Monday, August 31, 2015

My $215 scatalogical failure

For most of the summer, I've had a cat poop problem. As most of you know, I have three cats. I have a big cat box in my bathroom, which is cleaned daily. My cats are inside/outside cats, about 50/50. Only Frannie is willing to use the litterbox exclusively though Evie will do so if she finds herself in the house too long. Sammy won't. He just won't.

My second landlord has discontinued the first landlord's practice of mulching the shrub beds and my cats, my neighbor's cats, other neighborhood cats, and the occasional passing dog with an inconsiderate owner have taken to using the beds. In the heat of this summer, it stinks. And it particularly stinks under the windows of the petless couple in the front apartment so I've been diligent about cleaning up after Sammy but I am tired of cleaning up for the neighborhood.

Several online locations recommended bark mulch as a solution, saying the cats wouldn't put their paws on it because of splinters. I asked my landlord about it and he said go ahead. He didn't offer to pay however. So I bought 13 bags of mulch and hired a friend to clean the beds out and spread the mulch. They look so much better.

And the cats are still pooping in the beds. If you have ideas, I'm all ears!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A great quote

William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), from his 1951 book entitled The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

An ugly brush with sadism

I do my best to keep most of these posts pretty positive but I feel a need today to express both my outrage and deep grief. Yesterday on Facebook, a friend posted a desperately distressing video called 30 Seconds in the Life of Sara. Sara is/was a cow in a factory farm. This is not a video about the horrible conditons these animals live in. It is a video about sadistic cruelty and brutality to these animals. I only watched about six seconds and I turned it off because I couldn't bear it. A white man (shown only from the shoulders down) punches the calf in the head several times, stuffs a rope down her throat, and then strangles her with it. I stopped watching at this point because I was sobbing and close to throwing up.

Cruelty to animals is incomprehensible to me. Dog fights, cock fights, torturing cats and dogs, beating and starving horses. How is it that we have raised this man in the video to be someone who does that? Who is so powerless, so full of hate and rage, that he will torture a defenseless creature and still have his job and perhaps have his behavior condoned and even applauded by his fellow workers.

I wept off and on all day yesterday and today. And for the first time in decades, I thought yesterday about suicide, questioning whether I could continue to live in a world that lets this brutality, this sadism happen. This and all the  terrible things that humans, mostly men, do to women, children, babies, and other men. It was a fleeting thought, but sometimes it is just too much to bear.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Disney/Pixar's Inside Out

Yesterday my good friend Sue and I took our inner kids to see Inside Out, a dazzling animation about feelings and memories. Personifications of Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust run the Headquarters and help a young child maintain her core memories and deal with her feelings.

A lot of the film is hilarious and clever and the visualizations of these attributes are wonderful, both because they are spot on and because they give us something to see when we experience those feelings. I would love to have seen this as a child and, that notwithstanding, I learned a lot that is helpful for me.

Anger always gets his way, Disgust is haughty and exremely well dressed, and Fear is the laughable coward, but Sadness is the ugly duckling, the most unwanted character, who in the end saves the family. A really important message for me and maybe others.

If you have some issues with your feelings, you might enjoy it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Unwelcome fellow campers at Camp Innerkid

Some unpleasant changes here at camp. On Sunday, the camp director closed the little store. She'd seen that I'd been way overcharging my account on candy and ice cream bars. Then on Monday, a new load of campers showed up.

First, off the bus was Bonnie Boredom. She weighs about 500 pounds and came lumbering into the cabin, throwing that weight around. She sat on me most of the afternoon and everything that had been so much fun the week before, she sneered at. Coloring? for fools! Reading? Who cares! Writing a poem!? For sissies! The only thing she was interested in was napping. Oh, and did I mention she complained and complained about the heat.

My other new bunkmate for a couple of days was Rhonda Restless. She took the top bunk and kept jiggling her legs and flopping around on the mattress so that Bonnie and I could hardly nap. As soon as lights went out the first night, she dragged out a suitcase that had her private stash of desserts. I've done my best not to break into that stash.

Yesterday afternoon, Bonnie and Rhonda took a hike (after I told them to) and I was able to settle down again. I've asked the director to ban them from camp. Hope she listens.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Rolling with change

I've received two pieces of information this past week that have rattled my stability cage a bit. Both of them have helped me remember to consider change as a good thing instead of something to rale against.

I got a letter from the manager of our studio co-operative saying that as he had suspected, our building is going up for sale (the original owner died some years ago and left it to his sister. She died at age 96 last March). The historic building (it was a commercial laundry for about 65 years) has been an artists' coop since 1977 but in today's hot real estate market, it will go to a commercial developer for condos or apartments most likely. I've loved having my studio there. It's 9 blocks from my apartment and affordable. We have another 7 months but the loss of it is coming.

I also got an email saying that my steadiest client has hired an in-house editing manager. She will be organizing things, which we freelancers have needed, but she will also be doing reports and finding ways to cut back on the time we spend on the reports. The rub is that we're paid by the hour so that will diminish our income as well as make fewer reports available to us contractors.

In each of these cases, I thought about getting upset and then just let it go. I want to be somebody who embraces change, even the ones I don't want, rather than fighting them or complaining about them. I read a lovely thought today: Shift from thinking that things happen to you to thinking that things happen for you.

I'm curious to see what gifts these two big changes are going to bring.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A poem that moved me at the Hood River Plein Air Writers Gathering

What Remains
By Sarah Sullivan, inspired by Mt. Hood Winery

A cooper made the oak wine barrels. The wood came from Washington. The grapes came from the west field near the stream. The water came from Mt. Hood down the river into the irrigation ditch. This year the water is rationed and the grapes will be smaller.

In the soil are stones from as far as Idaho that came in the floods 12,000 years ago. Imagine a torrent of water 10 times the combined flow of all of the rivers in the entire world. Incomprehensible, like the tree becoming a vessel and the glacier making its way into wine.

We worry about the water and the mountain. We know the glaciers are receding and the summers are going to be more like this one. Unbearably hot. Fires everywhere.

Still, in the fall the geese will fly in long, loud V’s over the vineyard. The deer will gather under the apple trees, and a few of the salmon will make their way back upstream through the warming water.

Try to remember the exact place where we came into being.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Adventures at Camp Innerkid Day 2

Hello Mudda
Hello Fadda

Here I am at
Camp Innerkida

I arrived at camp (aka home) after spending the night up the Gorge at my sister's. We'd been to a gathering of Plein Air Writers at the Columbia Center for the Arts, where we writers read our poems. It was a very nice evening but I was exhausted from four solid work days and presenting at the Willamette Writers conference. (Note to Camp Director 2016: Don't put anything on the calendar when you're taking a month off).

I stopped for groceries and then spent the rest of the day moving as slowly and thoughtfully as I could. I started reading a new novel, I colored for a while, I watched a lecture on High Renaissance Mass music in the Great Courses series I'm doing on understanding classical music. I took a nap. I watched a lecture on madrigals. I read, I wrote in my journal. In some ways it was like camp. Relaxed, easy-going. But I missed there being other campers. Other folks doing the same kind of something or nothing. It's a good knowing.

Today I'm doing more of the same although I did get gas, got my car washed, and went to Trade3r Joe's. The morning's adventures. My friend Barbara Joy said I might feel wonky and out of sorts at first. There's a little of that for sure and quite a bit of "at loose ends." That will pass, I'm sure.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

a way into productivity

I always love the kindess and gentleness of Leo's posts. This is not exception.

Posted: 07 Aug 2015 11:25 AM PDT
By Leo Babauta
While I’m not a fan of trying to be disciplined every moment of the day, there’s no doubt most of us could use a little more discipline in our lives.
We procrastinate, we waste time with online distractions, we go an entire day without getting done what we really wanted to get done.
How do we overcome this?
With training. Practice small, effective habits, and practice some more. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect at skills if you don’t repeatedly, deliberately practice.
If you want to get good at these skills, don’t worry about not being motivated. Just enjoy the joy of practicing something that you can get good at. It’s amazing when you’re learning something new, and that wonderful feeling is what can motivate you.
What should you practice? Three simple skills that can be turned into habits with repeated practice.

The 3 Small Discipline Habits

The habits that work for me are all about talking to myself:
  1. Tell yourself, “This is what I’m going to do next.”. Instead of having a long to-do list of things you want to do today, have just one thing you want to do right now. Instead of saying you’re going to do this important task sometime, say you’re going to do it right now. Instead of allowing yourself to randomly open websites that give you distraction, deliberately figure out what you want to work on next. Pick one thing. It doesn’t matter what it is, but try for things that are important in your life.
  2. Ask yourself, “What is the smallest step I can do?”. Most of us look at something on our (mental or digital or paper) list and subconsciously think, “That’s too hard.” So we put it off. But that’s because we’re thinking about an entire project, which has many tasks. You can’t do a project right now, you can only do a task. Instead of saying, “I’m going to write that paper that’s due,” you should say, “I’m going to write 3 things in the outline of the paper.” If the smallest task stills seems too hard, say you’re just going to do 5 minutes of that small task right now. Or just two minutes. Make it ridiculously easy.
  3. Ask yourself, “What is stopping me from focusing on that small step?. Even if you figured out a task to focus on, and you’ve broken it into the smallest step, there will still be distractions or resistance. If you’re not immediately doing the smallest step of the next task, ask yourself why. What’s stopping you? Can you resolve this issue, close all browser tabs, shut off your phone, ask co-workers or roommates or family members to give you 30 minutes of focused time? Can you ask for help, get some accountability? The easiest solution is usually to close all distractions. Then get moving on the smallest step.
Once you’ve done that, repeat this process two more times, taking a few minutes’ break between each round. Then take 20 minutes off as a reward. That’s your training session. If you can do several training sessions a day, you’ll get good at this in no time.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A gratitude poem for Mike's in Hood River

You can have yours
in the shop’s small yard
teeming with four generations
of tourists
holding your caramel mocha fudge
above the snout
of an ardent canine
just as eager
to lick your hand
as the cone.
You can have yours on a bench
high above the street
near the library
savoring the strawberry swirl
as Mt Adams blesses you.
You can take yours
down the street
and let the butter pecan
banana double scoop
flow over your fingers
as your eye gets caught
by some shop-window beauty.
But best is to do it solo
sitting on the high curb
in the shade of your car
concerned only with the marks
your tongue makes
in the mint chocolate chip.

Jill Kelly, 2015

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The tragic life of Amy Winehuse

On day two of Camp Innerkid, I went to a Sunday matinee, something I did a lot in my early teens. It was a way to escape the doldrums of a Sunday afternoon. While certainly not a kid's film, the Winehouse documentary is a fascinating look at an adolescence gone very wrong for an extraordinarily talented person.

By age 15, Winehouse was bulimic. She told her mother, who did nothing. The woman believed it was a phase. She went on being a bulimic until she died. No one, not her girlfriends, not her managers, not her lovers, no one apparently ever addressed this with her. When she was diagnosed with a serious drinking and drug problem, she refused to go unless her father, who had disappeared from her life when she was 10 and only came back when she got rich and famous, urged her to go. On the contrary, he told her she didn't need it. Amy Winehouse was a passionate and insecure young woman who let the men in her life run the show. They enabled everything so they could ride her coattails to vicarious fame and evident fortune. She finally did go to rehab but against doctors' orders, she took her junky husband with her. They lasted a few days. Bulimia severely damaged her heart and she was warned that if she drank again, she would die. Her autopsy showed 0.4 blood alcohol, a more than lethal dose.

Her story is sadly familiar.A talented young person with enough fame to build a staff of people who need her to keep working no matter what to keep the money coming in. In one of the more gruesome episodes, she goes back to drugs to keep from having to go on tour, but the staff pick her up even though she is passed out and put her on a plane to Serbia and insist that she perform. She refuses and the press reviles her. I was particularly disgusted at the Jay Leno clip where he makes fun of her misery.

I didn't know much about her except the media spectacle. I was blown away by her poetry and her voice. Her duet with Tony Bennett is exquisite. I'm glad I took my 14-year-old self  to see that film. We knew well the loneliness of adolescence, the parents who couldn't see the loneliness, and how welcome drink and drugs were as an antidote. We could both sympathize with Amy.