February 26, 2016

Counterpoint: How I love the internet

Most people who know me offline-only don’t know that I’ve got health issues. I don’t advertise, and unless it’s relevant, it never gets discussed. But it’s a very real thing that impacts everything I do in every way possible.

PiC lives with me and still forgets how overwhelmingly present my pain and fatigue can be. The level of exhaustion I feel every single day is equivalent to having a bad head cold. Higher pain episodes are like being struck down with the flu and its friend, the 105 degree fever, losing control of your muscles and consciousness, an anvil on your chest forcing you to gasp for the lightest breath. For days. Days and nights, forever and ever amen.

From that perspective, even though I’m considered “functional”, lots of “regular” life pleasantries become a trial. A walk around the block takes planning: rest for 3 hours, walk for 20 minutes. Cooking a simple dinner? Spread it across 12 hours or pay the price. A phone call? It’d better be really important because I have to take time and attention away from what I’m doing to properly entertain the call and use energy for talking aloud. A couple phone calls can wipe me out for the rest of the day.

You’d better believe I sorely miss the days when none of that was true. When I could work all day, play late into the night, and only be a bit worse for wear the next morning. How I miss the energy and invulnerability of youth and good health! In lieu of that, I’ll instead be deeply grateful for how much life I still have thanks to today’s connectivity.

My high degree of introversion requires at least a 15:1 ratio of solitary to social time. In the pre-Internet days, it was 30:1 because social time demanded that I be presentable. None of this rat’s nest hair, unkemptness and pajamas deal. That stopped being ok after high school, apparently.  Who voted for that anyway? Nowadays, my life revolves around the internet.

While Vicky has a point that it can be all-consuming in a negative way, and I can feel to my marrow the longing to enjoy the air and saddle up my horse for an early morning ride instead of groggily waking up to work email, the fact is, with my health reality? There would be no riding for me. There would be no refreshing bracing air, there would be no breakfast on the propane stove. I would be an even crankier, isolated, friendless, shut-in. And who likes an angry shut-in except their cats? And I suspect that’s only because the cats are playing the long game. *shiver*

Why I love the internet

Boundaries

It’s far easier to set boundaries on the time you spend on any given thing when it’s entirely on the internet. If I’m chatting with someone on Twitter, it’s easy to just stop when I need to. The nature of the tool is that, barring the horrible trolls, you can very easily engage and disengage at will. You’re not required to engage with anyone.

Contrast that to when you run into someone you know on the street and don’t dodge around a corner fast enough. Then you get roped into a conversation you never wanted with someone who ignores your every “well, gotta go!” with a fresh topic until you just want the earth to open up and swallow you both. Preferably in separate chasms. PLEASE.

Naturally, I LOVE email. I can talk to someone at length, at my discretion and leisure, and they can do the same. No pressure!

Social me up

As much as my first thoughts about interacting with people dart toward “make it stop!” I do need the occasional friend.

But when I do want friends, this is the sad truth: my offline-only friends have scattered like dandelion fluff to all corners of the country and are busy with their own lives. You can find them on Facebook now, not just a phone call and ten minute car ride away. We keep in touch and see each other when we can but 98% of the year, I’m on my own. Or I would be, if I didn’t have the friends I’ve since made who are happily accessible in the space in which I can safely dwell without losing days thereafter gasping for air.

I’m not saying that my friends don’t care. But beyond our time and geographic constraints, the friends who are physically capable of doing in their 30s what they could do in their 20s are not the friends who necessarily understand or can accommodate the person that you became: someone in their 30s who functions like someone in their 80s. They didn’t spend the last two decades in waiting rooms alongside a geriatric population. They didn’t have to see a specialist whose youngest patient was 68 years old as their regular physician. You don’t see movies about the bucket lists of 30 year olds who are anticipating the possibility of spending their last 40 years crippled. That’s not a fun story and it’s not a fun life.

On the internet, not only can I have that social interaction and not be lonely during a string of isolation-days, I can find friends who understand what I mean when I say “I hurt.” And only on the internet could I message someone at 2 am saying “so I’m in labor” and not feel weird about it. Or message a friend at 4 am (you know who you are, Patti!) to ask “is this normal??” for the 50th time about a recalcitrant child that simply would NOT sleep.

Social vetting: the proof is in the mutual friends

After 5 years of determined experimentation, the data shows that you cannot make friends if you only leave the house, on average, 1 day out of 7 and avoid talking to people. (Why would I avoid talking to people? They’re draining.) It takes time and energy and that stuff is precious when it can’t be bought for love, money, or food bribery.

But making new friends is a thing you have to do if your old ones are all on the opposite. Pre-internet, this was a commitment of massive proportions: get cleaned up, drive/ride/walk to a place, wait for someone to show up that may or may not have common interests, find that they’re a delightful (yay!) or horrifying (oh no!) individual. In the latter case, wait for them to finally stop talking and lose interest so that you can hightail it out of there, taking three alternate routes and turnings so you can be sure that *if* they were also creepy they couldn’t track you home. [Only dudes have ever tried this with me. Dudes, if you’ve followed someone after a meet up? Don’t. That is super creepy.]

Over years of writing this blog, I’ve been incredibly lucky to find friends in a handful of fellow bloggers. Our friendships have deepened to the point where I refer to some as Gateway Friends. If they have deemed someone suitable to be friends with, I trust their judgment such that “your friend is my friend.” And that became possible because I witnessed their interactions on a regular basis and could judge for myself whether this is a person I’d like in my circle.

Heck, Vicky herself is someone I’d call a friend over our many shared years of blogging! We’ve never had the pleasure of meeting but we’ve helped each other out in a pinch, we’ve chatted over email, and where  do you draw the line at friendship? You don’t need to know if my laugh mimics the Roadrunner and I don’t need to know if your hair is a particular shade to be valued, do we?

My friends, who are actual living, thinking, caring and hugely supportive human beings whether or not we’re in the same room, are friends only because the internet made it possible.

A life without work has little meaning

It’s hard to recall a time in my life when I wasn’t working. Whether it was for my parents, for volunteer hours, or for a living, you’d have to go back to the early childhood years to find a period when I wasn’t doing some kind of labor. And I loved it. Heaven help me but it’s so satisfying to do something well and meaningful.

If I weren’t working for a living, I’d be working for a cause, or something I believed in. That’s why I want to retire, even, so I can do what I want: help!  But since I do have to work for a living, well, I have fifteen years of working in retail and another ten in my industry besides to be as grateful as Seamus with a brand new chew toy for the ability to telecommute to my current job.

Because most of my job can be done online, my time and energy can be focused on getting the job done, no wasting time on social niceties, I can also afford to live. Blimey but that’s a relief.

Fun is not just for the young

Pre-debilitation, I never walked anywhere that I could run, and never ran anywhere I could sprint. You can imagine how quickly all of that screeched to a halt when the whole disease thing set in. What did that leave me? Every activity I loved was my imaginary Olympic tryout, and then I couldn’t move. And if I did in defiance of nature? Bed, three weeks.

The internet can be a wonderful or awful place and I choose the wondrous. The internet gives me access to free books, chit chat with friends, and email with other friends. It gives me this blog! It gives me resources on food, raising the young, it gives me clothing that fits, DELIVERED! The number of stores I don’t have to search in person and on foot, for that, I give thanks. Heck, the internet makes it possible for PiC to try to replace our car without having to deal with the smarmy weasel-y salesmen we can’t stand. (I’ve met exactly one car salesman in 20 years who wasn’t gross. The odds are not in our favor.)

I can’t be the only person who loves what the internet lets us do. What about you?

August 14, 2015

The dog that ruined it for everyone

An “ode” to Guest Dog. I never thought there would come a day when I declared any dog unlikeable but never say never applies here.

I’ve watched pets for friends and acquaintances for years. It’s never been a problem and I’ve always enjoyed either helping a friend out or making a little extra cash. There were no drawbacks to that job, in my experience. More dog responsibilities meant more dog time! Yay! Until now. We just had a friend’s dog over for the longest week in our history of petsitting. There were regrets. So many regrets.

This dog is a familiar face. She’s usually a terrible companion, but harmlessly obnoxious. She’s not trained, has no manners, jumps on anyone and anything, and would lick even your tonsils given a hint of a chance.

This made her not the most eagerly anticipated guest but I was sure we’d be fine in the end. Boy did I ever call that wrong!

She arrived on our doorstep the first morning and commandeered Seamus’s rug, refusing to allow him to relax in his usual spot near my desk. Fine, he found another place to hang out. She spent the day scratching, and early that evening we realized why.

SHE HAD FLEAS. And she’d spent the whole day scratching herself and shedding flea dirt on our rug by my desk. Fantastic. (Ask FaM just how fantastic this is.)

I immediately hauled out a dose of Advantix flea treatment for her which starts working immediately but that only took care of the live ones as they bit her. Seamus is protected year round. That just left us to serve as the blood bars. And bloodsuckers LOVE me. Wunderbar.

By the time we settled LB down for the night and cleared up, it was 11 pm. There was no time to run around to the shops so we had to pull out the home remedies. We salted the rugs and set out detergent traps in hopes the fleas would die in them.

Two days later, we were still getting bitten. It was time for the big guns – the local shops didn’t have it so I special ordered Fleabusters on the recommendation of several friends. That was insult to injury: $36 and PiC had to spend hours that evening cleaning and treating our floors. The powder is incredibly fine and it was like we’d disturbed the ancient ghosts of tiny dust vengeance. We all retreated from the main rooms, so guest dog was relocated to the bathroom to spare her from the flea treatment and us from her shedding more flea dirt in the carpet. During her confinement, she decided to scratch the paint off the door. So now PiC has to sand down and repaint that door. We really didn’t have anything better to do this month.

To really crown her stay with us, she decided to sink to new lows. Midweek, I was checking her for fleas and flea dirt, bribing her with treats as usual, because she was still scratching incessantly and I was trying to figure out what needed to be done for her comfort. She cooperated for a minute and then took off sprinting for our bedroom and Seamus’s bed. That’s off limits at the best of times but for a flea carrier? Absolutely not! She’s notorious for rubbing herself all over furniture and there was no way I was going to strip down all the bedding and wash it all again in the middle of the night. I failed to intercept her but quickly went to shoo her out of the room, and would you believe she turned to chew on me like I was a corn cob?? Luckily I’ve had years of experience with dogs and was quick enough to avoid getting shredded but she was like a rabid badger so I couldn’t even civilly pick her up or escort her out. She had to be leashed and hauled out.

I had intended to give her a bath before she went home and give her a nice conditioner for her itching but she spent the next three days sidling over and baring her teeth. I shelved that plan.

I have never been so eager or thrilled to wash our hands of a guest dog. The fleas weren’t her fault but she was a pill and a half for everything else.

It’s going to be a very long time before we pet sit for anyone again, even if we do owe them a favor. I’ll make or buy them dinner instead.

I’d vaguely considered hosting on DogVacay as we had a really good experience with boarding Seamus with some great sitters but, after this, I don’t think we’re going to take a chance on that!

August 7, 2015

O sunshiney day!

Abby at I Pick Up Pennies was kind enough to bestow upon me the Sunshine Blogger Award and tag me with some questions.

1. What’s the best thing you’ve purchased or been given in the past six months?

Honest first answer: I can’t remember.
Slightly more thoughtful second answer: 3-way tie between on sale t-shirts, a dress that I can actually wear for a semi-fancy event… (I can’t remember my 3rd but it was good! I swear!)

2. What’s your favorite snack? (No one gets to say fruit.)

But I love (some) fruit! Probably not my favorite, though. Honey roasted peanuts, then.

3. What form of exercise do you hate the most. (“All” is a perfectly acceptable answer.)

Anything that cripples me. I actually like exercise, in theory. I just hate when it puts me out of commission for days or weeks.

4. If you could afford/manage to live anywhere, where would it be?

A few small towns over, probably, for slightly better weather. Or, given the dire predictions about the next Big One in the Bay Area or the next Super Destructive Big One that should sink Seattle, maybe Colorado or Arizona? I like where we are, now, but the real estate market is terrible and it’s all liable to go smash when we have a real quake even if we could afford ridiculous prices.

5. What’s the geekiest hobby or pastime you have?

Being me. No, that’s not an answer. I need to chart progress on everything I do? I SDCC every year? I still stay up late reading comics when I can?

Over to y’all!

Want to answer the questions that Abby posed? You know you do! Make yourself at home in the comments!

Nominations!

If you’re so inclined to participate, I’d like to pass the award along with Abby’s questions to people who could probably answer them better 🙂

Save. Spend. Splurge.
NZMuse
Sense to Dollars
Budget and the Beach
Nicole & Maggie

July 2, 2015

School lunches shouldn’t be this difficult

Or that should say: Being a humane adult should NOT be so difficult.

This is the second story I’ve heard about kids and school lunches this week that’s got me wondering what is wrong with people and our system. If it’s accurate that this kitchen manager was fired solely for giving kids free hot lunch, because she didn’t think that “one slice of cheese on a hamburger bun and a small milk” was adequate nutrition, isn’t it time to really think about what on earth we’re spending money on here?

I went to look for the first story about a lunch worker taking away a kid’s hot lunch and throwing it out, but instead I find that this is an ongoing issue and an active policy.

Schools are always battling shrinking budgets but at the end of the day, shouldn’t the health of the kids be a top priority!? How can students be expected to learn when malnourished?

This just reignites all my sense of the unfairness of life for young kids whose family lives are disrupted, plagued by poverty, illness, or bad decisions.

June 24, 2015

A stroll down memory lane: a few of my favorite things

I’d been reminiscing about my mom, and even though there are some material things I cherish, the clearest, most important memories were more about how she was a great person and an amazing example for an awkward and introverted little kid.

Naturally, I think some activities are worth the money (traveling, learning new cultures, learning that the world is a big place, delicious foods), but I tend to be heavily biased toward the kind of childhood things that money can’t buy.

 

My Favorite …

Childhood birthday gift: my first and very own piggy bank from my older cousins. I still have it and will probably pass it on to LB.

Adulthood birthday gift: everything PiC picks. But if I had to choose just one, it’d be the Tiffany necklace he picked. I never would have picked it myself because it was extravagant and unnecessary. But if I were to pick something from their catalog, this was the one piece that would have made the cut. It was a cute pendant, in a shape I liked, and fairly low-priced for a Tiffany piece.

Food: Pho. Spring rolls. Cheese. Bacon. Pasta. Bread. Bartlet Pears. Prosciutto. Carnitas. I can’t do this one.

Travel Destination: Italy. Eating in Italy. Probably all of it. Send me to explore the rest of it to be sure!

Person: PiC. LB is a close second but we have to wait and see if ze becomes a human we respect and like, as well as love automatically as hir parents.

My Favorite Memories

Elementary school: my parents’ sticker system. We could earn stickers from school for doing various good things. Every 10 stickers we brought home could be redeemed for a small slurpee from the 7-11 down the street. I drank a lot of slurpees.

Poker face: Mom used to say she could read me like a book. As I got older, she explained that while this worked well for her as a parent, it wouldn’t be good for me in the outside world if strangers could read my mood and therefore manipulate me. That’s when it clicked that she wasn’t telling me I couldn’t have emotions or opinions, just don’t project them! I finally mastered the blank-neutral face a year before she died.

Temper, temper: Tempers are a family legacy but Mom firmly believed that we could overcome almost any genetic flaw. It took years for me to learn to quit letting my temper lead the way.

I have skills?: Cousin G taught both my sibling and I the art of manipulating yarn. He got crocheting lessons and I got knitting lessons.

Love thy face: Mom discouraged the use of makeup early on. She didn’t disapprove of it, she used it regularly herself, she just preferred that I didn’t make it a habit before I was 16 or so. She used makeup in an era when the ingredients weren’t always kosher and could contain dangerous bleaching chemicals to achieve the complexion smoothing or whitening effect that many ladies sought. Until and unless I could afford good quality makeup, she cautioned, it was best not to risk my skin. Besides, if I became too used to always wearing a full face, it could be hard to appreciate my normal unadorned face. This made enough sense that I never got into makeup during those early years when experimental (and often bad) makeup was expected and now I just don’t wear it because I lack the basic skills. *shrug* Someday I’ll learn.

What are some of your favorite things & memories?

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