Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wipers, Pens & Charity

Are you familiar with those windshield wipers that go the WRONG way? I find them so aesthetically irritating. I'm talking about the kind that start in the middle, swipe up and out to the edges before coming back to rest pointed in opposite directions on top of each other. I seem to notice these annoying contraptions on mini-vans (or if you're a tough guy like Nate, it's a Manly-Van) and some sedans made by Pontiac and Oldsmobile in the 1990s, I think. I could be wrong about that, I'm not really a car person. Did manufacturers think they'd be making these boring vehicles more hip by "thinking outside the box" about the wipers? It just draws more attention to their un-hipness. Maybe there is some technical advantage to this style of wiper and I'm just not in the know. Even if that's the case, my position on this issue stands.

Somehow all my favorite, specially purchased pens have vanished at work. I'm stuck slumming through the dregs of freebie hearing aid manufacturer swag pens. Can any of these pens be "normal"? No, they all have some gimmick. Some light up, some are really fat, some are super light weight, made out of "recycled material", some are made out of metal springs, some have crazy green hair growing from the tops. One thing they have in common is their lack of quality. I think of how expensive hearing aids are and wonder if the manufacturers just stopped sending out millions of crappy, made-in-China, branded pens, bags, sticky notes, letter openers, travel mugs, travel loose leaf tea mugs, magnets, calculators, Slinkys, stress-relief squishy things, stuffed animals and kites maybe hearing aids could be less expensive. Not to mention the amount of waste this produces. A kite. Did I really need a kite with a hearing aid logo on it?

Yesterday I stopped at the Brattleboro co-op for a snack after work. I bought a soy chai tea from the deli and on an impulse picked up a loaf of my favorite bread. It's a cinnamon raisin loaf from a bakery in upstate NY. I shell out $5.99 for it. When I left the store a middle-aged man stood in the parking lot with a cardboard sign stating the status of his home, i.e. non-existent. For a second I thought about taking my loaf of bread to him. Then I felt embarrassed at the extravagant cost of the bread. Then I kept going to my car. You know why I don't stop for people like this? Fear is part of it. I don't really want to engage with them because I am unsure of the outcome. It's too intimidating. But really, the main reason is I don't want to get duped. Maybe the guy is looking for money to buy drugs or alcohol. I don't want to offer him something and then walk away with him thinking, "bleeding heart sucker!" I didn't see a single person stop to help this man down at the co-op where people are supposedly "open-minded, liberal, do-gooders". We all just walked right by. Too afraid, too intimidated, too distrustful, too aware that our small offering is not going to get him back into a home or keep him from being hungry. I excuse my non-action, which is most certainly an action, by telling myself he ought to be seeking out real services from the state or the town. I know all sorts of places he could go for assistance. My tax dollars pay for them. Wouldn't he be better served that way than by a loaf of bread or a couple bucks from me? An easy and lazy rationalization.

Monday, May 19, 2008


I picked up the mower from Bibens Hardware this morning and succeeded in taming the lawn. I think it's kind of sad when we finally give in to the social pressure of a "manicured" lawn. However, there is a small section in the back behind some pine trees that Chip and I have refused to mow since we moved here. It's lawn care rebellion. It's our in-town field and I think the neighbors secretly admire us for our willingness to just let that part of our six-tenths of an acre be wild and free (Well, at least no one has complained to the town yet).

A few years ago we had some septic work done and it created these two "landing strips" in the back yard where nothing much wants to grow now. When the grass was in its more feral state these spots were concealed pretty well. As I mowed down the tall grass I felt like I was cutting the lawn's comb-over. The yard feels self conscious now.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Stinky mood, stinky shoes

I'm visiting my Mom while she's at a wool spinning workshop in the Catskills. We're staying at a place called the Winter Clove Inn and it's sort of a 1960s version of the "all-inclusive" family vacation. Three Better Homes & Gardens style meals a day, creaking floors & doors, thin walls, no phones, no TVs (hooray), tennis court, shuffleboard, pools, porches, hiking trails, small golf course, bowling alley. Yes, bowling alley. Ah, the charms of an old Catskill Hotel. The broad front porch is decked out with rocking chairs, wicker love seats and barn swallows swooping up to the porch rafters to feed babies. I'm currently swatting blackflies away at an ever increasing rate. The large snoring man to my left woke up and went inside. A depressed Basset Hound to my right ceased his own snoring about the same time and wandered around the porch whimpering a little.

Damn these bugs. I'm going back inside.

All day yesterday I couldn't shake off an intense sadness. The kind of sadness that revolves around feeling terribly lonely but not actually wanting to be near anyone. Everything made me feel like crying. The people passing me on Interstate 90, the train cars loaded with logs stopped on the Castelton-on-Hudson bridge 100 feet or more above the river, the grand old Catskill hotels past their prime, thinking about hugging my mom, thinking about saying goodbye to all my clients and my coworkers, the absolute quietness after settling into our hotel room. I hovered on the verge of tears all day and never once had a good cathartic cry.

I've been longing for quiet. I feel like everywhere I go there is noise. Cars zooming, planes overhead, people talking, me talking, music, road noise in my car. Last night after I got here I sat on the bed and wrote, long hand, in my personal journal. It's been a long time since I've done that and I guess I forgot how important that is for me. I listened to the rain fall through the delicate spring leaves outside, to my pen moving across the paper and to my breathing.

Today greeted me with a blue sky and a perfect breeze. The first thing I did today was run through the fields with a coon hound racing along with me. It felt so good to run, uphill, fast, racing the dog. He tore around the field in joyful, spastic circles. Then I climbed up into an old tree house that creaked eerily as the support branches moved with the wind. I ate a breakfast of cream-of-wheat and banana then walked through the Catskill woods to Winter Clove Falls. I came over a small rise and a couple of deer and I startled each other. Being scared by a bounding deer always feels about as silly as being jumped by a Ruffed Grouse. As often happens with deer, their curiosity got the better of them and they didn't run very far away. Soon they came slowly back in my direction sniffing the air and watching me watch them. I talked to them about the bugs and if they had seen any bears. I happened to be wearing my t-shirt with the scary bear design on it and told them not to be afraid, I wasn't really a bear. The deer and I crossed paths again around the next curve in the trail. For a moment it seemed like we were all on the hike together. Like instead of walking a dog, I was out walking the deer.

Is my sadness gone? Honestly, not really. But that's okay, it doesn't seem as deep today and I'm getting lots of quiet time alone which helps me sort through it better. Moving, running, listening to the woods, observing nature around me, not being obligated to talk to other people is the perfect prescription to counteract my sadness.
You know it's time to get rid of your favorite shoes when you're aware of your own icky hiking shoe smell wafting up from your feet when ever you've had them on for a little while. Warm, stinky, shoe smells rise. But, I love them. Now I really am gonna cry.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I'll take "Random Thoughts" for $1000, Alec

  • Yesterday a client told me she loves to fart. Not that she was going to do it right that second or anything, but, and I quote, "Oh, the Joy!" Somehow this was an entertaining, enjoyable conversation as opposed to the one I mentioned a few weeks ago about the guy with a case of The Gas wicked bad.
  • Get your lawn mower fixed before the middle of May. Otherwise, the next thing you know the small engine repair people are holding it hostage while your lawn turns into a hay field.
  • However, if you want to be wowed by the profusion of tiny wildflowers in your lawn, don't fix the mower early. That brings me to point four:
  • When you become a homeowner you have to decide what lawn care personality type you are. Type A, Type B, or Type I don't friggin' care. Our next door neighbors fall into the Type A lawn care category. Once the snow melts Joe & Lynn become ground keeping super heroes Mow & Lawn. Chip and I, on the other hand, are a terrible disappointment to the neighborhood.
  • Some days when I observe people I am only able to see their potential for evil, ugliness and despair. That is a very hopeless feeling. Today is a day like that. I don't like it.
  • I talked to a bumble bee tonight. It wouldn't let me rescue it from in between the screen and the glass. I tried. It buzzed around desperately searching for a bee sized exit with no luck. I observed the very tips of its articulated legs grip and shake the cross hairs of the screen like the hands of a convict. Finally, I gave up the rescue. During the whole process I kept up a one-sided discussion with the creature. I coaxed, I harangued, I threatened. I gave up. Now it's just dead-still up in the corner where I can't get to it. Maybe it doesn't want to be rescued. Maybe its a sick bee that shouldn't return to the wild. Maybe if I'd "saved" it there would have been a mass spreading of some evil bee disease. The bumble bee is really big and its dead body will need to be thrown away in a couple days.
  • Speaking of dead bodies, today's obituaries listed a handful of graveside services for dead people who've been in the deep freeze all winter until their burial plot thawed and the cemetery ground can hold a back-hoe. Ick, that's gross. Grandpa in the freezer. Spouse on the rocks. Planted in the spring like reverse seeds.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Incedible Edible...


That's right, it's time once again for edible flower season. In the past my flower eating has extended only to Nasturtiums, Violets, Pansies and Clover. Nasturtiums with their spicy, peppery flavor and beautiful colors are by far my favorite.

Today I did an internet search for a list of edible flowers with the hope of extending my flower diet even further. I've already reported to three different people at work that Lilac flowers are edible. I didn't know that. Peonies? Johnny Jump-ups? This is so exciting! Most people don't share my enthusiasm for eating flowers although I'm not sure why. I mean it's not like back in 5th grade when I decorated my desk with stickers that spelled out "I love worms". I can now see that passion was too far outside the norm for other kids to get. But flowers? What's not to love about eating flowers?

So, do yourself a favor and follow this link to learn about what you can pick and nibble on the next time you wander around your yard.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Blue Eyes

His face looks slightly more weathered than 46 years would suggest but the pale blue of his eyes glitters and he has an easy way about him. To me he offers only kind words and respectful gratitude. I look him in the eye, I teach him how to use his new hearing aids, I stand 6 inches from him with my fingers on his ear. We joke a little. I like him.

We're not alone in my office. My client's personal escort sits in the corner--an armed guard from the state correctional facility.

The appointment is over and I tell the man I'm leaving and won't see him again. He tells me he got my letter and wanted to ask me about that, why I'm leaving. I share with him that I'm burnt out, that I need a change and he offers me believable empathy. I imagine my letter finding its way into his hands at the prison and wonder what other correspondence he gets, if any. He extends his hand and I meet it in a strong, sincere handshake as he thanks me for my help.

Sharing a sincere handshake and feeling a general affinity for a convicted felon creates a complicated emotional stew. In some people's eyes he must be a monster. I understand that. To me, he was a respectful, kind, quiet man with a hearing loss. No different than thousands of other people I've helped and more pleasant than some, honestly. To me he seemed no less human than anyone else.

I did some research and found an article describing his conviction. Multiple counts of child sexual assault. He lived with the child's mother. He's eligible for parole soon but even if he gets out he'll be under state supervision until he's 86 years old. I wish I had ignored my need to know his crime and just remembered him for those clear blue eyes.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What now? I dough know.

Today the little penned number in the corner of my calendar says "15". That's how many days until I end the 7 year stint at my current job and 10 years of "being an Audiologist". That doesn't count the six years of college education dedicated to the pursuit of this specialized degree. I first realized I didn't want to be an audiologist about six months after finishing my degree when I lost my first job. I thought about hiking the Appalachian Trail, but ended up in Maine working at my second audiology job. I don't know if I'll come back to this profession. That gets me to the "What now?" question. I deal with clients all day and they want to know why I'm leaving, what I'm doing next, what my plan is. Let me tell you, people don't feel satisfied when you look at them helplessly and say, "I really don't know yet."

I have a little bit of savings but not enough to last forever despite feeling like I need to make it stretch that far. I've considered the costs involved in hiding on the couch under a blanket versus traveling, hiking, writing, making bread and necklaces. The couch/blanket option makes the cat very happy and would extend my finances the furthest but I'm guessing that'll get boring real fast. Plus, how can I figure out what to do next if I'm not interacting with the world around me?

I am not complaining about this situation. I created it, it's been a long time coming and I'm full of nervous excitement and a little healthy fear about my future. I feel grateful for having the space, time and support to venture in a new direction. The last time I set myself on a new course it was 1993 and I changed my major from English to Speech & Hearing Sciences. I was only 19 years old. Now, 15 years later, I get to explore a new path. I did lose my compass this weekend so hopefully I won't get lost.
I bet you don't know anyone, besides me of course, who currently has two baggies of fermenting bread dough in her desk drawer at work. Kim brought me some starter for Amish Friendship Bread. It's sort of like an old-fashioned chain letter but with food. Also, the Friendship part is a misnomer. It should be called Amish Death Bread. The final (delicious) product contains almost 2 cups of sugar, 3 eggs, 1 cup of oil and a box of vanilla pudding. So, I have the starter for that bubbling away in my desk drawer.

Last week I began the experiment of building my own normal sourdough starter from flour and water. It requires a lot of babysitting. My starter didn't rise enough overnight so it commuted with me to work today. I'll be able to keep an eye on it. I wonder if that would qualify me for the HOV lanes in big cities?