Monday, May 31, 2010

My Cleaning Vacation

No profundities today either.

After running an errand and having an impromptu lunch at the India Palace buffet, I was in no mood to take Kane out for his exercise.

Not only was it hot (which usually is no big deal for me) it was Memorial Day, which meant that all of Lubbock was going to be out. I had no desire to deal with all those little kids at the park and trying to keep Kane from jumping up on them.

So I stayed in my troll hole apartment and cleaned.

I finally decided to tackle the kitchen and all the stuff piled up on the 4 teeny tiny counters in the kitchen - detritus that had been sitting there ever since the movers brought our stuff in September.

After all my effort, those 4 tiny Formica squares are pristine.

There was finally room to prepare food and set dishes down on. Hell! There was even enough room for my food processor - that is, after I put the crock pot in the closet. (And that necessitated my cleaning out the closet as well.)

The stove got a cleaning, too. Those puddles of grease under the elements may have explained why the smoke alarm was going off, even after I cleaned out the oven the day before.

I did 2 loads of dishes. And put them away.

The paid bills got organized. They were put into an accordion folder.

The kitchen table was cleaned off. And I replaced the dirty fabric table cloth with an easy-to-clean plastic one.

The kitchen and dining areas are now nice and clean. And if anybody undoes all of my hard work, I will wring their necks.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Somewhat Busy Day

Sorry, no profound thoughts to share tonight. I'm hovering on the cusp of wakefulness and sleep. As such whatever deep thoughts I may have are not able to percolate up to the surface. So I will just describe an abridged version my day instead.

The day started off with devotions in the morning after not having enough sleep. (Hey, even on my nights off, it's still tough to revert to a "normal" schedule.)

After devotions, I dragged Neil with me to the grocery store to pick up some stuff that we ran out of. Neil sat in the car while I shopped.

After shopping, I paid the rent and water bill at the leasing office.

Then I went home. And while Neil was putting away his 2 cases of Ramen noodles, I was cleaning up the pudding poops that Emi left. (She's been stealing the kitten food, and it must be too rich for her stomach.)

I sprayed oven cleaner in the oven, and then set off in search of over-the-door shoe organizers.

I was hoping that I could find some in the mall - in either J.C. Penney or Sears - which is very close to home.

No such luck. (But I did score a nice pair of black leggings at Beall's and got my hair trimmed at Regis Salon.)

So that meant that I had to drive out to Wally World, AKA Walmart.

Found what I was looking for. Bought 2.

When I came home with my spoils, I finished cleaning the oven. What a mess. And it did not help that Kane kept sticking his nose in the oven while I tried to clean. But I finally got it done, and I had to throw away the sponge afterwards.

Once the oven was clean, I took Kane to the park. We test drove his new 35 to 40-foot leash that I made. It worked great. Kane didn't pull. And little kids didn't get knocked down.

We stayed about 30 - 45 minutes at the park.

Kane chased Frisbees, thus disrupting the disc golf games. But the folks were good-natured about Kane running away with their discs, especially when they were their friends' discs.

Unlike yesterday, I saw no snakes today. Too bad.

It started sprinkling just before we left. And with the temperature being 94, that little sprinkle was a nice relief. In fact, it knocked the temp down to 91.

After taking Kane out for his exercise, the next part of our ritual is usually to stop at the coffee shop, where I get either a passion fruit-orange-guava smoothie or a Ghiradelli mocha iced latte, and Kane gets his usual cup of ice.

But when I saw that the gate to the coffee shop's patio was closed, I went home instead.

When I got home, I lost on a scratch ticket that I bought. The state of Texas became another $5 richer. And I guess I won't be driving out to Austin to collect my $10,000 a month
(minus taxes) for 20 years.

Not yet.

I started organizing my shoes, putting them in the shoe organizer. I was going to give one of the organizers to Ariana, but when I discovered that I had more shoes than what one shoe organizer could hold, I decided to use the second one.

The second one also held some of Neil's shoes, his neck ties, and his socks. Now Neil has no excuse for not finding his socks.

I put all the CDs that were stacked in multiple piles on the bedroom floor into 2 racks that I picked up at Savers. And I packed some stuff into boxes. More floor space got liberated. Yay!

Now I need to go out an buy more packaging tape so that I can put together more boxes to catch all the stuff I need to bring to the storage unit.

Ariana came home from work and started cooking.

I stopped my cleaning when the phone rang. It was Barbara.

Later, I ate a small edame and tabbouleh salad, along with some mac and cheese that Ariana cooked. I did not eat the chicken that she made because I was already full. However, Neil ate the chicken, and pronounced it good.

While at the table, I heard Achmed the Dead Terrorist yelling, "Silence! I kill you!" in my pocket. It was a phone call from Jeremiah. He got a great kick out of the fact that I used Achmed the Dead Terrorist as my ring tone for him, especially when he would always be quoting Achmed's favorite line.

After I talked to Jeremiah, I gave the phone to Neil so that he could talk to him, too.

And while Neil was talking, I hopped on the computer. And that's where I've been ever since.

And now I have to decide if I want to yet go to bed or if I should read a bit.

Meet Solo

Solo was 8 - 9 weeks old when this picture was taken last Thursday.

He was named such because he was the only male in the litter.

Already he's as solid and heavy as a concrete slab. But he has the sweetest personality ever, which we hope will stay with the love and affection that is being lavished on him.

Solo was a present to Ariana from Joe, and already he stays by her side, following her around from place to place.

Unfortunately Solo has to stay with his breeder because of apartment pet regulations. But we do enjoy having him pay us frequent visits.

Prickly Pear Cactus

I finally found some prickly pear cactus that was in bloom.

This is an edible cactus. It's leaves are used in Mexican cooking.

And in the late summer, these pretty yellow blossoms will give way to tasty purplish fruit.

Prickly pear cacti are all over the place.

And when the fruit is ripe, you can pick them off the ground in the parks and streets of Lubbock just like you can pick up apples off the ground in any New England apple orchard.

Just be careful of the prickly spines. After all, it's called "prickly pear" for a reason.

Yucca Kingdom

Lubbock is an arid land, and in that arid land one will find yuccas.

This is the same type of yucca that I used to see in Massachusetts.

However, in Massachusetts I never saw fields of yuccas.

And I never saw yuccas with white skinny spikes of dark pink and white flowers.

And I most certainly never saw a yucca as tall as tree. In fact when I first saw this yucca, I thought it was some sort of variety of palm tree - that is until I saw the flower spikes on top.

Finally Nailed

All the online instructions for safely removing acrylic nails stated that after soaking the nails in acetone-based nail polish remover for 20 minutes, the nails will come off, albeit rather messily.

Yeah right.

Last night I got the stuff ready and sat down in front of the computer to watch CSI: Miami. According to the directions, my fake nails should have been off before the end of the show.

So why was it that after watching CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, and 2 episodes of House MD my acrylic nails stubbornly remained?

I soaked my nails over 7 times the recommended soaking time, and still no light at the end of the tunnel.

Perhaps it was that the acetone content in the nail polish remover wasn't strong enough.

So today I went to Home Depot and got a can of straight acetone. With the straight acetone, removal should be a snap. Right?


It still took awhile to remove those damn nails. Granted, it didn't take as long as last night's operation, but it still took time.

I soaked and scraped through 2 episodes of NCIS - Los Angeles and a quarter of the way through 24.

Finally the nails came off.

Well, not exactly all the way off, but at least to the point I could tolerate.

After 5 hours those long blunt tips finally gave way to short nails that were finally sharp enough to satisfy an itch or peel off a section of tape.


Ariana told me to tell her how my nail removal operation worked out because she was anxious to remove her fake nails too.



But I don't think she'll have the patience.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fingers Busy Elsewhere

No deep and profound thoughts tonight.

I'm going to be zoning out on my favorite cop shows while soaking my fingertips in acetone to remove my annoyingly in-the-way acrylic nails.

I Can Hardly Wait

After tonight, I am going to have 6 nights off in a row. It's be like a mini vacation.

People have asked me how I will spend my time off.

I thought that it would have been interesting to go up north to Palo Duro Canyon or Cadillac Ranch to shoot some photographs. It's only a 2-hour drive from Lubbock, and easily doable as a day trip.

But looking around my tiny apartment, that still has not been organized since the movers brought our stuff in September, I figured that those days off would be better spent making our living quarters more habitable.

Some how, spending my vacation cleaning doesn't sound like a whole bunch of fun.

But catching up on my sleep does.

Where Has the Groove Gone?

Oh no!

After 3 days of updating my blog, I have run out of topics. There are no profound thoughts churning and marinating in my mind. Hell, there are even no pictures of the dog.

Even my day wasn't all that exciting, having gotten up very late, so much so as to completely throw off my schedule and make me rather grouchy.

I am at a loss for words. Well, not exactly that in the literal sense. It's just that I don't feel the motivation to dig up new topics. And right now I don't have the stamina to expound on a couple of tentative topics until I have had more time to mull over them.

I'm hoping my groove comes back.

It felt good to write again.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Coming to Terms

Compromise is an inescapable part of life. It would be naive to assume that everything would go just the way we would want.

Let's face it, one is going to have to deal with things that one would rather not, and that's where coming to terms comes into play.

For instance, take my job. It's not an ideal job, but it was the only one I could get. And there were a lot of adjustments I had to make in my own life, and with what I would put up with doing, in order to get a steady income and, more importantly, health insurance.

The biggest adjustment I had to make was working nights. Not only did the schedule wreak havoc on my sleep patterns, it also caused me to gain weight because of the way it screwed up my metabolism. (Weight gain is very common in people working nights.) Even eating one meal a day and taking the puppy out for exercise very day did not keep those extra pounds at bay.

The other adjustment I had to make was dealing with vulnerable people in a very intimate manner, such as assisting them to go to the toilet and cleaning them up when they were incontinent of both bladder and bowel. It wasn't not easy getting up close and personal with their private parts.

As such, my first month on the job was a difficult adjustment to make.

I was miserable.

I hated my job, hated and resented the fact that I had to turn my life upside-down and get into the piss and shit-filled trenches just so that my husband could have health insurance (because I sure as hell didn't need it; I was as healthy as a horse).

My bad moods, which I took out on my family, increased. And I had anxiety attacks every night just before leaving for work. And if it weren't for my friend Ann, who kindly offered a free Emotional Freedom Technique phone session, I probably would have become a basket case.

I had my phone session a couple of hours before leaving for work, and frankly I did not really feel anything profound during that session. But, while driving to work that night, I did notice that for the first time I did not have an anxiety attack.

Thus began my gradual journey in coming to terms with a job I couldn't stand.

And the funny thing about coming to terms is that after awhile what seemed absolutely odious didn't seem all that bad.

Sure, I still hate dealing with patients' personal excretions and doing cleaning (another task that was part of my job description), but I also realized that this job was not all that bad. In fact, it was rather easy.

I've gotten used to my nocturnal schedule. And my coworkers became my co-conspirators and friends who shared the common bound of a nocturnal world that the rest of the population was oblivious to.

In other words, I came to terms with my job.

I witnessed the same process with Ariana.

She took on a temping job at a call center, something she had absolutely no interest and desire in doing. She hated her job, too.

The first indication that Ariana was coming to terms with her job was when she said that even though she didn't like her job, she realized that her communications skills were improving. And that was a good thing.

Now that she has gotten more capable and confident in her job, and made friends at work, that horrible job was no longer all that horrible.

Whereas before she had no desire to work at a call center, she is now planning on applying for permanent full time work at another call center that is more progressive than the one she is currently temping at.

And in the meantime, she is regaling me with tales of tragically comical idiot customers, her personal accomplishments as well as her blundering boners, and the cast of characters at work.

Funny how once you accept a situation you can move on.

As successful as I have been in coming to terms with some aspects of my life, I still have challenges in coming to terms in other areas of my life.

The most prominent area is that of our frighteningly tenuous financial situation.

I am resisting to accept that our current situation is going to continue for an indeterminately long time, even though there has been nothing to indicate that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel.

And my resistance is supported and reinforced by my fear that such a bleak future will eventually become a firm and inescapable reality.

But at the same time I wonder if my not being able to move through this most undesired state is keeping me from achieving a more desired state. But I am still not ready to come to terms with coming to terms about my current struggles and their projections into the future.

The future is too scary to contemplate from this present perspective.

Another thing that I have not yet come to terms with is my feeling that I where I live is actually home.

That the east coast is no longer home to me has been relatively easy to accept. In fact, I was eager to leave that life behind, for, aside from family and friends, that area no longer had anything to offer.

However, even though I love Texas and would not want to live anywhere else (except for southern Arizona), I still have not yet gotten to the point where I can consider myself to be at home.

Ariana feels the same way, and she has been here 3 months longer than I have.

She and I discussed this matter, and we both felt that perhaps the reason why Texas didn't yet feel like home was because to us a home always meant living in a house with a backyard where we could have privacy and take refuge both indoors and out.

After living in a nearly 3000 square-foot house on one acre of land for the past 25 years, having 4 adults crammed into a 4-room 880 square-foot sardine can apartment with a patio too small to accommodate a couple of deck chairs hardly meets my definition of "home."

But with our current situation, being able to have a house that we could call home does not appear to be in the cards for us.

And it's that fact that I have had difficulty in coming to terms with. I have tried all sorts of mental gymnastics to enable me to accept that home is that tiny sardine can apartment, but it still has not clicked.

But on the other hand, I do like living here. I've come to terms with Lubbock being a rather unattractive city, and despite that fact, I have started growing fond of it.

I have grown fond of living in west Texas, in the middle of nowhere. In fact I prefer the desolation of the high plains to the claustrophobia of a congested area, no matter what that area may have to offer.

Each day brings new pleasures and new encounters with a people whose openness and friendliness never ceases to amaze me.

And that openness and friendliness is the Texas way.

From day one, perfect strangers have gone out of their way to help us. People I don't even know have easily conversed with me as though we have have known each other all our lives.

I have never found this degree of bigheartedness back east. For all its political and religious conservatism, Texas is a mighty accepting and welcoming state.

So, while I have not yet come to terms with a tiny cramped apartment being home, I have come to terms with my wanting to make Texas my home.

The people here are special.

It was good people at work that helped me come to terms with a job I couldn't stand. And perhaps it'll be the bighearted people of Texas that will help me come to terms that this place is indeed home, even if it happens to be a cramped sardine can apartment.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Age Is Just a Number - Or Is It?

A little over a week ago, I met my 52nd birthday. It wasn't a particularly eventful day, but that was OK.

It's not that I dread becoming another year older. It's just that when you've seen as many birthdays as I have, they sort of lose their impact after awhile.

I don't feel old, and family and friends say that I don't look my age, despite my greying hair and beginning-to-sag jowls. So why is it then, that I still experience shock when I register that the "old lady" in a photo is me?

At 52 I am still not ready to cash in my chips, nor act my age. Why should I?

Where is it written that once a woman hits "a certain age" she has to cut her hair, dress in tiny floral-print polyesters, and join the bowling league at the senior center?

Hell! My hair will stay long. Jeans, tee shirts, and sandals will remain my preferred wardrobe. I will hang out at my favorite coffee shop where I am no less hip than most of the patrons who are less than half my age.

And I will continue to drive through the streets of Lubbock with windows and sunroof wide open, and the B-52s blasting on my car stereo.

Despite my inner youth, good health, and still sharp mind, I have just one regret about getting older, and that is that others - meaning potential employers - don't see me the same way I see myself.

Age discrimination exists. Sure it's illegal, but companies find their way around that sticky part of the law. The most common excuse that the mature job-seeker encounters is: "We have found someone who is a closer match to what we were looking for."

Why can't potential employers see that even though I may be over 50, I still have the ability to do the job? The years have given me a wide range of experiences and skills that would be valuable in any job. I am a hard worker with a great attendance record. My learning agility enables me to learn anything that I put my mind to.

Let's face it, I have more on the ball than a kid fresh out of college. And I would be an asset to any company lucky enough to have me.

So then, why is it that employers cannot see that? Why can't they look past a certain number? And why do I see younger and less experienced individuals get the job that I was trying for?

My friend Vyda said that her husband Vic used to get calls from headhunters left and right, but that when he reached "a certain age" - which in his case was while he was in his mid-50s - the calls stopped coming. And in order to continue providing a living for their family, Vic and Vyda went into business for themselves.

That pretty much explains also what's been happening to Neil.

Neil NEVER had any difficulty finding work after being laid off. Even in the worst economic times, when laid-off CEOs would find themselves flipping burgers at McDonald's, Neil would not only find a job in a very short time, he would also have several companies competing to hire him. Headhunters would be calling him from all over the country, eager to snatch a highly experienced engineer like him.

So when Neil got laid off last September, I didn't think anything of it. I figured that it would be the same as the other times when he got laid off - that he would post his resume on Monster and that headhunters would start calling him within 24 hours.

I've seen this happen before, so why shouldn't it happen again?

Except this time it didn't happen.

There were hardly any calls. And the one or two headhunters who did call were ineffective in securing employment for Neil.

At first I chalked it up to the nose-diving economy. Perhaps Texas's unemployment situation was starting to catch up with the rest of the nation.

And f0r the longest time, I blamed Neil's inability to generate interest from headhunters and companies on the economy.

It was only a few days ago, when I read Vyda's message, that I realized that perhaps it wasn't just the economy that was responsible for our silent phone. Neil hit that magic number that marked him as an untouchable in the employment caste system.


Because my resume has been a patch-work quilt, I hit that magic number much earlier. Nobody wants to give a baby-boomer a chance at starting out in a new career.

And with Neil's unemployment and the health issues that he's facing, I don't know what we're going to do. The many medical debts that we have do not leave us enough money to pay our bills, let alone start a business.

And how can I support our family on my pay, which is 4 to 5 times less than what Neil had been making?

Our future is uncertain, and it's hard not to occasionally feel fearful and hopeless over what the future may bring.

And it's in that state hopelessness and fear that the rest of my life is going to be a massive continuation of our current financial struggle where I regret getting older. I have another good 30 - 40, maybe even 50, years ahead of me. But where is that going to lead if I cannot secure us a sustainable income?

Because of my age and the rampant age discrimination that goes on this youth-centric employment market, I have already lost the potential to craft a career that would enable me to pick up the reins and be able to support my family the way Neil had been doing all these many years.

I don't know what else I can do except to continue keeping my eyes, ears, and mind open, and be like the tiger patiently waiting to pounce on its prey.

And in the meantime, I will continue to refuse to "act my age."

Monday, May 24, 2010

On Navigation, Learning, and Coming Into Focus

When I first moved to Texas, the roads were a blur and the area had no meaning. It wasn't like my former home in Massachusetts, where I knew the area like the back of my hand.

During those first couple of months I had to heavily rely on the GSP to get to where I needed to go. But the more I drove around Lubbock, the greater feel I was getting for the lay of the land.

It gradually dawned on me that my increasing familiarity with the area was like a picture that was slowly coming into focus piece by tiny piece.

Yes, that was how it felt. Lubbock was this huge picture that was blurred and out of focus. During my first weeks there, only one tiny corner was in sharp focus, and that was the apartment complex where I lived.

But gradually the edges of that in-focus area started moving outward like a light beam widening to illumine a larger area.

First this started with using the GSP to guide me to the various doctors I had to take my husband to and to the stores I shopped at.

Bit by bit more of the image was getting into sharper focus. And as more was getting into focus, I was able to start intuiting the rest of the picture.

It was as though the lay of the land could be compared to Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper." When I first moved to Lubbock, the only thing that was in sharp focus was square-inch section of a loaf of bread on the table.

At that point, I did not know that I was looking at a loaf of bread. But as I became more familiar with the area, more of the picture got into focus, and I realized that I was looking at a loaf of bread.

After awhile, when I was learning the back roads of the area, I was able to better intuit what I was looking at. In addition to seeing the loaf of bread, I could now see plates and hands on the table. At that point, while I was still not able to see the whole picture, I was getting pretty certain of what I was looking at.

And I found the idea of navigation as being a picture that gradually came into focus a rather exciting concept.

It only seemed natural that this same concept could also be applied to learning.

When we set out to learn something new, whether a language, a skill, or a new subject matter, it's like facing another out-of-focus picture.

We are somehow attracted to this out-of-focus picture. Maybe we like the colors, the sense of light and shadow, or the symmetry. But at that point we still have no idea what we are looking at. All we have is an inkling.

But as we start deepening our knowledge, more details come into sharper focus. Details and textures start popping out. When we gain mastery over our subject, the picture is complete. But our comprehension of the picture is still on a superficial level.

The learning does not stop just because we can see the whole image. There's further exploration to do and still more new discoveries to be made.

Sunlight glinting on a picture from a different angle may reveal colors and textures that we may have not noticed before.

The artist may have incorporated symbols in his/her painting that may reveal hidden messages when studied more closely.

Ancient frescoes may glow brighter with more vibrant colors after the accumulated soot from centuries of illumination by candle light had been carefully removed.

Specialized instruments may reveal a totally different image under the layers of paint that are visible to us.

The variations and permutations are endless; the potential for new discoveries are limitless. And the process of deepening our knowledge, as well as our appreciation can take a life time.

This is what may be for a person who is a visual learner/processor such as myself. But what sort of process takes place for a person who is an auditory learner? That I find a bit more challenging to comprehend.

Unlike a picture, which can be absorbed in its entirety in a glance, sound has the added dimension of time and duration. Sound is linear. One has to patiently wait for all the information to be delivered, and then one has to remember all that information.

Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" takes me through several auditory landscapes, and each landscape is experienced in the present. I need to sit and listen for several minutes before I have traveled through the entire auditory "painting." Very often while in the midst experiencing one particular landscape I have totally forgotten the landscape that preceded it. And if I have never heard a particular piece before, I cannot intuit what landscape will follow next.

Thus, as a visual processor, the concept of auditory learning appears too unwieldy and inefficient in its linearity. But I suppose that an auditory processor would be similarly challenged when contemplating the visual learning process.

Visual and auditory learning processes are just 2 of the most familiar ways of learning. But surely they aren't the only ways. After all, we are sensory creatures who have been gifted with multiple senses - more than just the 5 we're commonly familiar with - with which to experience the world around us.

Can you imagine the depth of knowledge and appreciation we would gain if we used all of our senses when learning and processing information?

Will the next stage of evolution of our species produce humans who are holographic learners/processors? And what will it feel like to use our brains in such a manner?

Ariana's and Joe's New Bed

Ariana and Joe got a new bed this weekend. Not only was it larger than their old bed, it was also much lower.

So for the first time in his life, Kane to experience the pleasure of jumping up and romping on the bed.

Flora and Fauna

Finally, the time that I had been waiting for arrived - the blooming of the cacti blossoms.

While the athletic complex does not offer many examples of floral diversity, there was still some color to be seen on the other side of the perimeter fence (which I climbed over, thus trespassing on state land).

Here you see the purple cactus blossoms amidst a field of yellow flowers, which I had not yet identified.

These beautiful blossoms belong to (I think) a barrel cactus. While the prickly pear cacti sported beautiful yellow blossoms elsewhere in the city, they were still in the budding stage at the athletic complex.

Here's a close-up of the barrel cactus blossoms.

Beautiful flowers weren't the only exciting things I found at the athletic complex. Last week I came across this beaut, a 4 to 5 foot long bull snake.

Despite its mean appearance, Silas the snake was actually quite mellow. He just coiled up and hissed his little snaky head off when Kane got a little bit too close. Otherwise he was a real sweetheart who was very accommodating when I went to take his picture.

I Can Blog Again!

You have no idea how difficult it has been to get on the computer.

Because I work nights, I sleep during the day. On good days I wake up at 2:00 PM. But if I have to bring Neil to any one of his multiple doctors' appointments, wake-up time can be as late as 5:30.

That doesn't leave me much time to get done the things that require my attention. In addition, the computer is a popular spot in our sardine can apartment. More often than not, Neil is on it.

Before you know it, it's time for me to get ready and leave for work, where we are not allowed to go on the internet. And frankly, blogging from my Droid phone does not cut it.

I am at work now, but this time I am armed with Ariana's netbook.

So here we go!