Monthly Archives: November 2007

Turkeys, spa, and sleep.

park off pavement

We saw the wild turkeys yesterday! But alas, there were only three. And they were being chased (cruelly) by the neighborhood teenagers. I wanted to stop them. My husband stopped me, “They’re teenagers!” As if they were some mysterious alien force that might turn upon us.

“They’re being mean!” I wanted to yell at the kids, I wanted to tell them to leave the turkeys ALONE! To leave what I considered the grieving, remaining three turkeys, alone! (What had happened to the other two? It upset me to think about the possibilities).

My husband watched the scene closely–we had brought the car to a standstill, to gaze at the turkeys. The teenagers had moved away, walking toward their cars by the tennis courts. “EVERYONE is mean in high school.”  (My husband, you see, was trying to chill me out–I have a colorful history of telling strangers off when I get self righteous and indignant).

“No, not everyone is mean.”

“Yes, everyone is mean–YOU were mean in high school. Everyone is mean in high school.”

Were we still talking about these teenagers and the turkeys, I wondered. “Not everyone is mean to a defenseless animal!” I responded. This was beyond psychopathic, I thought.

“You’re shouting.”

There were only three turkeys left. And we wondered if the mama turkey had somehow left the brood, or if she had been eaten by random homeless people in search of a Thanksgiving meal, or if an animal had gotten her, or if she’d been run over. The remaining turkeys seemed a bit lost, unfocused, wandering–more so than before, when they had been a tight little family.

It was sad. And now they were being treated with cruelty. I still want to yell at those teenagers.

***

I went to the spa yesterday. I am determined to erase my post MFA-thesis blues. Retail therapy helped. And then I got a massage yesterday morning. And played with my new pasta roller in the afternoon.

***

And yes, I am still sleepy. All the time. But I rest up when I can, and I’m taking care of myself as best I can.

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Filed under Life, MFA, The Stroke

better.

After yesterday’s post-MFA-thesis catastrophe, I decided to right things today with some retail therapy and lunch.

And thus–I bought myself a jacket, a pasta roller, and treated myself to lunch, where I savored a sinfully yummy popover with strawberry butter (one of my favorite food treats).

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Dutch!

Found via Charlotte’s Web–Who’s your inner European?  (My hubby took the quiz, and his inner European is French!)


Your Inner European is Dutch!


Open minded and tolerant.
You’re up for just about anything.

Who’s Your Inner European?

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Epilogue

berkeley winter

I forgot to take a little time out for myself after I turned in my MFA thesis yesterday.

It all started out very casual. I got to school early. I met a classmate and friend who was also turning in her thesis, someone who’d entered the MFA program the same semester I had, the two of us old program fogies, in the lounge, giving each other hugs and reminiscing, and also discussing future plans. It was, I thought, a fitting tribute to our cycle.

Then I got my thesis signed. Each of my professors took an extra minute with me–they knew this moment was poignant, even if I did not. We made small talk, at times, uneasy small talk. I hate small talk. I wanted to burst out with gratitude…but I did not. I gave them each a thank you note–the burst of gratitude was contained in those small white envelopes.

I went downstairs to the Provost’s office, where I turned in my thesis.

(okay–so far so good, right?)

The reaction to all this thesis finality? I was SOOOO HUNGRY. Starving. I started towards my car thinking about hurrying off to work, but I couldn’t stand my hunger–I’d never make it across the bridge! I’d DIE OF HUNGER So I turned around towards the campus cafeteria, where I bought myself a rice krispie treat (yes).

I didn’t stop to munch it. I munched and walked, still hurrying towards my car, not taking a single moment to sit and reflect and stay with my feelings. (Why was I running from my feelings? From this campus?).

I drove, drove like a banshee over the bridge, as if late to work (I was not–I had told everyone I’d be coming in later in the afternoon). I told myself I’d eat when I got to work, that I’d take some time out then.

Nope. I forgot to eat at work.

And by the end of the work day, when my friends jokingly asked me, “Should we call you ‘Master’ now?” I felt…so…forlorn and sad. I felt wretched. And hungry.

I had worked all those years and was now going back to the same industry I was in before I started (even though yes, it is an industry and job I really really like)…and I had a thesis to show for it…and…and…what was I going to do differently now that I didn’t do before? How had my life changed? I hadn’t thought any of this through. I hadn’t figured out the end at all. I’d prepared myself for the last year, for the last semester, but not for the very end.

I didn’t take time out for myself at all. No reward. My MFA time is about to end–the precious period that I kept extending and extending, is about to end. I should have taken an hour to just sit and reflect, maybe treat myself to a great meal. I should have had the foresight to apply to a writing residency to start after graduation, where I could just sit and decompress. Nevermind that. Why didn’t I take FIFTEEN minutes to just sit and reflect?

After work, my husband dragged me to dinner, knowing how awful and sad I felt. I was exhausted. I’ve never had postpartum depression, but perhaps this is similar. I drank sangria until I was anesthetized.

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Thesis printed

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I printed it out today. In Times New Roman font, thank you for the input! I’ve always used Times, it was quite satisfying to watch my thesis, comprised of short stories and a novel excerpt, print out in familiar type. I even thought of a decent title for my thesis, too. I am pleased.

What a shift this year has wrought. The thesis I’d aimed to write was not the thesis I ended up writing.

I fully intended on turning in a polished draft, or a large excerpt of my novel as my thesis. That’s what I thought anyway, when I began work on my thesis two years ago. Two and a half years ago was when I began writing my novel. I imagined a stack of papers over an inch thick when it came time to print out my thesis.

As the laser printer spit out the sixty-odd pages very carefully, one by one onto Crane’s Thesis Paper today, I suppressed a sigh. I’d gone off the path. I was turning in a last-minute group of short stories, not a novel. I was prouder of this work than I was of my novel, so it was not a sigh of disgust. That very thin, short stack was comprised of good work. I was proud because I wrote it in the wake of adversity. It was good work because writing it was part of my recovery.

The decision to focus on short stories was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in my MFA program. I was unable to write my novel these last few months, and my thesis director’s expertise is in the shorter forms. Everything lined up.

But that sigh still swirled inside of me. I had a stroke. It really messed me up for a little while. I hate that it happened. I appreciate the result, I appreciate the lessons learned. I know I am better off today than I was before the stroke. My writing may even be better for all of it.

Still. I yearn for the day before it all happened, before I had to learn all the lessons, when in my mind, my thesis would span over a hundred pages of a novel. It was a less informed world. It was a more youthful world. I think I looked younger before the stroke. I looked at pictures of myself over the years, uptil the stroke, and then afterwards. Did the stroke age me? I’m sure it did, with all the graces and indignities that aging can bring.

I find it odd that a part of me yearns for that ignorance, for hundreds of pages of mediocre work. But I do.

And yet. And yet! I’m proud of the work that I will turn in tomorrow. And I pray, I pray, that this new road will lead somewhere great.


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The long weekend is for sleeping

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I don’t think I’m as recovered as I thought. Every afternoon of this long weekend, I sleep, and then wake up for dinner. And then I go back to bed early and sleep some more. Wake up late. At first, I thought it might have been an oncoming flu–but no. There are no flu symptoms. Just an overwhelming exhaustion.

I’ve been working hard these last couple of weeks. At my job, and at finishing up my thesis. Been working fulltime. Waking up at 6am, driving in to the City, coming home past dinnertime. I like my job, it’s no form of torture to do this. I had no idea that it was taking so much out of me though.

But of course, now I hit the last stage of my recovery…the land of secrets. I don’t want to tell people I’m lagging at all. My life is fully engaged, and I don’t want it to let up, I’m sick of being sick. I’ve been offered a fulltime job by my boss, post-graduation. I’ll be starting fulltime, January 2. “I want to know that if I need you at work, you’ll be here–I’m asking a big thing, to put work first.”

Yes. I took a fulltime job. I’ll make the time to write, I always have.

But I don’t want to let on how much this is taking out of me. After all, I’ll be fully recovered eventually, won’t I? And then this whole nagging exhaustion won’t be such a big deal.

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Happy Thanksgiving

turkeys

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

I woke up to the smell of onions cooking (my husband had started his annual business of cooking Thanksgiving dinner early). I took a mid-afternoon nap (why am I so tired and spaced out? Am I coming down the flu?), and woke up to a cooked turkey and fixings.

I ought to go to sleep more often.

And the wild turkeys in our neighborhood? They’ve made it through Thanksgiving! My husband spotted them in the middle of the street a couple weeks ago, and I was worried for their wellbeing…and they were spotted again this morning. All full sized (at least twice the size of what you see above–the above picture is from July). Flying. Flapping. Walking along. Eating. Yay! Go turkeys!

It was a beautiful day.  Blue skies.  Crisp, cold temperatures.  Brilliant trees.  A light wind.  The kind of weather that I’d call “perfect.”

May your heart be full of good thoughts, feelings, and memories.

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It’s come down to fonts.

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I have halted the revision of my thesis–! It’s due on Monday, for Pete’s sake. There’s not much I can do within the next four days to improve the thing substantially. And I personally think it’s better for me to set the pieces aside and revise them further a few weeks later, after I’ve digested some, after gaining distance, after the semester’s ended. So–I’ve decided: it’s “DONE.”

Now I’m trying to choose fonts. My thesis length is short. We’re allowed to choose between Times New Roman, Arial, and Courier. I’ve always just used Times New Roman. But suddenly! Suddenly, I’m actually paying attention to fonts! (Why? I don’t know. It’s thesis neurosis).

I’ve played around with how the fonts impact thesis length. In Times New Roman, my manuscript is about 8 pages short of minimum thesis length. In Arial, it’s 2 pages short of minimum thesis length. In Courier font, it’s about 16 pages over minimum thesis length.

I don’t think anyone cares about thesis length, so long as it’s within range–my thesis reader, along with my thesis director, have already approved the darn thing anyway. But-but-but (and here comes the thesis font neurosis)…what font should I use?

Courier, I hear, is industry standard for manuscripts (but it’s sort of…plain). But Times is what I’m used to (but again, it makes my thesis look REALLY short–NOT THAT IT MATTERS). Arial is pretty (and takes me within 2 pages of thesis page minimum, NOT THAT IT MATTERS), but it somehow looks less “standard.”

Okay. So here it is. I’ve got several days to resolve this issue. WHICH FONT TO USE FOR MY THESIS? I will seriously take the most popular vote here, because I can’t take the font angst anymore! I throw it out to you to decide.

Times?

Courier?

Arial?

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I, Hippie

You know you live in a hippie town and only go to hippie grocery stores when you have to go to FOUR grocery stores until you finally find: a bag of marshmallows* and a bottle of light corn syrup**.

Happy Thanksgiving!

*My husband requires marshmallows on his yams, no substitutes!  Marshmallows.  So I went on the hunt.  I asked for marshmallows at Trader Joe’s, and the kind salesperson looked at me as if I’d asked for edible arsenic before she quickly shook her head.

**I know, the corn syrup is BAD.  But I am trying to make this candy for the first time and am not up for substitutions until I successfully execute the original recipe, which includes corn syrup.

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Guilty Pleasures Meme

Tagged by the individual voice…and also check out charlotte’s web for hers.

A note from moi: I am not a fan of the phrase “guilty pleasures”–I don’t really feel guilty for having these acts of comfort and delight. But I did list things that I do that I find secret joy out of doing, things that are sort of secret because they’re not things I do in groups or in public.

SIX GUILTY PLEASURES NO ONE WOULD SUSPECT ME OF HAVING

  1. Hugh Grant movies (ie., Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, About a Boy, Bridget Jones, Notting Hill…). I love them. I will watch them over and over. I don’t have a crush on HIM, but I just like his characters.
  2. Chewing on my fingers. I do. It’s bad.
  3. Sometimes, I just sit on the couch and stare at the wall for a looooong time. It’s the simple luxury of time. I don’t know how long I’ll have this luxury, but I do indulge it.
  4. I loooove People magazine, and celebrity gossip websites. It’s awful. It’s a problem. Kind of.
  5. I like my job. It’s in high tech, it has nothing to do with writing, but I still like it a lot. It takes time away from my writing–but what to do? I’m going to keep working and writing for as long as I can get away with it.
  6. I really like having had cosmetic surgery done on my eyes. It really did change the way I saw myself, and made me feel oh-so-much better.

SIX GUILTY PLEASURES I WISH I HAD THE COURAGE TO INDULGE

  1. Totally downgrade the comforts of my life and take total time off just to write with great intensity, for a year or two.
  2. Walk around without makeup everyday.
  3. Move to another country, preferably somewhere cool and foggy. (We have a place in mind).
  4. Raise chickens. It’s a bizarre urge. And it doesn’t take courage so much as willpower to do it, I think.
  5. Get liposuction (seriously). I hate my belly fat. But I don’t feel like risking my life to get rid of it (I work out, I do sit-ups and crunches, and it’s not awful and I’m in good health, but it’s still THERE). But then I keep thinking about how much better I felt about myself after having my eyes done…OMG, my guilty pleasure is cosmetic surgery!
  6. I can’t think of any more. I’m pretty self indulgent as it is.

SIX PLEASURES I ONCE CONSIDERED GUILTY BUT HAVE EITHER ABANDONED OR MADE PEACE WITH

  1. I like television. I watch it all the time. So there.
  2. I love food. I indulge. I stop when I’m full. But I eat wonderful, wonderful food. So there.
  3. I spend lots of money and time on skincare products. So there.
  4. Until my mid-twenties, I had one pair of shoes (usually sneakers, since they were so all purpose). It never occurred to me to have several pairs, or even ones just to match particular outfits, or even ones to just stare at it in awe. But that all changed when my mother-in-law started showering me with shoe gifts. I felt sooo guilty having them all…but I grew to love all the shoes…and they’ve changed the way I dress and feel, outwardly. Who knew?
  5. Writing. I thought it would be fanciful, that it was not pragmatic, that I should quelch this drive. But ha.
  6. ….?

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one less pill

oh p.s. I’m off of plavix! The echocardiogram results are in: the hole in my heart has healed, and there are no leaks. No more pathway for errant clots to shoot up into my brain. Thus, no plavix.

And yet, I found myself still taking the plavix this morning. Why?

It is a weird moment, waving bye bye.

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Filed under Life, The Stroke

officially busy

I am…officially so busy I don’t have time to work out, I don’t have time to eat a proper dinner, and I’ve got to whittle my life down to my core priorities.  It’s going to be just work and writing.  My passion for cooking is going to be put aside, no more baking, no socializing, barely any television (except when vegging out after a long day’s work), and my vegetable garden might be a bit neglected, too.

In other news–I got my thesis back from my reader.  Funny: she liked the stories that my thesis director liked least.  And vice versa.

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