Rattling around

I’ve got all this stuff rolling around in my head lately, but I can’t quite make sense of it. I can’t even see what it is, really. I feel like there’s this part of my mind that’s obscured, like I can only get a glimpse if I don’t look directly at it. I know it wants to find a way out of here, though, because I’ve been remembering my dreams lately. That generally happens only when my mind is full and can’t handle all the weird shit it produces on its own without some sort of intervention from my mouth or fingers to get it all out.

I always think I’m a great compartmentalizer until I start remembering my dreams. Then everything runs together and I realize that compartmentalization, for the most part, is bullshit. Everything is intertwined.

Anyway, I’m not really at the point in my dreams where I can tell what’s going on upstairs yet, but the dreams are coming fast and plentifully. I really need to keep a journal by my bed so that I can write down anything I remember as soon as I wake up. It all fades so quickly—I had an entire dream on the tip of my tongue this morning but as soon as I started recounting it, it escaped me. I could actually hear myself forgetting it as I spoke, and now all I remember is that I’d found a journal belonging to Carole King and unlocked the secret of who she wrote all of her sad songs about. The name was unfamiliar to me, but I don’t remember it now. I guess it doesn’t matter.

Maybe the dream was telling me that I need to get better about writing down my thoughts. Or maybe it was hinting that I shouldn’t write my thoughts down because one day someone unessential to my life will find them and share in my secrets undeservedly and then forget them, as though they don’t matter.

Maybe it was my subconscious telling me to write down my dreams.

How meta.

How is it almost Christmas?

Somehow fall morphed into winter and now it’s mid-December and I’m scrambling to finish my Christmas shopping. Ian and I spent the past weekend in Gatlinburg at a cabin we’d also stayed in a couple years ago. I won a free weekend there because the owner liked the review I left so much, but we’d been waiting to cash in the trip. Even though it rained all day Saturday, the trip came at the perfect time. I’ve been feeling a bit stressed out and the weeks approaching the holidays always get me a little down, so it was a relief to just chill out—sans dog—in the woods for a couple days.

(I know those of you with kids are laughing at me right now.)

Gatlinburg was all gussied up for Christmas, and I guess that inspired me a bit because Monday night Ian and I went to Big Lots and bought an assload of lights to decorate the outside of our house with. Of course, the excitement was fleeting and overruled by laziness, and we still haven’t put them up. Mainly because it’s dark after work and we don’t feel like futzing around in the front yard in the dark and cold after working all day. As much as I keep telling myself I’ll work on putting them up at lunch the next day, I have a feeling they’ll end up going into the attic until next year when I don’t wait until right before Christmas to decide to decorate.

But I did decorate the inside of the house some. Our cats are psychos so we can’t have a tree, but each year I decorate our biggest bookshelf with those big colorful lights and a window in our living room with a strand of the small white ones. I also threw a strand of white lights under the TV this year and hung my little star lights under the kitchen cabinets.

I don’t really know how to describe the feeling I always get around Christmas—it’s kind of like feeling bummed out, but with nostalgia and gratitude mixed in. Having strands of lights and a candle that smells like a pine tree always helps, though. And this is our first Christmas in our new house, which is exciting and seems to be cutting down on some of my usual holiday blues. We’ll have lived here a year at the end of January, and I still sometimes get goosebumps when I pull in the driveway after being gone. I know it’s not great to be so attached to a material possession, but this is our house, where we’re continuing to build our little family and make memories, and I really love it.

Welcome to America

It seems as though, in this country, if you are black and fight with a cop, sell black-market cigarettes or brandish a toy gun, you are killed. You don’t get a trial, your motives aren’t investigated. The death penalty is doled out on the scene. You don’t even have to be an adult to merit this punishment.

But if you’re a white cop, you can shoot a man numerous times instead of calling for backup or using your ASP or pepper spray, use an illegal method of subduing and commit what the coroner calls a homicide, or jump out of your vehicle and immediately gun down a 12-year-old, and you’re off the hook. You don’t get a trial, your motives aren’t investigated. You’re let off scot-free. You don’t even have to be fit for duty.

What a country.

Our dreams betray our fears

I had a dream last night that I was dying of cancer. I had just been diagnosed and was given a year to live, maybe. There was a 10 percent survival rate for the kind of cancer I had. I stressed that to everyone who said maybe I’d make it through. “Ten percent,” I said. It was inevitable. I was going to die.

I think I remember telling people the cancer was in the back of my mouth and spread to my lungs, like the squamous cell carcinoma my cousin had, but it wasn’t the same thing. She was in the dream, too, along with her husband, kids and my aunt (her mother). They played a part, but I think eventually that morphed into another dream. Can you have two dreams simultaneously?

Most of all, I remember the overwhelming feelings of fear and sadness. I was distraught about knowing that I was going to leave Ian all alone. Alone to deal with the dog, the cats and the house. To deal with the world alone. I hugged him, crying, and told him he should find somebody else after I died so he wouldn’t be alone forever. I was so concerned about him being left alone and I felt the weight of that crushing me. I didn’t know you could feel lonely for someone else, but I did and it was gut-wrenching.

I also remember being scared of the pain that would come with dying. With getting sick from chemo. How my hair would fall out, and I’d be nauseated all the time and lose my strength and my bones would show through my skin. I would waste away to nothing and then disappear.

Our neighbor was in the dream, too. I walked to her house with Stella to tell her about what was going to happen to me. At one point, I think she morphed into Red from Orange Is the New Black. We watched the episode last night that dealt with Rosa’s cancer and treatment, so I guess that’s where this all came from.

Everything in the dream felt so rushed. I was visiting people and making plans because I was getting ready to start chemo, but really I was preparing for my death. It was inevitable. The dream was the last of my days before I started chemo. The last of my days before I had to accept that I was dying. Before I really started the dying.

I always thought that my greatest fear was death because of the ceasing to exist. But last night I was more scared of the pain and process of dying and leaving my loved ones behind. I woke up feeling sad, but not crying. I was uncomfortable. I still am.

Class clown

Last night was our second puppy obedience session, and once again Stella was the second worst dog in the class. Well, when I say worst I mean she was pretty bad at walking on a leash and paying attention to me. When it comes to friendliness, she’s the best. She has such a sweet disposition that it’s hard to stay mad at her, even when she’s embarrassing me in front of a room of people with puppies half her age who are obeying their owners like a bunch of goddamn show dogs.

One of the lessons yesterday was learning how to have dogs safely greet each other. Stella and I were paired with another owner and we were supposed to let our dogs touch noses, say “Good dog one, good dog two” and then call our dog back to us with food. Except the puppy Stella was paired with kept jumping on her head and pushing her to the floor, so when I tried to call Stella back she was pinned down and couldn’t come back to me. She was trying to get the damn dog off her head. I feel like that was the fault of the other puppy and not Stella, but we both were told our dogs didn’t do it right. Boo.

A week before classes started we booked a private session with a trainer to get help with crate-training and house-breaking her, and during that session we were told to get her a martingale collar to help with her leash-pulling issues during walks. So I got her one, but it hasn’t been helping. I brought it to class last night to make sure it was fitted properly (it needed to be tightened a bit), but after seeing how bad she was on a leash the instructor told me that we’re going to have to get her a small-pronged training collar or the head-halter version of the Gentle Leader. So I guess tonight I’m off to PetSmart to buy her the fourth and fifth version of a collar that will hopefully help her learn how to walk on a leash without pulling. I really hate to put a prong collar on her since they look so mean, but we tried one on her at the end of class last night and she didn’t pull nearly as bad. She wasn’t too excited about it being on her, but she didn’t act like it hurt. Hopefully all that fur is acting as a buffer.

It’s funny how much I took for granted about dogs before I had one. I knew getting a puppy was going to be hard work, but I guess I assumed she would learn to walk on a leash somewhat naturally and house-breaking would come pretty easily since she was supposedly already house-broken when we got her. I saw all these people walking and playing with their dogs in public and assumed it was easy to get there. Who knows, maybe it was for some people. I can’t imagine the entire population of dog owners are these genius trainers who spend hours a day teaching their dog how to be perfect, but maybe they are.

She did learn the cue “down” the other day, which was cool. Although we had to do it in class last night and the trainer told me I shouldn’t have to say it more than once, so I guess we still need to practice that since she doesn’t get it until I’ve said it about 20 times. But at least she’s learning!

Stuff and things

BK seems to be healed, although she refuses to get up in her treehouse for some reason. I think it’s probably because she fell trying to jump up in it while she was sick, and now she must be scared of it. But unfortunately this means that instead of sleeping in the treehouse most of the day like she used to, she now sleeps in her little hidden corner of the closet and we don’t see her too often. Hopefully when we move she’ll start using it again.

Oh yeah, we’re moving. We bought a house. I haven’t told the story of how that came about on this blog yet because, well, I’m superstitious. So that will come after we move, as long as everything goes well.

Related to that, I have been stressed out as fuck for the past month or so. I feel like one of those circus people who have a million plates spinning on sticks, and if one falls I’ll lose all of them and my life will come crashing down around me. So I’m holding everything just so, trying not to breathe too quickly, trying to smile and pretend like everything is OK when in fact I’m on the brink of the whole charade crumbling. I’m sure that sounds dramatic. It is. But I just need to get through these next two weeks and I think I’ll be OK.

We’re not off to a great start

BK spent the day at the vet yesterday getting her shots updated and her belly fur shaved off because of all of the mats, and now she’s laying around crying and feeling uncomfortable.

King Boo freaked out when I brought her back home and has been camped out by the couch for about 14 hours. I finally brought some food and water over to him and as soon as he started eating it, Gordo came over and shooed him away so he could eat it. Ass.

Oh, and I had to take my car into the shop this morning because it started making this horrible metal-on-metal scraping sound yesterday when I was taking BK to the vet. Based on the noises I described they told me it was probably the brakes, but I had those replaced a year ago and they shouldn’t need replacing again so soon. Here’s hoping they call and tell me the real issue is something else, but not something else that’s going to be really expensive.

2014, you are not impressing me so far.

Happy New Year

I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how much 2013 sucked and how they couldn’t wait to be rid of it. But for me, it was a pretty good year. It was a year that felt like two, really: My life before moving to Chattanooga and my life after moving to Chattanooga.

I rang in 2013 with Ian and friends and then promptly came down with kidney stones that took nearly a month, two doctors and an ultrasound to diagnose. After that painful start, we realized that Evil Twin was in failing health and a trip to the vet confirmed he was in worse shape than we had thought and we made the decision to put him down.

But there were really good things that happened in 2013, too. I became an aunt again when my sister had her baby. Ian and I, along with some friends, went to The Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores and spent a relaxing week listening to music and the soothing sounds of the ocean. I started working with a personal trainer and realized that with the right motivation and healthy diet, my body is capable of a lot more than I give it credit for.

The summer brought video game music played by the Nashville Symphony, petting a hedgehog and watching Sharknado with a bunch of friends and Sharknado-themed cocktails. Gordo had a health scare in June, but after a month of special food and enzymes he was back to his normal ornery self. He’ll be 15 this year, but he’s got a lot of kick left in him so hopefully he’ll be barfing on the rugs and trying to lay on my computer for years to come.

And then July came and everything changed. Ian was offered a job with BlueCross BlueShield in Chattanooga, I stressed out about keeping my job, but everything worked out and we moved down here at the end of July. To say moving our entire lives to a new city on the other side of the state in about three weeks was stressful would be an understatement, but we did it and we’re here and we’re happy.

And honestly, I don’t think the transition would have been as easy if not for social media, at least not for me. We all give Facebook and Twitter a lot of crap, but they have allowed me to maintain friendships and stay somewhat social despite being hundreds of miles away from pretty much everyone I know. So while a lot of people are telling you to deactivate your Facebook and step away from Twitter, I’m thankful that I can get glimpses into my friends’ lives and participate in conversations as though I never moved.

In September we sold our old house on the same day we were leaving for Music Midtown in Atlanta (a process that invited stress and nostalgia in spades), and then we spent the weekend celebrating our new life with old friends. It’s been surreal to move to a city we only previously vacationed in… It seems like every day we’re finding something new here. There’s always a new adventure right around the corner. It’s been invigorating.

We had a busy, wild second half of 2013 and I have high expectations for 2014. We’re making new friends, buying a new house and have got a handful of trips planned (including a trip to Ireland my mom and I have been talking about taking forever and are finally going to do). The older I get, the more I realize that adventure doesn’t have to mean doing something dangerous. For me, it can simply be trying something new. Eating a new food or talking to a new person instead of keeping to myself. Walking around downtown alone exploring the nooks and crannies of buildings and parks. Taking the long way home, or anywhere, and not being afraid of getting lost.

In 2013 I learned that as long as I have my phone’s GPS and Ian with me, I feel pretty damn brave. I hope I can keep that up in 2014.

Four years, four months and 10 days

That’s how long I lasted as a vegetarian.

Aug. 11, 2009, was the last time I ate meat until Dec. 22, 2013.

I’m not sure if it was boredom or laziness or just me being indignant at the restrictions I’d willingly imposed on myself, but for the past couple months I have really been wanting to eat fish. Which is odd, because I never really liked fish as a kid—ask my mom. So I did a bunch of research and talked to some people and came to a decision that eating fish was something I could live with, morally, as far as eating meat.

I decided that if I was going to do this, I would only eat good-quality fish. Wild-caught (thank you Whole Foods for making that easy) and fresh whenever possible (thank you locavore hippies in Chattanooga for making that possible). And no more than once a week because I don’t want to get too much mercury or sea trash in my system.

I bought a small piece of wild-caught salmon, cooked it with dill, garlic and lemon and ate it on Dec. 22 for dinner. It was good, filling and I felt like a million bucks after eating it. I had a ridiculous amount of energy, similar to what I feel after drinking a protein shake.

(It’s no secret that since moving down here and stopping my training regime, I’ve become a pretty shitty vegetarian. I eat salads a lot for lunch, but since this has been Ian’s and my Blow It Out Year, we’ve been going out to eat a lot. And that means lots of carbs, unfortunately, for me, and I’ve been feeling the consequences. So who knows, maybe getting a boost of protein in a low-fat vehicle will help with that.)

Anyway, on Christmas I cooked another piece of salmon and liked it even more. I was wracked with guilt for a bit: How can I just give up being vegetarian after only four years? Would this lead me down a slippery slope toward eating all meat again? What about the cute fish and their poor fish relatives being ripped from their arms and placed on my dinner plate so I could cruelly devour them? What would people think of me being so cold and heartless?

But then I realized I am only accountable to myself as far as what I eat. Nobody was pressuring me to be vegetarian. I got a lot of great encouragement and support from my other vegetarian friends, especially in the beginning when it was difficult (I hope none of them are secretly cussing me right now), but it was something I did for myself. It started accidentally and became an experiment of sorts.

And whether this means the experiment failed, succeeded or is just on hold for a while, I have decided that now I will try eating fish and no longer be a vegetarian. And yes, fish is meat. Anyone who tells you they are vegetarian but then eats fish is either lying to you or needs a biology refresher course. They are—and I suppose I am now—a pescetarian.

At least for now. I might start to have some of the digestive issues I had when I ate meat and realize that fish brings those back. I might watch Finding Nemo and decide I just can’t deal with the guilt. But for now, I am adding fish* to my diet.

*I haven’t decided yet how I feel, morally, about unlimited crab leg time at Red Lobster.

EDT

There wasn’t much of an adjustment moving into the Eastern Time Zone, despite having lived on Central Time my whole life up to that point. I guess since I only moved 100 miles away and was on the cusp of the zones it wasn’t too much to get used to more daylight at the end of the day.

But wow, the summer was nice. When we first moved to Chattanooga, it would stay light outside until almost 10 p.m. It felt like such a luxury to have such long days, like we were somehow stealing a few more hours than what everyone else got. I wonder if it will still feel like that when we go off Daylight Savings Time here in a couple weeks.

It’s weird that when I hear TV program times being announced they’re done primarily in my time zone now. My whole life I was trained to listen for the “8 central” part of “at 9/8 central.” I imagine it will take a while, but eventually I’ll be able to just focus on the 9 part.

I’m telling you, it’s the little things.