Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sick of winter. Joke's on me.

I am sitting here in the living room with no pants on. Why, you ask? I just fell into a puddle in our walkway while preparing for a dump run. The walkway is a piece of crap all year 'round. The busted, heaved up asphalt with sides higher than the middle collects deep pools of water right where you want to walk. In winter, this translates to sheets of super smooth ice an inch or more thick in spots. I had made one trip to the car armed with a load of safe recycling(i.e. paper). No mishaps. My success made me bold and arrogant. My next trip out I loaded both hands with bags of glass bottles. I waltzed breezily down the walkway. Just as I made the turn toward Chip's car my feet lost contact with the ground and my butt found it. Luckily, a cold, muddy puddle softened the blow. Oh! The indignity! After angrily stashing the bags of recycling in the car I made my way into the garage to get the garden spade. This is the tool of choice for smashing walkway ice. I know this because I spent several hours performing this muscle jarring task last week on a snow day from work. I grabbed the spade and in a pissed-off huff backed out of the garage. I smashed my head into the blade of the roof rake that hangs down from it's place of rest. "F*CK!" I yelled at the top of my lungs. It felt good to curse Winter.

I am officially sick of this solstice and am ready for an equinox.
Tomorrow Chip and I are heading into Boston so I can borrow a -20 degree sleeping bag, double plastic boots and a sled to drag it all in on. Where will I be dragging this stuff? Oh, just into Baxter State Park up in Northern Maine for a 4 day winter camping/hiking trip. Guess I'll have to wait a few more weeks to be officially sick of winter.

Gotta go put some pants on. Quit staring!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lost it, but the Apple was damn good!

Compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it
Compassion is something I thought I was good at. Really good at. It was my bag, baby. Feeling compassion and expressing it made me happy, gave meaning to what I did. I thought compassion was a Great and Important Quality.

It's gone. Lost. Situations that normally stir my desire to ease someone's suffering now make me think, "I don't care. How could I possibly feel responsible for easing your pain?" Was it all bullshit, my previous compassionate behavior? Just an act to win people over? Will it come back? I'm not saying I don't feel compassion for the people I love. My previous idea and expression of compassion extended beyond my close friends to people who were relative strangers. I believed that recognizing and easing any person's pain and suffering was a worthy source of meaning in my life. That was how I connected with people. Now? I don't fucking care.

Am I killing my capacity for compassion by doing or not doing certain things in my life? Am I finally realizing that even compassion is only a made up phenomenon that people buy into like a religion in order to bear the world more easily? There is nothing intrinsically great or important about compassion unless I believe there is. Once I lose that belief, compassion becomes another hollow delusion.

Maybe I'm only tired of being compassionate about hearing loss and fitting hearing aids. Maybe once I'm done with this job I'll find my ability to feel compassion again. It's a big deal to me that it seems to have disappeared so easily. I think I hope it comes back, but to be honest I'm not sure I really mean that. I'm supposed to hope it comes back, I guess. I hope it comes back because being compassionate defined a large part of who I was. Being compassionate made me believe I was less alone in the world, that I could help others feel less alone too. It helped me feel connected to people, but it's not working for me anymore. If I lose my compassion permanently, am I losing part of myself? What will take it's place?
February apples are not expected to be crisp, tart, sweet, snappy of flesh and juicy. Mealy, bland, dry flesh with some soluble fiber is what I expect from an apple this time of year. Imagine my surprise when, for an afternoon snack, I crunched into a beautiful organic Braeburn beauty from the Brattleboro Co-op. Tasted like it was plucked from a late September tree just hours ago. Ah...cold storage technology how I love thee.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Suspicious of blurbs

I am planning an early summer road trip to Newfoundland and bought a travel guide this weekend. On the back are all the required blurbs from professional travel book tester-outers touting the indispensability of this particular guide. Hey, how do I get that job? I wanna be a tester-outer. "Hi I'm Jennifer and I'm a Nationally Certified Tester-Outer. Here's my card. I'll test whatever you want and create a blurb for your advertising purposes. Rhyming, humor and whimsy cost extra."

Anyway, I'm suspicious of blurbs. Unfortunately most trade paperbacks these days have a million blurbs spewed across the first several pages and usually on the back too. If the book really wows me, I find the blurbs offensive. Like I need to be told by someone at Newsweek that this author is brilliant! If the book sucks, then I find the blurbs humorous, often going back to read them over again for a laugh. Blurbs need lots of adjectives, the more superlative the better and lots of commas, too. I think book reviewers are repressed writers anxiously awaiting the release of paperbacks hoping to see their overworked phrases of gushing praise in the blurb section. Often their names are not even included, just the source of the quote. For example, a blurb from one of my all time favorite books, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Foer: "Magnificent...a triumph for literature itself." Buffalo News. What the hell does that sentence-like group of words actually mean? Nothing! Did the reviewer from the Buffalo News feel woozy with excitement at finally getting published in a paperback blurb section? Did she tell all her friends and family? I always wonder what words the ellipses replace in the blurbs. Who edits them? There must be a person who's job it is to sift through all the reviews, choose the loftiest of them all and then edit them down to a couple lines. Weird. Another job possibility for me?

Your homework: Pour yourself a beer, some wine, a shot of Jaegermeister if it's all you've got. Find a paperback in your house. See if it has reviewer blurbs. Read them. Pick two of the most over-the-top. Read them out loud in a fawning, gushing kind of voice. Think about all the nameless, faceless book reviewers who write this crap and raise a toast to them.

Anyway, my book about Newfoundland has a blurb on the back that promises "Highly recommended-jam packed with useful information". I am disappointed to report that I have not found a single bit of jam in this book. Maybe I just haven't gotten to that chapter yet.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Chipotle Peppers, Love & Nose Laughing

I just sat down to type and I'm agitated to the point of distraction by my fingers. The tips of them feel like they are on fire, like they are burnt. I couldn't figure out what the problem was and then remembered dipping my fingers into the chipotle chili peppers while preparing dinner. Ow. Martha Stewart would have worn rubber gloves. No, I take that back. She would have had her assistant wear rubber gloves. Well, my assistant is the cat and she isn't that in to helping with dinner preparations. I think she's taking a nap upstairs. Her performance review is coming up soon and we'll have to address some of these gaps in her work ethic.
Single people tend to despise Valentine's Day. I find this irritating. It's like they think the only kind of love that could possibly be worthy of celebration is romantic love. Since they don't have that, they're gonna mope and bitch and act like they have no love at all in their lives. The biggest pity party ever. (I just typed, and then deleted, the exclamation "Phooey", but that seems too...too...just too.) Okay, I realize all the marketing for the holiday is aimed at "lovers", not just dumb old boring generic love. I mean, everyone knows the only real kind of love is between two heterosexual people who are in a long term, committed, physical relationship, right? The kind of love that deserves bad grocery store roses, Whitman's Chocolates, fantasies of 3 carat engagement rings and sexy lingerie (black or red). That's real love, right? Thank Imaginary-God-Type-Thingy that Valentine's Day reminds us of that every year. I guess I see why single people hate this holiday.

I am a person who can't seem to stop seeking answers. My main questions: What's the point? What's the meaning of life? What matters? Why the hell are we all here, stuck as human beings with the ability to ask these questions? The only answer I keep coming back to: Love.

Love is the undefinable feeling that makes humans believe we have souls. If the middle of my chest can feel so full and ecstatic or so broken and lost, that must be my soul responding to yours. Right? I'm not so sure. Chemical and electrical reactions are powerful things. Look at nuclear energy. That's pretty powerful and you wouldn't call that love, would you? Even if I don't believe in souls, even if it's all just chemicals and electrical impulses, love still gives some kind of meaning to my life.

Love is obviously more than just a "romantic", Valentine's Day emotion. For me, love is made up of intimate moments shared with others. The kind of moments that make you feel lit up inside, that make your heart beat a little faster, that make you feel vulnerable but excited, moments when you connect with someone, times when you offer or receive compassion. Sometimes it lasts, sometimes it is fleeting. When my friends have been outdoors all day, arrive at my house tired, ready for dinner and I feed them steaming bowls of healthy food, I feel love. When I talk to my Mom late into the night about what makes life worth living, that is love. When the cat sits with me, looks up into my face, meows and pushes her head repeatedly against my hand, I feel love. Every single friend I have contributes at least once in a while to my feelings of loving and being loved. When I open up to them, allow myself to be vulnerable and they honor that with respect and understanding I feel love. Those are the only kind of friendships I want.

I can give you a million examples of how I feel love but I don't believe that the emotion can be successfully defined. What does love mean to you?

Despite what Hallmark wants us to believe, love is not just for lovers.

Post Secret Valentine's Day
(check this link out before Sunday Feb. 17th for relevant Valentine's day stuff)
Laughing by exhaling sharply through the nose is funny. I think most of us do it quite often for lots of different reasons. It's a non-committal laugh, an ambiguous response, agreement without words, brushing something off. You have to deploy it carefully though. If you've got any nasal congestion it can result in loose boogers or snot leaving one or both nostril(s) and landing who-knows-where. That can be embarrassing. Be careful out there!

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Adventures Never Cease

Today I spent an hour cleaning our toaster oven. No, I'm not kidding. We got this toaster oven about 4 years ago as a Christmas present from some friends who were tired of making toast in our crappy toaster oven. We don't have a microwave so we probably use our toaster oven more than most people. It gets pretty dirty.

I was thinking that perhaps it was time to buy a replacement. Yikes! Buy a new appliance for our home? What kind of crazy talk is that? There are probably too many choices out there and besides I'd have to go to a store. I can't handle that kind of consumer behavior just for a toaster oven. No, all it needs is a good cleaning I told myself.

I'm sure you're familiar with that baked on, caked on, stuck on crap that is impossible to remove. It's sort of golden brown, but in a bad way, not in a yummy baked good kind of way. Kitchen cleaning products are forever proclaiming their ability to remove this goo with ease. Well let me tell you how I chose to fight my baked on grease adversary.
  1. Dump out the charcoaled bits of who knows what in the bottom
  2. Remove the toast rack and soak in sink
  3. Scrub glass window with sponge - this is ineffective, give up
  4. Find grapefruit essential oil - it's probably the same idea as Citra-Solv and that stuff dissolves anything
  5. Get out old toothbrush and scrub with that for a while. Grapefruit oil loosens grease just okay, but the smell is refreshing. Decide not to waste any more essential oil on this.
  6. Switch from toothbrush to straight edged razor blade that I usually use for slicing tops of bread dough before baking. This tool is awesome for scraping baked-on, caked-on anything off of glass. I spend about 15 minutes doing this task. It is strangely satisfying and I feel weirdly OCD about getting every last streak of gunk off the glass. I accidentally scratch the glass in my cleaning zeal. Oops.
  7. The mini-baking pan and the rack are both also in need of cleaning. I bring out the big gun. Ammonia! I forgot we had any. Ammonia is exciting. Especially straight. Wow! Stinging, watering eyes, can't breathe. I hold my breath while scrubbing.
  8. The mini pan is not getting clean. I boil some water and pour it into the dish pan along with some more ammonia and add some dish soap for good measure. Wonder if dish soap and ammonia is dangerous to combine like ammonia and Comet.
  9. Go back to using the razor blade on the outside of the glass for a few more minutes.
  10. Wipe toaster oven dry. Even wipe the greasy dust bunnies off the electrical cord.
  11. Spend about 10 minutes scrubbing the mini baking pan. I get off what I can and call it quits. My hands feel raw.
  12. Wonder if Chip will notice how clean the toaster oven is.

Today also involved a conversation with the vet's office about cat fur balls and how much Laxatone is too much. Apparently there is no such thing as too much molasses flavored petroleum jelly. Oh the joy.