Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Christmas Day Letter, 2012

Dear Friends and Family, 

I do not think I have ever been so very late with my yearly Christmas card. Part of it has been a typically overbusy December, but it has also been equal parts "I don't feel like doing it this year!" and "Why do I have to send it out BEFORE Christmas?" I don't know about you, but every year it seems I get a little more bored, or tired, or disappointed with aspects of the Holiday Battering Ram that begins at Halloween and ends on New Year's Day.

I am trying to come up with a modified approach; keeping the things I like, discarding the things I don't, and above all, remembering WHY we even started going through this all in the first place. Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas... all of them have good and enjoyable components; All Hallows-eve before All Saints Day on November 1st (and costumes! and candy!), Thanksgiving for our blessings (with food! and pie!), Christmas for the birth of Jesus (and presents! and food! and trees! and food! and music! and food!), and finally New Year's Eve to finally shut down the whole bloody mess.

So I put up a tree and a wreath, but no ornaments or swag. I gave gifts, but as many as possible were homemade. I baked, but most was given away. And even then, I feel a sense of disappointment because some unknown anticipation wasn't met. Partially because for me, Christmas as a single person is naturally difficult. I will go to my sister's house today for a big-ass dinner and presents, so I'm not completely alone... but yet, it's simply not possible to avoid the realization that the older singles of this world are inevitably Secondary and Tertiary in the pecking order of the modern Christmas.

Lest you worry that I am falling into a Victorian spinster decline, let me assure you that I have had a splendid morning sleeping in later than any of you ; that I had a lovely cup of coffee and homemade sausage-cheese balls for breakfast while watching Lord of the Rings DVDs, had Bunny curled up in my lap for a longer spell than Squeaky George will usually allow (interfering little booger that he is) and did some housecleaning that is long overdue (and barely scratches the surface of the Mess That Is My Home). This is the 95% of my life that doesn't actually mind the singleness. It's a sweet life.

It's a pretty busy life, too. Same as last year, more or less; I still work for the American Economic Association at Vanderbilt, I still have my House Calls computer repair business on the side, I still sing regularly with the Music Ministry at St. Bartholomew's Church, and I still have two cats. But there is a new couch.

Bunny & Squeaky George, moments before
George stops licking and starts biting.
You may have noticed that there is a new kitty-name. Daisy (Bunny's twin sister) decided this past spring to hop off my second floor balcony and go on an extended Walkabout. At the time I was devastated, but after a couple of months I decided Bunny needed a companion to keep her from getting too lonesome, and so Squeaky George, orange tabby kitten, was added to the family. He is energetic, cheerful, very vocal (and very squeaky) and plagues the life out of Bunny. She has become a very quiet, wistful cat (with a reproachful expression of “why did you bring that bitey kitten into this house?”), and George refuses to respect her boundaries. He regularly chases her around or pesters her so she'll get out of my lap so he can sit there. If he weren't such a purry, entertaining and cuddly kitty, he would be intolerable. As it is, I suspect he's good for her. He provides occasional aerobic activity, in between bouts of enthusiastically shredding Kleenex and chewing labels off of power cords.

My nieces and nephews are all growing exponentially, it seems—naturally, the girls are all lovely, the boys all handsome, with varying personalities that are more interesting every year. Elliott is the first to go off to college this past fall, and I miss him more than I thought I would. More for the convenience of having him with a car, in town, available to help me lift heavy things. ;) And because I have been pressed into frequent service to chauffeur his younger siblings hither and yon, since he is no longer there to split the load with his mom. He’s also got a serious girlfriend relationship, which I am watching over via social media. God bless Facebook, and a generation incapable of filtering what they post therein.

The second tear-duct surgery (Dacrocystorhinostomy, or DCR) I had last December has ALSO failed to fix the problem of a chronically clogged tear-duct, and so we’re trying it again in February and this time adding rhinoplasty with an ENT surgeon, to make sure there’s plenty of room in my nasal cavities for the tears to flow down into my sinuses. (Don’t worry, I did get a second opinion!) I am very, very tired of this, but I remind myself that a drippy right eye is small potatoes on the scale of chronic health issues.

I still do an excessive amount of needlework and crochet, and to add to my pile of Intended Projects That I Will Get To Someday, I have begun to knit socks. There’s something exhilarating about making an actual practical, functional piece of clothing; in fact, I am going to frame my first sock the same way as I would frame a cross-stitch sampler, I’m so proud of it!

I shall leave matters there so I can get this sucker printed out and mailed before I go on my annual AEA work-trip to another far-flung city on New Year’s Day. This year we get to go to San Diego, where I will eat lavish meals, will work 10-12 hours/day, and see very little of the city. But at least I’ll be able to add it to my list of Cities That I’ve Been To But Couldn’t Really Describe Very Well.

God bless and keep you and your families safe,



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Litany of Excuses

I'm feeling rather disheartened today... it's been a busy week with more work than usual, which I am grateful for. But it also means that I have neglected the exercise I am trying to add to my schedule. And that makes me feel guilty and a certain degree of failure.

See, I know if I WANTED to exercise, I would find the time - ballroom dance is a perfect example; I would dance 8+ hours a day, gladly. But when exercise is the absolute last thing you want to do, then it is easy to find excuses and blame other factors. I could get up and run at 6 am... but I hate early-morning exercise the most; it combines two bad things instead of just one. OK, so then go at night; I do well with evening exercise! But at night it is dark, and my complex is poorly lit, and it makes me nervous.

And so it goes. I need to play with my cats so they don't get bored and attack each other. I haven't drunk enough water today. That burrito is doing a number on my digestion. I need to finish crocheting this present for my friend. I deserve a rest. I need to watch DWTS before I find out the results somewhere else. My right hip is hurting. My left hip is hurting. My right knee is acting weird. My arches are killing me.

And then there's the "why do I have to do as much as my trainer wants? why can't I just do 3 days instead of 5? Why do I have to do 3 miles, why can't I just do 2?" It's ugly and I'm ashamed and yet I don't know how to not give up so easily and give in so quickly. I'm over 40, and I now realize the consequences of taking the easy path my whole life. I lack discipline for any activity or study I don't like or don't do well. I don't know how to respond to the natural stress and strain of exercise, as opposed to legitimate pain; I am inclined to quit both.

Even this post is a way to avoid reading the chapter for my women's group in the morning.

I wish there was some kind of therapy system whereby I could unlearn these lazy habits of mine, and learn some persistence and self-discipline. I lack the willpower to do it on my own. I will say this - when I was unemployed and had loads of time, I had no problem adding workouts to my schedule! But when my day and night are full of work and appointments, exercise is the last thing I want to do.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


As I get older and more aware of the world around me (really; I look back on my 20s and I feel like I was completely oblivious!) I have started detecting patterns of behavior that drive me crazy. I'm sure they are different for everyone. But there is one tendency I see in aging people that I think we can all agree is unpleasant to everyone.

I speak of Rabbit-Trailing in Storytelling. You may have a different term for it, but the basic structure is this: a speaker is sharing a story or anecdote. From the beginning, they tack on details and information unnecessary for the story to be comprehended, but that in fact are extremely boring and often completely derail the primary point of the narration.

Primary point of tale: I go to visit my grandmother, and my car breaks down on the way back.
So I was going to visit my Grandmother in Batesville, and of course I had to pass through Memphis on my way; my cousin Rachel lives on the south side of the city in the suburb called... dang, what is that area called? I can never remember, it's Williamsburg or Williamsport or Williamson or something like that, I can never remember when I am telling someone about that part of Memphis, but anyway I stopped to see Rachel on my way; she's not been feeling well since she had a kidney taken out and has been unable to go back to work, and we had a nice lunch at a restaurant in the downtown area near the river, a seafood place called Martindale's or something like that, I had the most amazing grilled salmon there with a pesto glaze that I really want to try and recreate for myself at home; I talked to the NICEST server who was able to tell me some of the ingredients and would you believe it, one of them is lemon pepper? I have never thought to add that to a pesto! Anyway, I had the nicest visit with Rachel and we just talked and talked for hours until I realized that I needed to get back on the road if I was going to make it to Batesville before it got dark, because whenever I drive in the dark Grandmother and Mom both get so anxious and keep calling me and asking me where I am, you would think I was still a college student, with how little opinion they have of my navigation skills! So I'm on the road and as I pass through this tiny town called Wynne, I spot on the left side of the street a little car repair shop that I have never noticed before, but it looks so incredibly bedraggled and positively TRASHED that it looks over 50 years old, and I remember thinking to myself, Boy I hope I never have to go to that shop, I might never come back out of it, it looks so creepy! But I finally make it to Batesville and have a really good visit with my Grandmother, and we drive her car the entire time I'm there because it is just SO much easier for her to get in and out of it, because the seats are higher and so she doesn't have to bend her knees and swivel as much to get in, and I tell you, I don't know how she manages on her own because it really seems very uncomfortable for her to get in and out of her car, it's one of those old Mercury Marquis sedans the size of a BOAT, but it's in really nice shape because she drives it so little and...*
You get my point.

I think this is the sort of habit that everyone can agree is extremely annoying; but I also think it is the sort of habit that can be curbed, if we can only find a way to make the speaker aware of what they are doing. A great deal of tedium can be avoided and society will be the better for it. I think it is more prevalent in the aged (and I suspect) women, which means a certain amount of politeness and consideration must be employed so that they don't become offended. Because really, we have all encountered Rabbit-Trailers in our lives, and I suspect most of us have thought to ourselves, "I will NEVER get to be like that!" so it stands to reason that if we realize we are doing it, we will try hard to stop.

So spread this post among your friends and family. It doesn't need to be specifically to the ones who are doing it; but it needs to be posted on FB and various social media so that hopefully, the Rabbit-Trailers will stumble across it and make the connection to themselves.

Steps to Reverse Rabbit-Trailing
  1. Be aware that you are a Rabbit-Trailer.
  2. Tell your friends about your problem.
  3. Give them permission to stop you when you start Rabbit-Trailing.
If we can spread the word about this pernicious disease, we will all be a great deal happier with our friends, and the aged will be far less likely to be avoided out of boredom or annoyance.

*story not based on real events; invented to make a point.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rules for Guests at Seminole Lodge

During my recent trip to Ft. Lauderdale, we went to Edison's Summer Home - great tour and property! Anyway, my sister Amy and I were much taken by the "Rules for Guests" they had posted, written by Edison's daughter, Madeleine.

Rules for Guests at Seminole Lodge
  • Don't cabbage unto yourself all the fish poles. This has been done by guests thereby incurring the grave disapproval of the entire family.
  • Don't kill the black snakes under the porch. They are there for a purpose.
  • If you don't think Seminole Lodge is the loveliest spot you ever wore your rubbers in - don't let on to Father.
  • Don't fail to return to your room during part of each day - so that the family may squabble without embarrassment.
  • Don't stop Madeleine if you see her start violently anywhere alone. She's only trying to work out her disposition.
  • Don't capsize in the sailboat if you can help it. Remember there isn't any man to rescue you in 750 miles. And besides there are the sharks.
  • Don't ask us anything about Palm Beach. We don't want to know.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Feeling Bitter, How About You?

I don't want to be married. Not now, anyway. But the inconveniences of spinsterhood are becoming more noticeable as I get older. I think my primary reasons at present for possibly acquiring a husband are 1) having someone to vacation and dine with, 2) having someone else bring the heavy stuff up from the car for a change, and 3) not having to be one of the handful of women in my church and social circle who have no anniversaries or birth announcements to make on Facebook.

Tired, tired, tired of it all, I say! I'm getting more and more cranky with every wedding program that I make at my church; the 20-somethings getting married with so much optimism and joy, and knowing that by the time they are my age they will be almost done with producing and raising their children and preparing to send them to college... and I will not even have begun the process at all!

What's even worse is doing the wedding programs for kids that I USED TO BABYSIT. Just mortifying. Can you imagine?!

Sorry, it's a 5% kind of week. I have accompanied my sister and her family to the beach, and am awkward in the energy and flow of a family with several kids. I have little patience, and have patently become the kind of spinster aunt I never thought possible - I scold the kids for ordinary bickering, and make them make their beds (or do it myself when they don't move fast enough for my liking!), and wipe up the smallest of messes because it sets my teeth on edge to see bits of food scattered on a table, just waiting to be smeared on a careless sleeve.

I guess I should be looking forward to the day when I am old enough that people stop asking me if I am married or have kids; they'll just assume it because I look Mom-ish and move on to more interesting topics. When the steadily burning and shortening fuse to the menopause bomb has finally exploded, and I don't have the tantalizing possibility of pregnancy and children hanging over me. The loss of expectations will make life easier.

I do not hope for what I cannot have!
I do not cling to things I cannot keep!
The more you cling to things, the more you love them,
The more the pain you suffer when they're taken from you...
Ah, but if you have no expectations,
You can never have a disappointment.

Easy to get a trifle weepy over it all... but if I draw back and look at the life I lead; the satisfaction in my work, the freedom to come and go as I please... I don't miss marriage and children at all. And it would be stupid and unfair to expect people to be silent about their spouses and children just to spare me! 95% of the time I am happy as I am. This is no small thing! I do prize my independence, Married Folk; I assure you that I am enjoying it enough for BOTH of us. ;)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Why I'm Not Looking for My Lost Cat Anymore

Last week (Wednesday) my cat Daisy fell off the balcony of my 2nd floor condo, and ran away. I immediately started looking for her, but to no avail. Friends came and helped me search, by day and by night... I put out signs all over my complex as well as the one next door... I put out her carrier with my nightgown in it under my balcony with some food and water... I opened the screen door so Bunny could meow for her sister... I listed her as Lost with her picture on

It's been over a week now, and although I've had a couple of calls from the complex next door from people who saw her, and gone over and looked around for a few hours, I still can't find Daisy. It's like saying, "I know exactly where she is... she's somewhere in Metro Nashville!" It feels impossible to search out every nook and cranny where she may be hiding.

That first 24 hours was the worst. The temperature plummeted below freezing for the first time in weeks at night, and I was haunted by the idea of her being scared or hungry. She had never set foot outside, and has no survival skills although I knew she could hunt and she has her claws. I cried a lot that first day. Everyone has been so kind and concerned for me, and I am very grateful for the friends on Facebook who responded with suggestions and help.

But I'm not actively looking for her anymore. I have several reasons:
  1. I have always felt guilty for keeping my cats exclusively indoors. Yes, it's safer and they'll live longer and not bring in bugs and disease etc., etc... but it feels like I'm imprisoning them. I've always planned that when I get my own house with a yard, that I want my cats to be indoor/outdoor kitties if they like. My complex is not a good place for that, especially with so many dogs! I want them to be able to hunt and be real cats, not some animal restricted to what is convenient for me.
  2. Every time Daisy is spotted, she is further away from my condo. This means she's traveling away. To me this feels like she is on a walkabout vacation, and is in no hurry to return.
  3. Bunny is a different cat now! I had not realized how much Daisy had monopolized my time. I just thought that Daisy liked cuddling more, and Bunny was more independent. But ever since Daisy has gone, Bunny has "talked" non-stop... she is more of a growly cat than a meower, and she is utterly delightful - she's cuddly and affectionate and playful. I get the feeling that Daisy has been bullying Bunny all this time; if Bunny is in my lap, Daisy would sometimes hop up on the arm of the chair, meow a bit, and Bunny will immediately hop down whereupon Daisy will get into my lap! Daisy has always been something of a skittish coward; well, apparently she's a bully too. I don't want her to return, only to resume treating Bunny as second-class! They never did get on particularly well together; they had a polite but disinterested relationship, it always seemed to me. They would take turns when it was String Playtime, they occasionally fought, but they never cuddled together, which seemed very sad to me.
  4. Daisy suffers from Feline Urological Syndrome. This means that crystals tend to form in her bladder, cutting into the lining and giving her bloody urine and scar tissue, making urination difficult. She has been on a prescription diet to treat this for over a year now after drugs failed to fix it, but truth be told, she still has bloody urine even though she seems to be in no discomfort and her litterbox behavior seems normal. I have begun to wonder what her future would be... would the slow deterioration continue and in a year or so I would have to take her to the vet to be put down? This is not something I would want for her. If her days are numbered, then I am much happier for her to be out in nature, and not terrified on a cold metal table at the vet's.
I've been saying for a while that all I had to do to get Daisy to return was to replace her - if I get a kitten to keep Bunny company, I bet you anything Daisy will be at my door within a week. So in June after my vacation I will start looking for a little male kitten for Bunny to (hopefully!) love. I think I'd like a ginger.

It may seem that I am unnaturally calm and dispassionate about this... perhaps I am. I worry that it means I'm not very affectionate! That first day as I wandered around the treeline for the Nth time, calling for her, and continually wiping away the tears, the idea that she might not return was a nightmare. But I'm accustomed to being left behind; I have had many, many friends leave Nashville over the years, and although I used to get really upset about it, I had to find a way to live with abandonment on a regular basis. I don't feel like Daisy has abandoned me, precisely, but my hard-won pragmatism has kicked in and I've found a way to think of her and her future apart from me. I think I've mentally invented a different future for her that is happier and more like she was created to live. I don't want to think of her being unhappy and starving, and although I know she will have a learning curve, I am hopeful that she will adapt, or at least, find a new family who will love her well.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Christ's Ambassadors

I want to make it clear that I am NOT one of those people who quotes scripture as a matter of course, and that in general I am bored senseless by blog posts that discuss passages as in a sermon.

But I heard this one last night at Ash Wednesday services, and it completely sums up the way I have been feeling about the failure of the monolith of modern American Christianity to do practically any of these things... we are called to be so much more than what we are at present, and we are instead being a stumbling block; judging everyone else, lacking compassion, more concerned with protecting our religious and political rights than being a blessing and loving others who need our help...

2 Corinthians 5:20, 6:3-10 (NIV)

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

I know there are exceptions; there always are. Plenty of missions are doing just what we've been called to do; like Magdalene House/Thistle Farms, or Room in the Inn - but these are the exception, not the rule. It may be that we must lose everything before we can become what we were intended.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

In Which I Become a Mean Old Lady

I bullied some young men tonight.

Verona Dining Collection in Antique Honey
I was shopping at one of my favorite stores, World Market in West Nashville... looking at absolutely everything in the store, most of which I can't afford (oh I WANT that dining room set!) Soon after I entered, I heard some horrible screeching that eventually coalesced into some sort of rough accordion. It was soon joined by another indecipherable instrument, and it Kept. On. Going. World Market tries to carry everything, apparently, including decorative rustic musical instruments.

Fifteen minutes of this went on. It was evident that the players were attempting to actually coax some kind of melody from the instruments, and they occasionally succeeded, but rarely in key or tune with each other. I caught a glimpse of them and saw they were some college-aged guys. I began to formulate crushing, cruel put-downs to make them stop... "Could you guys go be douches somewhere else?" was my favorite.

Surely they would stop. But they didn't, and finally when I was crossing an aisle-way I saw them standing in a group about to add a third instrument to the mix. I stood and glared at them, and one glanced up and saw me, and I called out, "Could you guys go be annoying somewhere else? I mean, you have been playing FOREVER!" The sudden feeling of Old Lady Power rushed through me, as I realized I. Did. Not. Care. What. They. Thought. It was intoxicating.

As I walked on, after a brief pause one of them called out, "but, uh, we're musicians, ma'am!" I snapped back, "Well, you need to practice more, but not here!" Another lady an aisle over caught my eye and nodded with satisfaction, and I smiled and shook my head.

But as I wandered on looking with elaborate unconcern at chair slipcovers and china I didn't need, I started considering what had happened. The boys had looked ABASHED. They had looked genuinely surprised. And they were obviously enthusiastic about trying to make these things play music. They were just overgrown boys. And I began to feel sorry. Elliott would have TOTALLY done the same thing. To an instrumentalist, an instrument MUST be attempted!

I began to worry that they would go back to school and tell the story of a fat old bitch in the store who had yelled at them and been insulting, and it would become an anecdote for years to come. I would never be identified, but my spirit would be scorned and vilified for years to come. I would apologize; I would go up and be contrite and say I understood their enthusiasm, that my nephew would have been trying the same thing, and that I was being mean.

But it was too late. They were gone, and I had been bitchy for my own satisfaction and the pleasure of a well-placed zinger. So to the three young men in World Market in West Nashville on a Friday night, I am sorry. You saw me take the next step in my Crazy Cat Lady/Spinster Aunt/Old Maid aging process, and it was into the Mean Old Lady stage. I would have preferred it be the Sassy Old Lady, or the Sharp as Nails Old Lady, but unfortunately I took the Cranky exit. You meant well, and you weren't actually being douchey.

And to the little boy bashing around two cheaply made fans that I said rebukingly to that he "could actually BREAK those things by waving them so hard!" I hope you will... no, actually, that kid was being a little brat. I WANT him to think twice before he messes with things that aren't toys in a home interior store.