Bits and bobs

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Oh, hey there. Long time no see. Whatchya been up to?

Me? You know…busy busy busy these days…

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I’ve only made it to half the sessions of my writing-about-hard-topics-with-humor class. Which means two. Yeah, that might not have been money so well spent after all, considering the per session cost. And that the response to my last piece was heavy on adjectives such as “hard,” “dark,” and “serious.” I believe the word “grim” might have been used. I’d forgotten that I was supposed to be looking for places to let some light in.

Funny how a seemingly innocuous prompt–

“Two dollars doesn’t seem like much, unless…”

became a piece about income inequality and powerlessness and regret. (Except it wasn’t funny. At all.)

So, I guess I haven’t been busy going to my writing class. Or writing, with humor or anything else.

I think it’s because I’ve been really busy fighting all that’s wrong in the world on Facebook. (I know that sentence’s likely got a misplaced modifier, but it kinda works just the way it’s written.) Scrolling Facebook these days is like driving down a highway clogged with one horrific accident after another. I know that I should just look forward and keep moving (or stay home more–a lot more), but I can’t seem to stop myself from getting on the road and then fixating on the wreckage. I’m either staring in fascinated horror or actually stopping to try to do something–even though I have no useful skills to save anyone or anything and am really just adding to the carnage by getting in the way.

Unless, of course, I’m posting mindless things I think are funny, like this exchange between my son and me in the hours before the stormaggedon that never quite materialized here in the northwest last weekend.

Although sometimes I just post silly things like this exchange with my son.

Sometimes I get something positive out of my social media travels, though–like this piece by Magda Pescayne at AskMoxie–which helped me understand that what I’m feeling in response to this damn presidential election (and systemic racism and rape culture/misogyny and violence andandand…) is grief as much as anger and fear. (If you’re in the same place, take a minute to click on through. It’s got some great advice on how to get through the next few weeks. Not that I think everything is going to be all better when the election is finally over. In fact, I’m starting to fear that things will be worse.)

It’s not like I needed another thing to add to my List of Things I’m Grieving, but I guess there’s some comfort in recognizing that that’s what’s going on.

Speaking of grief, well…that’s the kind of thing that can just fill a person’s day right up, isn’t it? It takes so many minutes to talk yourself into getting out of bed, to wander aimlessly around the house from one unfinished task to another, to remember what it is you came for at the grocery store, to make and cancel the plans with friends you promised your therapist you’d reach out to, to make and cancel appointments with your therapist, to pick up take-out because grocery shopping used up all the energy you have, to fixate on the question of how one can distinguish between grief and depression and get online to Google it and get sidetracked by Facebook (which only exacerbates your grief/depression or whatever it is), to revise and revise and revise a blog post you’re never going to publish, to fight a series of migraines and other physical ailments, to put on a happy face so you won’t have to talk about any of the things that are making you sad/numb/angry/numb/hollow/numb.

But even though I’ve been so busy with those things, I have found time to pick up a needle again. I’ve decided that embroidery is my version of all those adult coloring books that are going to be on all the year-end lists of things that are this year’s equivalent of the pet rock.

A long while back I found a piece of fabric with finished edges that I bought because I wanted to embroider on it.

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Rather than embroider on it, though, I let it sit in various closets around our house. I think I didn’t let myself do anything with it because there is no practical reason for me to spend hours embellishing this piece of fabric. It won’t even serve any kind of decorative purpose, most likely, as the style and color scheme is unlike anything in the rest of our house.

But a weekend or so ago I picked it up because I was home alone and feeling really sick with migraine-med hangover and my grief/depression/whatever means I don’t have any house-related projects to do (because I no longer care much about doing things to make our house nicer) and because I just wanted to. I turned on an old movie and made a cup of tea and sat on the couch with the dogs and started “coloring.”

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This is not going to be an awesome work of original art. It may well end up spending more time in various closets when I’m done with it. But, when I am lying awake in bed and my mind is spinningspinningspinning about all the things that trouble me these days, I’ve started turning it to this canvas. I imagine what I might add to the tree’s white foliage. I wonder how I can make it look like the trunk has been yarn-bombed. I consider the kinds of stitches I might use to fill the leaves.

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Something about those middle-of-the-night wonderings calms my mind the way the actual work of it does in earlier hours of the day, and I’m usually able to get back to sleep.

That’s a good thing, I guess. At the very least, it keeps me from becoming another wreck for others to rubberneck at on their journey through this world.

So, yeah. That’s what’s new with me. How about you?

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I almost forgot. It’s puzzle season again.

 

30 thoughts on “Bits and bobs

  1. Kathy says:

    You know all that rape culture, misogyny, racism stuff you mentioned? I’ve been thinking that my country really isn’t the country I thought it was – at all. I mean, I KNEW we had all of those problems – and more – really – I’m not THAT naive ( I mean, I’m a middle class suburban white woman so, privilege? Yes, I have privelege), but really, goodness, it’s our FOUNDATION. It’s woven into the fabric of our flag. ( oh, I have thoughts on the flag and patriotism…)

    Did you watch the Frontline episode about Clinton and Trump? Clinton worked in Washington DC on a Watergate subcommittee , but then left the city for Bill and Arkansas when she failed to pass the DC bar. Can you imagine how her history, our history, could have been different if she had stayed in DC? Tried taking the bar again? I don’t know. That fact just made me so sad. Ugh.

    I think MAYBE the silver lining to all of this is maybe we can’t just ignore this stuff anymore? Maybe the genie is finally out of the bottle and this is the beginning of real, hard work and change? I don’t know. I can’t get my thoughts about this out in an intelligent way.

    And now for something completely different. I’m working on a felt Christmas stocking for my granddaughter. I’m modeling it on the one my grandmother made for me. And I just sent her two hats for her little head – one with kitten whiskers and ears and one with pink pom poms.

    By the way. I wouldn’t dream of writing that stuff anywhere but in the comment section of your blog – cause I know you and your readers will understand at least the feelings and sentiments behind my words even if I haven’t found a good way to say them yet.

    • Rita says:

      That first paragraph of yours? I could’ve written it. You’ve just named the thing that I’m having the most trouble with. While the thought of a Trump presidency horrifies me, the things I’ve come to understand about who we are are not going to change or go away the day after the election. I am also horrified by how much I haven’t known and understood. I’m in an equity certificate program this school year, and a good chunk of our initial work was just learning more about our country’s history, and how racism has been embedded in just about all of it. I live in the whitest big city in the country, and that didn’t just happen by chance. It happened through legislation. I am embarrassed that I didn’t know this sooner–that I never even thought to ask why. I am disappointed in myself as much as others–that I have lived for so many years in the bubble of my own existence that I was unaware of how much harder things have been for others. I hope you are right–that we are perhaps at a place where we are not going to be able to go back. Once truths have been seen, they cannot be unseen, painful as they may be. I hope all of this discord and unrest is because we are going through a change. Change is always hard. I hope the change comes.

      I didn’t see that Frontline episode, but I saw someone link to it on Facebook. I’ll have to check it out. And I’m glad you feel able to write what you think here. Hope you’ll keep doing it. Hope the stocking turns out great! I’m looking forward to the time when I’ll have grandchildren to make things for. (I hope I get to do that!)

  2. Kate says:

    A) Your $2 piece was lyric and beautiful and if it wasn’t LOL, there were spots of light in it. Re-read it. Post it here. It’s a great damn piece, I’m just saying. Oh, am I not supposed to comment because I’m the teacher? I’m also your friend.
    B) That exchange between you and your son was hysterio — both times I saw it, on the FB and here.
    C) Please keep writing. You are amazing. No. Really.

    • Rita says:

      Don’t teachers always get to comment? And especially teachers who are friends.
      Thank you for the encouragement and kind words. And for creating a space where I got to go and get some words down. Going to do my best to get there this week.

  3. Lisa Capasso says:

    I love the needlework–could it be a gift for someone when you are finished? It would look lovely framed. You may send it to me, if you are so inclined; it matches many rooms in my house 🙂

    Near us is a very hipster shopping plaza where the trees and chairs are all yarn-bombed. It has Christmas lights strung up year round and everything is painted bright colors, and it is just the most cheerful (if hipster) spot. I totally vote for embroideredly-yarnbombing the tree.

    I saw that exchange with your son on FB and literally LOL’ed, and shared with my husband. It sounds exactly like what my 11 year old son would say.

    Grief is a hard thing to get past. I am mentally sending you warm hugs and the energy to keep putting one foot in front of the next, until you get through.
    Lisa Capasso recently posted…pink and blue living roomMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Oh, you’ve just given me purpose! I am going to hold out the possibility that I will like it so much when it’s finished that I can’t part with it, but if I don’t: It’s yours.

      It’s OK to admit that you like a hipster place. (Don’t tell Cane, but sometimes I do, too.) That place sounds a little too precious, but I think I would like it anyway. I love Christmas lights and yarn bombing and bright colors. Those are all happy things, and I’ll take all the happy things I can get right now. (My son is one of those things. He and my daughter both crack me up, pretty much every day.)

      Thanks for the hugs. I can feel them through the wireless router. 🙂

  4. Kari Wagner Hoban says:

    I feel like dressing up like a clown could really help you make life decisions fairly quickly.
    And seriously, your friends are making me feel stupid and this is why I don’t like to comment.

    That was sarcasm.
    With a tinge of reality mixed in.
    Kari Wagner Hoban recently posted…InvestingMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I love when you comment. I like parties with lots of different sorts of people at them. This party wouldn’t be the same without you. No one else makes me smile/laugh as much as you. I am now picturing my son dressed up as a clown in a hurricane and imagining what kind of life decisions he’d be making in such a scenario. And smiling.

  5. Marian says:

    Thank you for posting this, Rita. Like Kathy and Kate, I laughed out loud at your exchange with your son, and goodness knows I needed a laugh after the horrendous we’re-ripping-apart-at-the-seams evening I just had. Which is to say I — like you — am not doing all that great these days either. I don’t know if it’s “misery loves company” or simply that it’s a relief to feel not-alone, but it helps to read words I myself could have written. I too am writing and endlessly revising posts I will never publish and I too am putting on a happy face so no one will discover how sad/numb/despairing/alone I am feeling these days. (Although to be completely honest, the happy face left the building last night and what came to replace it wasn’t pretty. Pretending everything is ok while trying to single-handedly shoulder everyone else’s problems/concerns/emotions — and then to have to deal with my own endless worries over everyone else’s problems/concerns/emotions — is exhausting.)

    As someone who spent most of her childhood embroidering in order to ward off demons, I can attest to the fact that it’s a very meditative and calming act/process. Your stitches are beautiful, and I love the fabric … it has a decidedly fairy-tale-esque vibe to it 🙂 . (I just keep knitting socks; that’s my meditative/superstitious as-long-as-I-keep-doing-this-everything-will-be-ok thing to do.)

    (Oh, and yes, please — post your $2 piece! I would love to read it.)

  6. Katherine says:

    I always like reading your voice. The good, the bad, the ugly. Thanks for writing.

    A few weeks ago I started relegating Facebook to the weekends. It is just so much to take in and process, and I don’t actually do any of that– I just scroll and wait for the really disturbing stuff to jump at me. Or I look through random people’s pictures in envy or disdain. Eww, right? So now I just stay away until the weekend. Facebook is, for me, an escape. But lately not a good one.
    Katherine recently posted…Two Excellent Push Present IdeasMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I like yours, too–and I missed that push present post. I cannot agree with you more about the ickiness of the term push present. What’s it supposed to be for C-section moms like me? A gash gift?

      But yeah, Facebook. I actually get a fair amount of my news from it. And the news just hasn’t been good lately. And I do like seeing what friends are up to. But, I’m thinking about relegating it to specific times, too.

      So nice to hear from you! I hope all is well with your family.

  7. Kate says:

    Your post is reminding me how glad I am that I took that my Facebook holiday early this year. I’m already thin skinned and bordering on despair and I had to start my antidepressants because I’m having a very hard time keeping my head above water any time I’m with a group of people.

    I love your embroidery. Hand craft and fiber work are my go to for helping me cope with the realities of life when they feel to overwhelming. I’m in the process of graphing out a simple cross stitch family portrait for my newly married sister-in-law for Christmas and I find that it helps me to do something creative for someone I love. I need more joy. The world does too. So I’m glad you’re finding something that helps – whether it’s embroidery, puzzling, sharing snaps of the funny conversations you share with your son.
    Kate recently posted…On the ElectionMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I’m sorry you’re struggling now, Kate. I think many people are. Glad you’ve got medication and other things to help you cope. As Marian said, I find needlework meditative and calming. It gives me an outward focus that relieves my mind from the hamster wheel spinning in it.

      I took a Facebook holiday last year during the holidays. Was off for the month of December. Things were really hard for us at that time last year, and I just knew that seeing all those holiday-related posts would not be good for me. I’m feeling grateful that we are in a better place now. It’s still not where we’d like to be, but at least things are so raw and so unknown.

      And I’m with you on the joy. Going to do a better job of looking for it.

  8. Riafrom Oz says:

    Although I was very depressed and miserable with my illness due to the rotten freezing weather in Oregon in August/September, I was never more happier than the day I came home in late Sept. I was FED UP to the gills with Americans ranting on and on about politics! Argh! It’s enough to drive anyone to drink! Honestly, some people there are so closed minded and preached at me to Vote for Trump! I am like, Errr, hello, I am an Australian tourist who is hacking half a lung up here, how can I possible explain to you I CAN NOT vote in YOUR country??? Like, d’ah!
    It was tiring, wearying and totally exhausting to go through my faceplant (as I refer to it) pages and see nothing but doom and gloom and horrificly boring posts on anything from murdered children being Clinton’s fault to the prediciton that we Aussies will all perish if Trump gets in, so I closed it down for the short term, Till your elections are well and truly over, I can tell you!

    Finding something to do with one’s time when one is not particularly involved in anything which brings joy anymore is a difficult task. Finding something that is meaningless in itself to do is harder. I too, struggle with a sense of wasting time. I hate not being able to produce something from that time. It irks me that we are all ticking away valuable time and not even noticing we are actually producing nothing anyway! Often Faceplant takes up too many hours of my time and I will justify it by saying I was staying in contact with my friends, however, what did I really achieve that was purposeful? Nothing. THEN I realise, that even though I did nothing I was still doing something! Nothing to produce at the end of the day and say , Hey, I did that! Yet it can be satisfying in its own right. Same as your puzzles. Doing a puzzle to me is an achievement but in the bigger sense of the world it is nothing. Yet it gives satisfaction. Same as your embroidery, it may never go on a wall, but you made something that has given you a way to ‘waste time yet still do something’
    I actually think it is a lovely way of wasting time. Therapeutic in itself.
    Joy is lacking in this world. I take it where I can find it. If it means re-weeding the same piece of garden over the next few months then so it shall be. It gives me joy to see the task complete even though I know I shall have to work again at it in a few weeks. I love the joy of just’ wasting time but achieving something”

    • Rita says:

      You made me laugh twice! I can just picture some dumb American lecturing you about the election without ever stopping to process that you can’t vote. On behalf of the rest of us, my apologies. We are not all Americentric a-holes.

      And I laughed at calling it Faceplant. I’ve never heard that before, and it tickled my funny bone. Such an apt name, especially these days. Sometimes I scroll through there and I just feel like we are all such idiots. Not that that keeps me away, so there’s probably some measure of the pot calling the kettle black going on there…

      I’m sorry that you were sick while here and that the weather got you down. I hope you’re feeling better now that you’re home and only have to deal with Aussie idiots. 🙂

  9. Shannon says:

    I actually read this on my phone and got up and got out my laptop to comment. You are *that* powerful.

    1. I am not you. You are not me. We are different. What works for me is not necessarily going to work for you. But we are also a lot the same and I was (sometimes am) where you are. To be very clear, I am not telling *you* what to do. I am telling you what *I* did.

    I radically changed who I followed on social media. I do not mean restricting myself to only those who share my beliefs, but restricting myself to only those people/outlets who share information (whether it is positive or negative, in agreement with my beliefs or challenging them, or opening my eyes to new information) in a manner that makes my life better and gives me hope rather than filling me with dread and despair and panic. This will mean different things to different people.

    I radically changed the number of people I follow on social media. I only have about 40 total FB friends. I do not accept requests from people unless I actually care about them and want to see their posts. I only follow a few FB pages for topics that truly interest me. I follow my local paper and my favorite local news station, because…drumroll…I stopped watching tv news on a regular basis. This gives me enough info so I know what’s going on (and can dig deeper if need be) without getting bombarded with the awfulness of the world. I check FB once a night and it takes me all of 15 minutes. On twitter I decided to follow no more than 200 accounts. If I follow someone new, I stop following someone else. There is no possible way for me to have a meaningful twitter experience if I follow 5,000 accounts. Instead I follow an eclectic group of fascinating, interesting people and web sites and organizations who bring an extraordinary flow of information and discussion and laughter and meaning to my life. On instagram I follow a small group of people who spread positivity and inspiration and share small slices of their lives and a bunch of home designers whose beautiful pictures make me feel calm – this is why I check instagram last thing before I turn everything off for the night.

    I also made a breakthrough discovery. I came to the realization that it’s okay to admit that I don’t want to go out and change the world. Do I want the world to be a better place? Absolutely. But I know myself really well, and I know that I personally was not built to go out into the great big world and try to right all the wrongs. A realization that was initially hard for two reasons. One, my personality finds injustice and dishonesty and lack of empathy and misunderstanding and meanness perplexing and upsetting deep within my core. I can spend hours ruminating on it, if I let myself. And the second reason it was hard to admit is because the internet is full of people who do want to go out and change the world. The internet is a great place to try to make that happen, so if that’s not your “thing”, it makes you feel inadequate or that there’s something wrong with you for not “trying hard enough”. However, as I said, I know myself. I am not built for big change. I am built to change my own tiny part of the world through my actions and my example. I do my best to go out every day and be positive and kind and compassionate and empathetic, even when, especially when those around me are not. I don’t like to argue, but I will state my opinion and stand up for what I believe in when needed. But most of all I try to listen and let the people around me know they are heard. My hope is this will have a small ripple effect on the people I interact with. I’ve decided that affecting that kind of change is good enough for me. I do admire people who try to have a bigger impact. All I ask is that, Rita, if you do continue to fight the world’s wrongs on FB, for the love all of us who love you, please promise not to destroy your wellbeing in the process. 🙂

    2. I love that exchange with your son. It made me laugh out loud.

    3. Deep and funny are not mutually exclusive. You are deep. You are funny. You are both and that is what makes you unique. Just because you write about serious topics…even when you are supposed to be writing something funny does not mean you are not funny. You make me laugh all the time. I don’t need to do a spit-take. I need relateable humor and you are good that. Don’t forget it.

    4. I love that fabric and how you are embroidering it. Is that a mountain? That is awesome. I would frame it and put it on my wall in a heartbeat.

    I will wrap up by encouraging you to keep writing, keep living your daily days, and keep sharing with us. We’re all in this together and you are making this world a better place. (Sorry that was so long, believe it or not, I edited half of it out. 😉
    Shannon recently posted…A Moment To Smooth The RoughMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      This deserves a more substantial reply than I can manage on this morning of a hellaciously busy day, but until I can write that one: thank you.(The other one is coming. soon.)

    • Rita says:

      Shannon, you are so kind. That’s powerful, too. 🙂

      I already edit my social media fairly well. I hardly venture into Twitter or Instagram. I limit things to FB, and I have friends I’ve unfollowed. (I keep them as friends, because they are people I know in real life and I care about them, but I realized long ago that I’d like them better if I didn’t see things they post.) Like you, it is where I get most of my news. I cannot stand watching television news. It is not good for my mental health. (And the way I yell at the TV makes it more likely that others will question it, too.) I think we all have to figure out where our line is between remaining part of the world and keeping some distance from it. For me, that line moves. Probably for everyone.

      And thank you for the writing encouragement. You’re giving me a different way to look at it. Deep and funny generally seem like they’d be mutually exclusive. Now I’m on the lookout for others who are both. I remember a book I read awhile back (A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel) that I loved. I think I liked it because she was both. I might have to revisit that one.

      And yeah, that’s a mountain. I’m really enjoying the embroidery. It’s great to do something just for the fun of it. Glad I still can, you know?

  10. Andrea says:

    Hello! I landed here thanks to Kari, and wanted to tel you how much I appreciated this post. I didn’t have a plan to say it as well as the commenters before me. I can’t take the ride along Facebook out of my day, as if it is a road I have to travel on to get everywhere. And yes, the rubbernecking is out of control, so I just keep sort of waving for people to pass me. I’ll just sit here, maybe change a tire, contemplate my sinuses and why they hate me. Your awake in the night project looks like so much fun! I typically refuse to admit I am awake, which is even less productive! 😉

    • Rita says:

      Hello! If you’re a friend of Kari’s you are more than welcome! 🙂

      I have lost many, many hours to refusing to admit that I’m awake. Or just lying there so I won’t wake up the dang dogs. I like the idea of waving people to pass me. I’m going to have to try that one.

  11. Stephenie says:

    Rita, this post is something I needed today. Funny how those things happen. I have reached the point where I can just barely bear to go on Facebook because so much there is a train wreck (and I’m not even American, for heaven’s sake, but hey, we’re neighbours!) Yes, our Canadian leadership is so much more hopeful at the moment but then everyone just bashes it anyhow, and there is some weird thread that pulls me into comment sections where the crazies reside, and I just get depressed. It doesn’t help of course that we are living in a new place where it rains. A LOT. All in all a downer. Add to that the fact that I did not get a job I really wanted this week and it is tough to “write with humour.” Still, I grinned at your exchange with your son, too, and even at this line
    Funny how a seemingly innocuous prompt–
    “Two dollars doesn’t seem like much, unless…”—
    became a piece about income inequality and powerlessness and regret. (Except it wasn’t funny. At all.)
    Focusing on the small joy of every day is the thing that works for me. On the way to school this morning I said “Look at all the gorgeous fall leaves, girls!” and my 11-year old said “Mom, you say that every day!” Well, it is a new day, and the leaves are still beautiful, even when they are dripping with rain.

    • Rita says:

      Hi Stephenie–it’s great to hear from you! I’m sorry things have been rough. You might like Shannon’s recent post. I think many of us Americans are thinking of Canada as a sort of utopia these days. Good to hear (sort of) that it’s not all that much better up north. Gives me a weird kind of backwards hope. Although, you have such a cool national leader. We are losing ours, and we’re not going have another one, no matter who wins. Oh man, on the road to downer land. Time to take a turn!

      Your last paragraph made me smile. There was a year or two where I drove my kids to school every morning up a highway with a view of Mt. Hood. On clear mornings, I’d tell my kids to look, look, look–and I’d get the same response. Just last Friday morning I was driving it on my way to a conference on a beautiful sunny day, and it made me smile (albeit wistfully) to think of all those mornings with my kids.

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