Unit: "I don't know..."
Me: "Did it look like this?" Bringing up spider images on the computer.
My Unit: "I don't know! I already sprayed it."
Me: "Did it....look like Scarlett Johansson?"

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Brown Bag, Indeed

When I was still teaching, I used to insist on having some kind of adorable lunch box to take with me.  And when my Unit was home, she would sometimes put together a lunch for me while I got ready for the day.
"Hey, I put some snacks together for you for today."
"Thank you!"
"But I had to throw away that kiwi you had in there."
"...kiwi?"
"Yeah." 
Eyes widening with realization.
"That wasn't a kiwi.  That was," {gulp} "the artist formerly known as an orange."
Unit immediately throws everything -- snacks, lunchbox, everything -- into the trash can.
"You need to buy a new lunch box."


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Joys of Working from Home

So sometimes you're loading dishes into the dishwasher (while on your "lunch break"), and Dogzilla comes to "help" (she likes to lick the dirty plates and silverware). And then WHOOSH! Suddenly the bottom rack is yanked right out of the dishwasher!
...because something is snagged on Dogzilla's collar, and then she's freaking out because an entire rack of dishes is following her, and you're trying to get her to be still to un-snag the offensive item from her collar. But she manages to violently wrangle herself free, breaking one of your nice(r) wine glasses in the process. So then you have to keep everyone calm and sitting still and DON'T WALK THERE! while you clean up broken glass from the kitchen floor.

Good thing I go back to the office tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Miracle of Laundry (and Tiny Games)

One Christmas, we decided to go to the West Coast for the holiday.  And by "we," I mean my Unit and her family.  Five adults (me, my Unit, Unit's sister and brother-in-law, Unit's mother) and two small children (Unit's niece and nephew, aged 2 and 6 at the time) all sharing a small beach house on the Oregon coast.  If you're thinking "That sounds like a disaster," you're right; we now refer to it as "the worst Christmas ever" (and by "we" I really mean "me").

There were a lot of things that went wrong during that week, but this is not that story.  And there were a lot of things that stressed me out when all I wanted to do was sleep, eat, knit, and relax (having just closed my sixth show of the year literally days earlier and my first year and a half of grad school), but this is only partially that story.

During our week-long holiday/vacation/forced interactions, my sister-in-law kept doing laundry (among other things).  We were staying in a house, not a hotel, so we had laundry facilities and a full kitchen and other regular house-type things that we all had to share.  And it seemed like she was constantly doing laundry, particularly for her two children.

Now I know kids can through a lot of clothes during the day, especially infants.  But these weren't infants, so why was she constantly doing laundry?  And my stressed-out-on-vacation self was all, Who the fuck does laundry on vacation?  Did you not pack enough clothing for all six days?  Did you just bring dirty clothes with you?  Hey, I did that a time or two in college when going home for a holiday or break.

I did not and could not understand the rationale, especially as it seemed to be one of the many things stressing her out, which in turn, stressed everyone else out.

Now let's fast-forward to six years later -- to August, 2016, to be exact.  My Unit and I are just barely recovering from Treepocalypse 2016.  On August 2nd, we moved into an actual house ("temporary housing" from our insurance company), after spending weeks in both her mom's one-bedroom house and a hotel room.  We walked into a new, larger house, completely furnished -- but none of the furniture (or linens or dishes or housewares or ANYTHING) was ours.  A week or so after that, we were able to get the first portion of our items from the storage company, including clothes and MY SHOES.

And somewhere in there, somewhere between moving into the house with my bags and suitcases from the hotel and getting boxes of items from the storage company, I started doing laundry.  The "temporary" house included a washer and dryer, on the main level no less!  No more walking up and down stairs into a possibly creepy basement for clean things.  So I washed nearly everything I could.  And dried it.  And I happily folded things and stored them neatly in our new (to us) temporary dressers and closets and drawers.

And it dawned on me:  I know why* she was doing laundry!  I finally understood.

Because when things are chaos, laundry is one thing I can control.  When things are chaos, if I can at least get my clothes clean and put away, that will make me feel grounded and at home, at little less "all over the place" and a whole lot less like I'm living out of a suitcase.  That one small thing is done and clean and fresh and "ready to start the day" (or week or month or whatever).  The entire house (literally or metaphorically) might be a mess, but my clothes are clean and in their proper place.
I could have agency over this one part of my life.

And I've come to realize it's also why I often play tiny stupid games on the computer (in the "time management" genre):  because it's one small thing I can control -- a thing I can control and often complete.  They provide a wee sense of accomplishment (as does clean laundry), even if the tiny game is ultimately useless. 

It only took six years, but I finally understood the miracle of laundry.




*Either that, or she really did not bring enough clothes for her kids -- fuck if I know.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Day #1: Embarkation

Also Known As:  I FUCKING HATE EVERYONE

We arrived at the airport at 5:30 a.m. for our 7:40 a.m. flight.  We sat in the gate area, drinking water, saying goodbye to social media on our phones, and people watching.  And in came a family of eight (three adults, five children ranging in age from 12 to two, including a wee redheaded girl who clearly gave zero fucks as she kept trying to ditch her family to go exploring).  The size of their family wasn't the remarkable part; the fact that it looked like they hadn't checked a single piece of luggage was.  Every one of those eight people had at least two carry-on items (probably more), plus a blankie or two, and a stroller.  That's 16+ pieces of luggage to carry on!  And you know most of those children were not going to help carry things, and Mom was already carrying one of the younger ones (fast asleep on her chest because he had apparently had a meltdown earlier in the terminal).  What a horrible, uncomfortable way to travel.

As my Unit and I made our way to our seats on the plane we discovered that we weren't sitting together; we both had aisle seats right across from each other.  A single white man sat in the middle seat next to my Unit, and he quickly agreed to trade seats with me; in hindsight, I should have kept my aisle seat.

Seated two rows in front of us were part of the party of eight:  the mom, the sleepy kid, and wee redhead who gave zero fucks.  None of them, thankfully, were crying or having meltdowns, but the redheaded girl would sometimes just scream and yell for the fun of it, which I sometimes feel like is worse (it's not).  And in the row in between the family and us was an older woman who was only too delighted to strike up a conversation with the home-schooled mother of five.

Unfortunately, on an airplane, at several thousand feet in the air, with all engines going, holding a conversation basically means screaming at each other for everyone to hear.
Which they did.
Nearly the entire flight.
And then the redheaded toddler began playing a game on a tablet of some sort that sounded like a slot machine.  I know it sounded like a slot machine because they had the volume turned all the way up, competing with both the plane's engines and the two women talking.

This is not the point where I rant about small children and technology.  You want to give them a screen of some kind to occupy them in public?  Perfect!  But do it all the way:  give them earbuds, too, so the rest of us aren't subjected to it.

In response to the cacophony, I dug out my iPod for its intended purpose:  to drown out my surroundings.  So I did, and I was enjoying everything from Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do" to Lin-Manuel Mirando & Co's "Almost Like Praying" when my Unit nudged me and gave me a dirty look.
"What?"
"I can hear your music!"
"Well, I have it turned up to drown out all of that," I answered, gesturing to the rows ahead of us.
"Yes, but I'm trying to tune them out, and now I have to tune out your stuff, too."
"But, they're earbuds!" was my useless argument as I couldn't understand how she could possibly hear anything from my technology with everything going on around us.  (In her defense, they were older earbuds and don't quite go all the way "in" the ear as newer ones do.)
So I huffed and grumped and I turned off my music and slumped in my seat for the remainder of the flight.  When she said again, "I'm sorry, but I could hear both," I countered with, "So now we both have to suffer??"
Her:  "Well, yeah!"
And that, kids, is marriage in a nutshell.  Should have kept my aisle seat.

At one point, I needed to use the restroom, so I set my water bottle on my seat and squeezed past my Unit.  Returning to my seat after doing my business, I picked up my water bottle and noticed that it had leaked.
All over my seat.
A significant puddle of water.
I sighed in resignation as my Unit tried to keep her laughter to herself and went to ask a flight attendant for some paper towels.  She came back with a large handful of paper towels that I used to sop up all the water.  And I sat back down and sighed, realizing I had become "one of those people," the people who make a mess, who spill things, who just can't get anything right on an airplane, much to the dismay of their nearby passengers.  My apologies to the young lady on my left, in the window seat.

Our layover in Charlotte, NC was uneventful (after getting off the plane, following the family of eight and all of their misplaced luggage and children).  Next flight my Unit had the window seat, I had the middle, and another white man sat to my right on the aisle.  I'm gonna fast-forward, except to say that the A/C was cranked up so much in plane that you could see the air coming out of all of the vents up along the walls (I assume because of the difference in moisture/humidity).  It was a little disconcerting at first, looking like we were getting gassed with something.  We weren't, and eventually it got cold enough that I put on my sweater.

So, on behalf of perimenopausal women everywhere:  thank you, American Airlines.  I wouldn't be chilly again for at least another eight days.

Here's where things get tricky:  our cruise was scheduled to leave at 4 p.m. EST.  Our embarkation time was between 2:30-3 p.m. EST.  Our flight was scheduled to land in Ft. Lauderdale, FL between 1:30-2 p.m. EST.  Needless to say, we were worried about making everything on time.  We had purchased "cruise insurance" which covered us in case of flight delay, but still.  This was our first cruise.  Everything once we left the airport was new to us (in bold because that's important).

The info from the cruise line had said that porter service for baggage stopped two hours priors to leaving, so we assumed we'd have to schlep our bags to our room ourselves with our 2:30 time.  Apparently not so.  When our cabbie dropped us off, a porter immediately offered to take our bags (and got a generous tip for his effort).

And then we walked.  And then we walked some more.  I was trying to follow the signs that told us what to do.  I'm not sure what I expected, but I do think I thought I'd just be able to walk onto the boat, and that'd be that.  Not so.

More lines, more security checks, more longer lines.  At least we weren't schlepping our luggage.  When we got the last line to check in, the lady at the desk informed us that lunch on the Lido deck stopped at 4 p.m., but that our rooms should already be ready.  I remember that in the cruise line literature, too; something to the effect of, "many people enjoy a leisurely lunch on the Lido deck while waiting for their staterooms."  Okay, cool.

More walking, more ramps, some really steep ramps, and then finally, the boat itself!  Yet another person scanned our papers and gestured into a room that my memory can only partially register because of the sensory overload.  It was pink-ish colored, full of lights and sounds, and people with drinks, kids with ice cream, music, and shouting.  I just looked at the guy in the white sailor's outfit, lost, and said, "How do we get to our rooms??"
"The elevator," he says, with a gesture.

So we find the elevators and the long line for them.  This may have been the point where my Unit and I decided to take the stairs; it was only three floors.

We get to our room; our luggage isn't there yet.  Oh well.  I desperately want to change clothes and shoes into something cooler, but start to settle for stripping off every article of clothing and lying on the bed.  But my Unit stops me and says, "Let's get you something to eat and a drink."
Yes, please.  That's what vacation is all about.

So we head up to the Lido deck -- remember, the "leisurely lunch" from earlier?  I'm not sure what I expected, but I had an image of people sitting at white-clothed tables on an open deck eating, I don't know, tiny cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off or something.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

What we found was complete and utter MADNESS!  It was a buffet -- A BUFFET OF CHAOS!  I think even a "normal" (non-anxiety-ridden) person would have been stressed out at the pandemonium of this "buffet."  For me, though, a person with crippling anxiety who needs to know where I'm "supposed" to go, the order in which I'm "supposed" to do things, where the line begins, if I order my own food, and what "the rules" are, etc., it was torture1.  I think my body and brain just shut down the moment we stepped into the room and were hit with the noise and bodies scrambling for food.

And then, to make matters worse, they announce over the loudspeakers that food and beverage service would be shutting down entirely for the safety briefing.  So then they start taking the food away!  Little signs start popping up saying, "Buffet Is Closed." And some devious chefs left the food out, but just removed the serving utensils.  I was carrying around an empty plate, almost in tears and walking aimlessly, when I found my Unit and just said, "They keep taking the food away!"
"Just grab something, anything!" she says before heading back into the fray.

I managed to put some squares of red Jell-O on my plate and two bars listed as "mint chocolate glaceau."  And that was it.  I didn't even have utensils; I ate everything with my fingers.  Rejoining my Unit, we searched desperately for an open (and clean-ish) table to sit; we ended up going outside to the humid deck and sitting down at a semi-clear table.  She had managed to grab some tortilla chips and potato salad and a napkin. We sat in silence and ate our miserable scavenged lunches, any thought of obtaining an adult beverage long since dashed.

Now begins the portion where we go back and forth to our stateroom in hopes that our luggage would be there.  Guess what?  It wasn't.  And every time we got back to the room I would strip down in an attempt to cool off.  This lasted throughout the hour-long "safety briefing" (mandatory attendance, outside, standing 3-people deep), my Unit going in search of the smoking area, and even a false alarm knock on our door that I thought was our luggage, but was the room steward asking when we wanted our room cleaned.

I was actually lying on the bed, sweating, my Unit out of the room, when the ship's engines started and we actually started to move.  I wanted to yell out, "We're moving!" but I was too exhausted and no one was around anyway.  I laid there, waiting to see if I'd feel seasick.  Nope!  I (mostly) loved the feel of the moving boat; it feels like lying on a giant, snoring dog (you can quote me).

My Unit arrived a bit after that with a glass in her hand.
"I got you a drink.  It's sangria, but it tastes awful.  Here, try it."
Again, marriage, folks.
And yes, I drank it.
It wasn't that bad; I discovered later it was sangria out of a bottle, not made fresh, which explained the not-fantastic taste.

We had hoped our luggage would arrive before dinner (we had the "early" dining time of 6 p.m.).  It did not.  So we went down to dinner in the hopes that it would appear by the time we returned to our room.

Dining on a cruise is an experience in and of itself.  For starters, you have the same waitstaff every night, so you get to know each other.  You are also seated at a table with strangers (unless you have 6-8 people in your own party).  And when you're two lesbians in a new situation among strangers, things have the potential to go badly quickly because, frankly, there are bigots everywhere.

On this our first night at the dining table, we were the first two to be seated.  And we waited and watched if anyone else would be sitting there, trying not to hold our collective breath if new people would suck or not.  Two separate times a waiter led people (women) to the table, in 2's or 3's, and each time there was a quick, hushed conversation with said waiter and anxious, furtive looks from the women, and then they were led away.

Now maybe they had mistaken the table number.  Maybe they had meant to sit with their friends?  Maybe it wasn't about us at all.  Or...maybe it was.  It wouldn't be the first time.  About halfway through our dinner a mother-daughter couple was seated with us and we all politely said hello.

My Unit and I ordered drinks with our meal, of course, and then, as we were looking at the menu, my Unit asks me if I think the theme drink for the evening is included in our drink package (because of course we ordered the drink package!).  Our waiter (Gideon) said that for drink package drinks the receipt handed to us should always say $0.00. 

Uh-oh.

Our drink receipts from the earlier sangria (and then a pina colada) had dollar amounts on them.  Then Gideon brought back our current receipts:  also dollar amounts.  He suggested we check with customer service about our package.  My Unit swore up and down she purchased the drink package.  She even remembered the total amount we'd be charged;  I remembered the day she did it (because I was working from home that day and she was trying to talk to me about drinks).  Nevertheless we were going to have to investigate; I needed to ask about our off-shore excursion tickets anyway.

We were going to hit customer service right after dinner, but first -- back to the room!  Joy of joys -- our luggage had finally arrived!  It had only taken five hours since we first gave it to the porter.  I changed clothes (finally!) and shoes and we trekked to customer service (down 3 floors and all the way on the other end of the boat).

As we didn't have Internet access on our phones (on purpose), we could not show the credit card charge for the drink package and stingray excursion to the customer service lady to prove that it had happened.  We ended up having to purchase everything over again (mentally deciding to check all statements when we got home again in eight days; if there were duplicate charges, the credit card company would remove the extras).  We purchased our drink package and two tickets for the stingray excursion in Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (Day #3).

And all we had to do was stand in line for 15-20 minutes behind a crazy lady who decided to befriend us.  She stood all of five feet tall (if that), had dyed blonde hair, and was in her mid-fifties (by her own admission).  And just beneath her blonde bangs were two jet-black eyebrows that had to have been tattooed on her forehead.  I couldn't stop staring at them; thankfully, it looked like I was making general eye contact with her as she chattered about why she was in standing in line.

"Eyebrows" (as she shall henceforth be known) had "spent the last three hours" cleaning her stateroom because it was "filthy" when she got there.  (By "cleaning," she meant wiping everything down with a damp paper towel, she explained to us.)  "None of the corners had even been touched by a vacuum cleaner."  And she cruises a lot -- A LOT!  She's a flight attendant, so she knows about these things.  And she's cruised with Carnival before, and she has never had a room this bad.  And she "told the steward it wasn't his fault, but really it is; I mean, it's his job."  And she would heave a sigh as only the truly put-upon can and say, "I don't want to complain; I want to enjoy my vacation,...but" (conspiratorially) "if the rooms are dirty, what else is dirty?"

But that's not the kicker.  And neither were the eyebrows the most bizarre part.  The bizarre part was during all of this conversation she had her room key in one hand and a black plastic knife in the other.
And we never found out why.
She never said why she had the plastic knife (or how it related to the room-cleaning saga).  Sometimes she would use it to punctuate her statements, as we saw when it was her turn at the customer service counter and the customer service guy would instinctively back away a bit when she waved it around.  We never saw her again during the remainder of the trip.  And we never could figure out the plastic knife.

After all was said and done, we got (more) drinks and sat on our room's balcony.  I took in the air, the stars, the waves, the rock of the boat (and my Nth drink) and finally, finally said, "This is very relaxing."  But it took the entire fucking day to get there.

Up next:  Our First Port


1Other fun things I stressed out about during the time in the cabin and rushed to look up while my phone still had an Internet connection:

  • Do we really have to attend the safety briefing?
    • Where is our "mustard station"? ("Muster station," but it sounded like "mustard" every time)
    • Where are the life jackets?  Are we supposed to wear them?
  • Is this water included in the drink package?
  • Are we supposed to eat in the dining room on the first night (or is it just more buffet chaos)?
  • Where's breakfast tomorrow morning?
    • Is there breakfast tomorrow morning?
    • Why isn't it listed?
    • I thought I read something about a brunch.  WHERE'S THE BRUNCH??
  • How do we know when it's a "dress-up" night?
    • What happens if you don't meet the dress code?
  • What day is our off-shore excursion?
    • Where are the tickets?
    • This says tickets will be delivered to our room, but they're not here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Listen to Your Gut

And by "your gut," I mean MY gut.  I've advocated frequently in the past for listening to your body, your "gut" and what it's trying to tell you about (possibly dangerous) people.  And I was recently slapped in the face by the Universe with not one, but two reminders to take my own damn advice.

Reminder #1:  If It Feels Awkward, It's Because It Is

Friendships shouldn't feel awkward.  If you continually feel awkward around a person or get a "weird vibe" from them, a second glance should be taken at said friendship.  Sometimes it can be hard because you'll tell yourself it's just in your imagination or even "Well, maybe s/he is just an awkward person."  Listen to your gut.  Even if the latter is true, you will eventually find a rhythm with that friend, and things won't be awkward.

Unless they are.

In which case, look for the patterns.  Dammit, Leonard, you're an analyst by trade!  You should have seen this sooner.  But just like in my day job, sometimes it's hard to see the larger patterns at work when you're up close and personal with the data.  Ya gotta back up a bit.

Patterns in no particular order include:  walking on eggshells for fear of upsetting said person, the giving of unwanted gifts, randomly showing up to a person's appointments and things (unannounced), continually having to defend said friendship as not being inappropriate or "that way."

There's wearing your heart on your sleeve, and then there's obsession with people.  And each obsession follows the same steps and same patterns above, lather rinse repeat.  There's having a friend with whom you can talk and discuss things, and then there's using a person as your personal (verbal) punching bag.  It took me five fucking years to realize this particular pattern and lesson, despite the awkwardness and despite my gut.

Reminder #2:  If It Sounds Fishy, It Probably Is

Caution should be taken when entering into business arrangements of any kind -- even businesses with friends and acquaintances, even business ventures that don't require any money from you.  I've realized that I tend to take most things at face value until proven otherwise.  But when you keep asking for data, for answers, for things to be accomplished, for months at a time, and it's a continual delay and/or lip service, Leonard is out.  I wouldn't put up with that during my day job or any of my other business dealings, why would I take it from an acquaintance?

And that's just it -- an acquaintance.  I had to step back and realize "I've only known said individual for X number of months."  Friends, those I've known for years, are deserving of some faith, some "benefit of the doubt"; they've earned some good will and a little free work (my time).  But even after that time has passed, I would expect results from them.

People who I have known for less than a year, I need to start asking for proof up front.  And sometimes when starting a project from the ground up, that "proof" won't be there.  And that's okay; that just means that I'm not meant to be part of the "ground-up" team.  Call me when you have data, answers, contact information, receipts, a functional website.

And again, look for the patterns:  continual removing and/or replacing of people.  The same or similar answers in response to "Where is this thing?"  Walking on eggshells, uneven temperament, extreme reactions to nearly everything.  None of those are ideal characteristics when trying to run a business, a foundation, or start a program from the ground up.

And frankly no one project is worth my feeling sick to my stomach every time I check my e-mail, wondering what fiasco, drama, or temper tantrum is awaiting.

Conclusion:

Some of this is on me.  I don't consider myself a gullible person (but what gullible person does?).  I'm a cynic, a skeptic, and an irritatingly rational person well-versed in the art of rhetoric.  I need that healthy dose of skepticism at the start of a project (or friendship), not later, when I'm waiting to be proved wrong.  A little less good will and a lot more "please provide your references."  I need to speak up louder when I begin questioning things and when I disagree and to not feel bad about doing so.

And, as always, I need to listen to my gut.  It hasn't been wrong yet.

Comic by The Awkward Yeti

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Regarding Charlottesville

From my Facebook page (and too long to share on Twitter):

CAN'T.


There are not "good people" on "both sides." There are Nazis/white supremacists (bad) and everyone else (not bad).

This is not about "erasing history" or "heritage" or some such bullshit. We still remember the horror of the Holocaust, but we don't do it by putting up statues of Hitler.

This is not new; it's just "new" to some of us who haven't been experiencing it our entire lives.
Black Lives Matter is neither a hate group nor a terrorist organization. Gun-toting, radical Christian, straight white men, however, are.

This country was founded on the backs of non-white people, of slaves, and of indigenous people. We did that. Us. And it was awful. And people of all colors still feel the reverberations of those actions; as a white woman I benefit because I don't have to fear for my life when encountering the police because I'm just "a harmless white woman." My black and brown friends do NOT benefit from it in a myriad of ways (institutionalized racism, the U.S. prison system, redlining of neighborhoods, just to name a few).

The only way to ever truly move forward is to acknowledge that we did horrible, unspeakable things without "justification" or "qualification." WE DID THEM. IT WAS HORRIBLE. And spend the rest of our time DOING AND BEING BETTER.


Not up for discussion, bitches.

Also, educate your fucking selves by reading this .  If you somehow cannot take the time to read the entire thing, at least look at the timeline as the pattern is pretty fucking clear.