Apprenticeship

Writers.  Writing.  Ernest Hemingway once said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

For writers, writing is at once practice and breath.  Writers cannot live without writing, cannot live without creating, without that constant striving to reach the pinnacle of a mountain that always seems to grow just beyond your current spot on the trail.

Most of what I write just fills various notebooks I keep around the house; they litter the floor next to my bed, hang out on the table and couch corners, fill up my closet cubbies and my shelving cubes, take up space in my oversized handbag.  Regardless of the location, they all share one thing in common:  they contain my musings, my stream of consciousness rantings, my worries, my happiness, my grief, my pride, my fears, my love, my anger, my breath.  The majority of what I write I wouldn’t publish, as it’s the reflection of my inner mind, but occasionally I spit out something particularly pithy or witty, and I find myself drafting something I want to be seen.

I must write every day.  I don’t feel awake or alive until I’ve opened my mind and let the contents flow down my arm and onto the paper.  It is likely that nobody will ever read most of what I write, except perhaps my child when he cleans out my house after I’ve lived my life and have moved on from this earth.  Even then he probably won’t be particularly concerned with the daily minutiae of my life or musings thereon, but that doesn’t matter to me.

Writing is coffee for me.  I need to cleanse my mind each day as surely as I need to have my morning cup of coffee.  It matters not whom my audience is, or even if I have an audience.  It’s just what I need to do to function, to feel my limbs come alive, to feel the breath move through my lungs and energize my muscles, to fuel my cells.

Sometimes, if I’m really lucky, somebody might find something of interest in what I think and say.  Once in a while my thoughts might matter to someone besides me.  And maybe my daily practice, the practice of which Hemingway spoke, might one day be just enough to get me to the next level on the trail so I can see past the clouds to the pinnacle, even if only for a moment.

Hair Nirvana

Something else that makes me happy.  I have found hair nirvana.  I don’t mean a place, but an elixir that far surpasses any hair treatment I have ever used.  And I have used lots over the last 30 plus years that I’ve been doing my own hair.  I have found the kind of hair treatment that allows me to leave the shower, comb my hair and walk out of the house with wet hair.  When my hair dries, it does so without making me look as though I either fell into a vat of olive oil or stuck my finger into a socket.

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Argan oil.  Specifically, Arganics by NuMe.

This stuff is precious.  It feels great to handle, smells wonderful, and doesn’t leave my hair greasy feeling or looking.  It tames the ends, smoothes the roots, and even when my hair air dries, leaves it looking smooth and shiny as if it’s just been blown dry.  If I do use a blow dryer, the drying time is about 5 minutes.  And I have long hair, well past my shoulders.

It’s pricey, I admit, but a bottle lasts about a year, even with my hair length.  When you consider that an average bottle of hair treatment costs $6-$8 and lasts about a month, it’s actually less expensive than a lot of other things you can buy to put in your hair.

For a woman who has spent many hundreds of hours drying her hair with a blow dryer over the course of a lifetime, this product is a life and time saver.

I love it.  Just sayin’.

First Things First …

Here I am, halfway through the month of January, and I am finally feeling better.  I still sound like I’m trying to cultivate a Kathleen Turner sound, but my cough is starting to go away and I’m upright.  It’s a start.  Since I spent a great deal of time over the past two weeks prone, either in bed or on the couch, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what makes me happy.

I’ve come up with two things that make me deliriously happy.  The first is writing.  I’ve written since I was a child, from my first attempts at a play (“The Poolside,” which my mother still has somewhere), to journals both assigned and self-motivated, to research papers and memos and briefs during my law career.  It all makes me happy.  I love researching and learning, then synthesizing it through my brain and churning out something new, something organically grown from my thoughts and opinions.

Hence, this blog was born.

The second thing I discovered this week has absolutely nothing to do with anything, but it’s solved a dilemma I’ve wondered at for virtually my entire life.  That crease in your hair when the elastic band holding up your ponytail is removed.  Any woman who has ever had long hair knows what I’m talking about; the crease that makes it virtually impossible to go from ponytail to hair down without looking like you had a drunken run in with the hot rollers.  Consequently, I rarely put my hair up anymore unless I know I’m headed straight for the shower.  About the only time I put it in a pony is during yoga or some other type of workout.

Then I discovered Kitsch hair ties.  I realize I’m probably pretty late to this party, as there are several companies out there that boast ribbon, tug-less, hair ties, but since I only recently discovered them, I’m going to pretend I’m finding out about something new and exciting.  I received a few of them as a gift and put  my hair up one morning while doing the dozens of loads of laundry that had accumulated during my flu.  That night I pulled out hte tie when getting into bad and noticed that my hair remained as straight as it had been that morning; not a kink in it.  I was sold.

And now that I have a great ponytail holder in my arsenal, I just need to get myself organized enough to get back to the yoga studio so I can begin working on my January goals.  Maybe tomorrow …

Stupid Pet Tricks

As anyone who knows me well is aware, I have two cats.  Two in a long line of felines who have been my faithful companions since birth.  I love all animals, but I am truly a cat person.  I love everything about cats:  their thick, soft fur and dainty little paws, their inquisitiveness, their playfulness, their ability to make me laugh even when they’ve done something wrong, their ability to know just when I need comfort.  Their purring is a background noise in my life, their presence a solid friend on whom I can always rely.

And I love their never ending ability to amuse and disarm me with their simplicity and yes, at times, stupidity.

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Meadow – sweet, but none too bright

One of my kitties, Meadow, began her life as a feral kitten.  She was born in my mother’s yard, and became quickly acclimated to the life my mother provided:  generous food allowances, a soft place to sleep on my parents’ covered back porch, and ready affection.  Knowing that I had recently lost one of my cats, my mother quickly decided this stray would be a perfect companion for me and my remaining crotchety tabby cat.  I agreed, and we made arrangements with a local vet for the kitten to be spayed and have all her shots.  She came through her vet ordeal wonderfully and I brought her home on a Friday so I could spend the weekend introducing the two cats without bloodshed.

I needn’t have worried.  After an initial thirty or seconds of hissing and fluffed up tails, the two cats took to one another like they had been together all their lives.  They were fast friends, and I would find them curled up together more often than not.  And although Meadow was a little skittish, I expected that after an adjustment period she would come around.  After all, she was affectionate with my mother, and I was the one patting her new friend, not to mention providing food.

I was wrong.  After the first couple of weeks, during which I could touch her from a distance and talk to her, she wouldn’t allow me to touch her at all.  In fact, for the next three years, the only times I touched her were when I had to trap her either to take her to the vet or move to a new place, or on the rare occasion when I could reach down as she streaked past.  She slept on my bed and would snuggle up near where I was, but just out of reach, and if I made a move in her direction – even if it was not for the purpose of touching her – she was gone like a shot.

Then I discovered the key to her heart, and my ability to pet her, and occasionally even pick her up (which she still hates).  Greenies cat treats.  She gets a handful every morning when I come downstairs, and I do not exaggerate when I say she lays in wait for me (or my poor, put upon Hubby).  My alpha cat extraordinaire, Bella, sleeps at the bottom of the bed and if Meadow so much as peeks her head over the side, Bella smacks her between the eyes and chases her away.  Since Meadow is not “allowed” to sleep on the bed, she sleeps on the bedroom floor on top of the pile of extra blankets, a perch from which she can see anyone (or the crazy cat) coming.

Bella - alpha cat extraordinaire
Bella – alpha cat extraordinaire

When my feet hit the floor in the morning, Meadow jumps up from her pile and circles my ankles, chirping at me in her loud (think Siamese cats), staccato voice.  She waits not so patiently while I put in my contact lenses and then runs to the top of the stairs, where she waits until I start down the hall.  Once I’ve hit about level with Muffin Man’s bedroom door, she races down the stairs to her preferred feeding spot – under my son’s art easel where she can take cover while wolfing down her breakfast, and continues her yowling until I’ve parsed out the treats.  It’s during those hurried meals that I am permitted the honor of touching her.  She is so soft, like a bunny, her fur thick and dense, reflecting her past as a feral needing a thick coat to guard against the winter cold.  My sister jokes Meadow’s fur is so soft because it’s untouched by human hands.

But back to the stupidity.

We have an artificial Christmas tree because I am ridiculously allergic to conifer trees.  Hives, swelling of the eyes, nose, throat.  Nasty allergic, developed as a young adult.  Growing up, I was always on alert for cats trying to eat the tree or drink the tree water, but since switching to a plastic tree, it never really occurred to me to worry.  Then again, I have never been able to foresee Meadow and her insanity.  My Meadow eats artificial trees, you see.

Since I put the tree up in November, I have been finding little messes, all deposited very neatly and discreetly in corners, for Meadow is nothing if not fastidious, but still, more work for me than if she didn’t eat plastic pine needles.  I have chased her away from the tree on numerous occasions, risking my already tenuous relationship with her, but she will not be deterred.  I’ve tried everything:  I’ve sprinkled essential oils around the base of the tree on the skirt, figuring the smell might be distasteful to her – no; I’ve put our Polar Express train around the base of the tree, thinking the obstacle might throw her off her task – no; I’ve even tried spraying her with water.  She flattened her ears and narrowed her eyes, but even that didn’t deter her.  The only thing that deters her is having people in the room, or keeping the tree in a bag in a closet, which is not really an option for the months of November and December (and January this year, because I’m still sick and get out of breath going up the stairs at night, never mind lugging around an eight foot fake tree and boxes of ornaments).

So for now I simply tell her, every morning, that she shouldn’t eat plastic pine needles.  I’ll give her more food and treats in the hope that perhaps it’s hunger driving her to ingest prickly little pieces of plastic.  And once the tree is down, I’ll begin searching for a “cat stay away” cure for next year.  Suggestions?

One Sick Mama

Mama is sick.  Coughing, chills, 102.6 fever, shaking, body aching, vertigo sick.  I’ve been in bed for most of the last two days, except when I had to go get my boy from school, and even that was iffy; I drove so slow I think people must have presumed I was an 80 plus year old woman behind the wheel.  I probably should see a doctor, but I’m too stubborn.  I grew up with a mother who is a nurse, and her rule of thumb was three days.  As in most non-serious conditions will resolve themselves in three days, and if you’re not showing signs of improvement in three days, you should go to the doctor.

My darling hubby brought the kid to school yesterday so I could stay in bed, mostly because I was so dizzy I could barely stand, but I still had to get up and get the boy at 1:30.  Came home, did a few other things that needed to get done – yes, because a mother’s obligations never stop, even when she is sick – and then collapsed on the floor with The Boy while he demonstrated for me how to put his newest Lego set together.    I was so zapped all I could do was smile.  Oh, and I called Hubby to tell him to come home ASAP, as I was likely going to pass out soon and it might be good if The Boy’s other parent was around to reassure him when that happened.

Hubby arrived home around 6pm, and shortly thereafter I was tucked into bed with a dose of NyQuil under my belt, the humidifier running, and a couple of boxes of tissue close at hand.  Plus my insanely possessive cat, Bella, curled around my knees for added help in sweating out the fever.  Thanks, baby girl.

I slept through the next roughly twelve hours, checking my temperature each time I woke up, and by morning I was feeling pretty good – I had gotten it down to 101.2!  I was feeling like I could beat this with a few extra hours in bed.  Ah, the hubris of mothers.  The world, she laughs at us, and our silly notions that we can handle it all.

I asked Hubby to take The Boy to school again, but he had an early meeting that could not be missed or put off.  I understand; I used to practice law and know how it gets around this time of year.  So I dragged my sorry ass out of bed, then clothed, fed, and dragged an extraordinarily unhappy child to school.

I’m bored out of my skull from sitting in bed, and I need to do something other than watch back episodes of The Good Wife, Hawaii Five-O, or NCIS online.  I’ve tried reading, but it’s hard to concentrate with my nose and my cough interrupting me every  fifteen seconds; I tend to lose my train of thought and place a bit too easily.  I don’t want to talk on the phone because it  makes me cough.  Although that reminds, me, I need to call my mother, because she has this beastly illness, too, so I need to check on her.

Needless to say, I’ve made no progress on my book piles or organizing anything.  Moving makes me cough.  Maybe I will just watch some television online.

So here I am, at least until I have to get up to get The Boy from school at 1:30.  At which time I’ll crawl back into bed and beg my child to get me some water and a cool wet cloth.  At least I have my psycho kitty for company, and she doesn’t expect conversation out of me.

Bella

Finding Guidance

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Determining to begin my January portion of my happiness project, I went looking for the guiding tome, Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project.  I read it several months ago and, knowing I wanted to follow through with doing my own version at some point, put it under the edge of my bed with the rest of my “to be read” or “read and really liked so want to keep” books.  At least I thought I did.

Of course, it wasn’t there, and I ended up ripping apart my books piles and bookshelves trying to find it.  Find it, I did, however.  Then I was faced with the herculean task of putting the shelves and piles back together.  Which I did.  Haphazardly.  Until another day.

On to the January portion of the project.  The goal for January is:  Boost Energy:  Vitality.  This includes the following items:

(a)  Go to sleep earlier.  Oh, how I would love to go to sleep earlier.  Especially tonight, when I have a cold and just want to snuggle down under the covers and shut out the world.  If I could actually get to bed by 10pm most nights, I would be oh so happy.  That would give me a solid eight hours per night, which I’ve found over the years simply makes me a nicer person to be around.

(b)  Exercise better.  I’m not really sure what “better” is supposed to man.  I am absolutely not going to be one of those crazy people who says they’re going to work out for two hours every day (been there, done that, never going back).  I just want to be healthy, so I’m going to shoot for three to four yoga classes a week.  If I can do that, I’ll feel good.  And if I cannot accomplish that every week, I’m going to give myself a break.

(c)  Toss, restore, organize.  This is a must.  I’ve let my files, my books, my magazines, my photos, my projects, my everything, get totally out of control in the name of not having the time.  I need to make the time.  I need to make the time so that I’m not wasting time trying to find things.  So, tomorrow I will put my book piles and book shelves back together.  And then I will move on to my office.  Then my closets – clothing, gifts that I’ve purchased and forgotten about, crafts projects started and never finished (I need to be honest with myself about whether I ever will finish them, and if not, throw them out).  My child’s outgrown and out of season clothing.

(d)  Tackle a nagging task.  I don’t know which task I’ll choose.  Perhaps I’ll combine (c) and (d) when cleaning/organizing/culling through the paperwork in my office.

(e)  Act more energetic.  I think this will follow naturally from getting more sleep and exercising better.

Today I’ve found my guidance and set some goals.  Tonight I’ll begin implementing those goals.  And tomorrow I’ll put my books in order.

Coughing, Sniffling, Sneezing

Not even eighteen hours into the new year and I’ve discovered something that makes me decidedly not happy:  I have a new cold to start the new year.

I woke up this morning with a sore throat, a runny nose and a nasty cough.  My four year old has been battling a cold since the week before Christmas, and I thought I might have missed it through a combination of sleep, zinc and good nutrition, but I learned the horrible truth this morning:  there is no escaping a virus that infects a child when that child insists on lounging all over you during the night.

I guess I’m in for a few nights of NyQuil.  A decidedly un-happy beginning to the new year for me.  

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