Stuff I’ve been thinking about lately, v.2

For lack of a more focused/coherent topic, please to enjoy this random collection of mental meanderings.

1. Working in higher ed is so not as glamorous as I thought it would be.  Especially at an open-registration community college.

2. Working at a winery is sexier than working in higher ed, but almost as exhausting.  Being on the outside of the bar is definitely more fun than being behind it.

3. There are a lot of people and situations I would simply love to write about, but realize I can’t for fear of coming across as a judgmental asshole.

4. I kind of am a judgmental asshole.  But there are still plenty of folks who may not realize it yet. Best to keep it that way.

5. Speaking of assholes, we had yet another yard ornament stolen. I spotted it propped up against a light pole a couple days later in our neighbor’s yard two houses down, sans the multicolored solid glass ball that had functioned as a veritable cherry on top. Our neighbor almost ran over it with their lawnmower. Seriously, people, what the fuck? If a kitschy glass thingamabob with no apparent purpose is mounted on a steel pipe well within my property line, IT’S NOT UP FOR GRABS. Literally and/or figuratively. Go to a craft fair already, buy your own fucking thingamabob, and then break it. Chrissake.

6. Things that are fun:  shredding paper, blogging, swearing, beachcombing, doing laundry.

7. Things that aren’t fun:  all other household chores, working, people who steal yard ornaments, traveling by air, waiting in line.

8. How can I possibly be 53 years old?

9. Did I actually meet Eddie Vedder and then spend time backstage with the rest of Pearl Jam after that show at the Paramount Theatre, or did I dream the whole thing?

10. I didn’t know about until just now.  In theory, it’s a super-cool concept.  However, 1994 was a long time ago.  How would would I know whether or not the setlist from that particular show was accurate unless I had a written copy to compare it to?


Stuff I’ve been thinking about lately

I mean, other than the fact that I haven’t posted since December.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot.

 1.  My gas mileage.  I just filled up last week, and got over 800 miles and 99 MPG on the last tank.  I drive a 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In.  It’s ridiculous.

2.  How much I love our yard, and the fact that we can finally say the front landscaping is 100% finished.  Check it out.

3.  On the other hand, after 3.5 years, I continue to feel the pain of buyer’s remorse.

4.  That 30 Rock has finally replaced Seinfeld as my favorite TV show ever.  Good god, Lemon!

5.  That I feel like the co-caretaker of a small petting zoo.  Five critters is too many, but they’re family now–for better or worse.

6.  That it may be time to start looking for a new job.  Like most career paths I’ve tried during my professional life, I’ve discovered working in higher ed isn’t as glamorous as I originally thought–especially not at a community college.  There’s a lot of truth in the way community college is portrayed in Community, but it’s like a gazillion times sexier on TV than it is in real life.  And the drama!  Dear god, the drama.

7.  Moving to the coast.

Photo of Haystack Rock at Cape Kiwanda at sunset

Any questions?

8.  That my life is, for all intents and purposes, half over–but in a good way.

9.  How exhausting it is to be an introvert in a world where extroversion is prized and expected.

10. How it mostly sucks to be a big person, except for the alcohol.

11. That literally almost every person I see anymore is glued to their smartphone, and that I’m expected to watch out for them.  Walking, cycling, driving–doesn’t matter.  No one watches where they’re going, and no one makes eye contact.  It’s just sad.  And how the hell can anyone see that tiny screen without reading glasses?

12. Todos en español.  After five terms, I should hope so.

13. That I really need to re-focus on the good and wonderful things about this world and the people living in it.  Because damn.

I think the Incredible Hulk was, in reality, a perimenopausal woman.

Husband and I watched The Avengers again recently, and I started thinking about how similar I am to the Incredible Hulk.  Bruce Banner and I both go from a fairly mellow, introverted, seemingly normal person to a stunningly angry, homicidal, destructosaurus in a matter of seconds.  The differences are

  1. I don’t turn green,
  2. I (very unfortunately) do not possess superhuman strength, and
  3. I am a perimenopausal woman.

Incredible Hulk

Consider, if you will, this fairly comprehensive list of 35 Symptoms of Perimenopause as presented by

  • Hot flashes, hot flushes, night sweats and/or cold flashes, clammy feeling
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings, sudden tears
  • Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats)
  • Irregular periods; shorter, lighter periods; heavier periods, flooding; phantom periods, shorter cycles, longer cycles
  • Loss of libido
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Crashing fatigue
  • Anxiety, feeling ill at ease
  • Feelings of dread, apprehension, doom
  • Difficulty concentrating, disorientation, mental confusion
  • Disturbing memory lapses
  • Incontinence, especially upon sneezing, laughing; urge incontinence
  • Itchy, crawly skin
  • Aching, sore joints, muscles and tendons
  • Increased tension in muscles
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headache change: increase or decrease
  • Gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas pain, nausea
  • Sudden bouts of bloat
  • Depression
  • Exacerbation of existing conditions
  • Increase in allergies
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss or thinning, head, pubic, or whole body; increase in facial hair
  • Dizziness, vertigo, light-headedness, episodes of loss of balance
  • Changes in body odor
  • Electric shock sensation under the skin and in the head
  • Tingling in the extremities
  • Gum problems, increased bleeding
  • Burning tongue, burning roof of mouth, bad taste in mouth, change in breath odor
  • Osteoporosis (after several years)
  • Changes in fingernails:  softer, crack or break easier
  • Tinnitus: ringing in ears, bells, ‘whooshing,’ buzzing, etc.

Delightful, huh.  And I’ve been experiencing about half of them.  No wonder I feel like I’m losing my fucking mind.

Let’s read on:

When most women enter perimenopause, they expect a few hot flashes and night sweats. They might even expect mood swings, vaginal dryness, and loss of libido. What they won’t expect, however, are overwhelming thoughts of doom and dread, panic attacks, high anxiety, heart palpitations, vertigo, dizziness, unrelenting insomnia, and feelings of losing control.

Yet a large number of women experience these symptoms and many others which you may not think are associated with perimenopause. In fact, so wild and unpredictable are some of the symptoms, a lot of women think they are going crazy.

Why, yes,  We do.

I am more irritable and bitchy than I’ve ever been in my life, and that’s saying something.  Last night, as I was trying to leave for a restorative yoga practice (to help with my stress level, right?), Happy Dog wouldn’t kennel when I told her to, so I chased her outside screaming, “I AM THE ALPHA!  I AM THE ALPHA!  WHY DO YOU DEFY ME SO?”  As I pulled the sliding screen door aside, it came partly out of its track, so, naturally, I yanked it the rest of the way out and threw it across the patio.  I mean, who wouldn’t?  HULK SMASH.

Husband asked me to help him install gutters recently, but I was apparently emotionally incapable of doing simple things like handing him tools, standing on a ladder or using a tape measure.  I’ll leave out the details, but it got so bad I had to get in my car and leave.  After I came back home, Husband confessed that he’d gotten frustrated with his elderly battery-powered drill and hurled it across the yard.  Neither of us realized perimenopause could be contagious.

I don’t sleep well anymore.  There have been times in the past couple years when I’ve slept so poorly for days on end that I feel like one of those soldiers in government sleep-deprivation experiments.  (Snoring Husband and Abnormally Loud Trains don’t help.)  And sometimes I wake up drenched in sweat, having soaked through my t-shirt.  EW.

My mother had a very difficult time with perimenopause, and used hormone replacement therapy for years.  I used to think, naively, that I was going to be one of those Christiane Northrup-worshiping hippies, embracing my womanhood and powering through perimenopause without pharmaceutical assistance.  Now I’m wondering if anyone’s invented an HRT-administering version of an insulin pump, how many of them I can attach to my body at one time and whether they’d be noticeable under my clothes.

How can anyone be expected to live like this?  Truly, I can’t remember a time in my life when I’ve felt so completely out of control.  Poor Husband.  Poor Happy Dog.  I hope they can find it in their hearts to forgive me for going all Incredible Hulk on their asses over the smallest things.

Incredible Hulk image from

Theft, Part II: Dear Dave

Thank you for helping me unload my cart at Costco this evening.  You didn’t have to do that, but you did.  You asked me if I wanted help, and I hesitated.  I looked at you and saw someone rough around the edges, someone who’d had a hard life.  Someone who might even be mentally ill.  I cursed myself for making a snap judgment based on your appearance.  I could have waved you off, but you seemed determined to help.  You introduced yourself as Dave, and I, in turn, introduced myself, wondering if you had some kind of ulterior motive for helping me.  As you loaded my car, you said, “People don’t really do this very much.”  I said, “You’re right.  They don’t.”  And you replied, “People should really help each other more.”

It took only a minute to transfer the contents of the cart to my car.  I thanked you; you gently patted my shoulder and said, “You’re welcome,” and you continued on your way towards the store.  I watched you with tears in my eyes as you walked away.  I smiled and said aloud, “Blessings to you, Dave.  Many blessings to you.”  You were too far away to hear me, but I want you to know.

I let someone steal my day from me, and you gave it back.  Thank you.

Theft, Part I: Dear A*hole

So you’re enjoying a stroll through the Monteith Historic District, presumably between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. (when most normal people are out for a stroll), and you spot the cute little solar lamp I lovingly placed near the newly planted Japanese maple next to our front walk on Saturday afternoon after spending many hours landscaping that spot.  (The same exact cute little solar lamp, in fact, that graced a small planter next to the also newly planted willow tree less than twenty feet away for almost a year, without your notice.)

Front yard diagram

And you decide you must have it.  You can’t live without it.  You know in your heart that if you could only possess that cute little solar lamp, your wretched, pathetic life will suddenly, somehow, be ever so much better.  Less sad.  Less hopeless.  Maybe it’s a Magical Lamp.  Maybe if you take it home and rub its tiny solar cell, a genie will pop out and grant you three wishes.  Maybe you could wish for three more matching lamps to make a set of four.

I am so angry at you and your inability to admire without taking.  It seems like such an unimportant thing, but that little lamp, along with the planter it originally graced, was a gift from a friend, and it made us happy to look at it every night.  Will it bring you as much joy as it brought us?  Somehow, I doubt it.

stolen lampThink about how many people have walked by that lamp over the past year and haven’t stolen it.  I, for one, am perfectly capable of walking around our neighborhood and appreciating any number of solar lamps and assorted yard ornaments without making off with any of them.  O, the yearning!  The unimaginable self-control it takes to simply walk by without helping myself!  Yet somehow, I can do it.

Are you the same a*hole who stole the concrete gargoyle statue from our front porch steps in Rapid City, South Dakota, in 2000?  Are you the same a*hole who broke into our garage in Pennsylvania in 2008 and took Loving Husband’s tools and mountain bike?  I’ll bet you are.  I’ll bet you have a yardful somewhere nearby of stolen solar lamps, ornaments, decorative rocks, statuary, potted plants, patio furniture, wind chimes, sprinklers, hoses and bird feeders from other peoples’ yards.  I hope you’re smart enough to keep all those things hidden in your backyard so no one else steals them from you.

I wasted most of my day being mad at you and trying to figure out what possible pleasure you could have gotten from stealing this simple little thing from us.  Loving Husband wants to believe you’re a homeless person who needed it much more than we do.  I think Loving Husband is being naïve, but he’s much better at giving people the benefit of the doubt than I am.

A blizzard of petals

Seinfeld is life.  That being said, here’s a timely George Costanza quote from Episode 112, The Postponement:  “Spring. Rejuvenation. Rebirth. Everything’s blooming. All that crap.”

As usual, the show’s writers hit the nail on the head.  Who doesn’t feel a sense of rejuvenation and rebirth when the sun finally comes out in earnest, the air is soft and reeks of lilacs, damp earth and apple blossoms, and the days get longer and longer?  I imagine it’s a bit like what a bear feels upon waking from its winter hibernation.

I’m looking out the patio door at our apple tree, currently bursting with fluffy pink pompoms, each of which is comprised of several dozen individual flowers.

Apple tree blooming

Each flower has five petals that shower down randomly when they can no longer hang on, creating drifts in the grass and on the patio.  When a breeze hits the tree–or a dove or jay lands on a branch–the petals create a swirling pink mini-blizzard that lasts a few seconds.  It’s one of my favorite expressions of “nature porn,” if you’ll pardon the term– several others being fireflies, cardinals, diamond dust and sunlight sparkling on water.

sunset on ocean

I’m also a big fan of rainbows, unicorns, butterflies, and fluffy kittens.

kitty in sink
Anyway, spring has most assuredly sprung, and I am revelling in it.  The daffodils are completely over, tulips are on their way out, the hydrangea is sprouting, and our roses are budding.  Everywhere I look around the neighborhood, there are flowers, flowers, flowers–and more shades of green than I can count.

I’m practicing being Present, trying to focus on the many things that are right in my life, rather than the few that aren’t.  I’ve gotten more clarity on what I want in a job and what I don’t.  I’m working on my first book.  I’m trying to love Happy Dog–who joined our family almost exactly a year ago–unconditionally.

Puppy sleeping in tulips

I’m still missing my family and friends in South Dakota, and some days are definitely better than others.

But even though I’m out of Nancy’s yogurt again, this time there’s no need for panic and mayhem.  I’ll just ask Loving Husband to stop at Market of Choice after work.

It’s Halloween month . . . and, for the first time, I don’t care.

I’ve been away from my online mat space for too long.  Now it feels good to satisfy my urge to write.

I had started a post about a month ago about how I believe the Incredible Hulk’s character is based on a perimenopausal woman, but I’ll save that one for a later date.

It’s incredibly disturbing to me that we’re ten days into Halloween month (also known as October), and I haven’t begun decorating.  See, Halloween is my favorite holiday.  In fact, I don’t understand why it’s not a national holiday.  I’d rather have Halloween off than, say, Labor Day or Presidents Day.


I’m one of those people who shops for decorations every year.  I mean, there’s always something new and fabulous, like flashing LED skulls, motion-activated ghouls that jitter and shriek, or a Jack Skellington bobble-head.  At the same time, though, I have decorations lovingly carried forward from my childhood.  I hate throwing the old stuff away–but cardboard doesn’t last forever.  And let’s face it:  it’s not nearly as exciting as things that light up, flash, make scary noises, or shake.

Husband and I go all-out with the outdoor decorations.  We have a pumpkin-carving kit, and choose a different design for our jack-o-lantern every year.


We have a fog machine, a strobe light, luminaries, strings and strings of LEDs, giant spiders . . . the list goes on.  We even hook up outdoor speakers and broadcast scary sounds for trick-or-treat.  Then, later in the evening, we usually broadcast It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or The Nightmare Before Christmas.


One year we dressed our blind pug as anatomically correct Yoda.


Yes, I do love Halloween.  But here it is, October 10th, and I haven’t even brought the bins in from the shed.  This is unprecedented.  I’m usually counting down the last week of September, because I won’t allow decorations to go up before October 1.  The first weekend in October is ordinarily allocated for the sole purpose of decorating indoors and out.

So what’s the problem this year?  I’ve asked myself that too.  Ladies and gentlemen, I’m depressed.  It’s that simple.  It’s the same reason I can’t bring myself to walk Happy Dog every day


or plant bulbs or weed my flower beds or clean up the dog shit in the backyard or keep the house clean or attend yoga practice.  I’m. Just. Fucking. Depressed.

On top of that, I’m even starting to feel mildly agoraphobic.  Although I’m an introvert, I’m highly skilled at what I call “professional extroversion.”  I used to be eloquent, confident and persuasive.  Now I find myself making sure there’s no one around before I bring in the mail or take the trash and recyclables out to the curb.  Job interviews have become excruciating.  Even the thought of interacting with anyone at yoga practice makes me uncomfortable.

Three months of not working, at home alone every day with two cats (sleep all day) and one über-ehthusiastic puppy (wants constant attention), applying for job after job after job, and wondering if the bills are going to be paid has turned me into a perimenopausal, reclusive hag.  Wait, I was already perimenopausal.  And a hag.  But now I’m a recluse as well.  (I think I just had an idea for this year’s Halloween costume.)


Yup.  That looks about right.

I haven’t been depressed for a long, long time.  And now I seem to be wallowing in it.  Yes, I know it’s a choice.  I know I could be unemployed and happy just as easily.  That’s what Abraham says, anyway.  But for some reason, I choose to feel like this.  I must be getting something out of it, or I’d choose to feel different–right?


Maybe husband will take matters into his own hands and fetch the bins from the shed this weekend.  All I need is a little push.

Valerie photo courtesy Act III Communications

Another day, another … whatever.

It occurred to me yesterday morning that it may appear to some that I overreacted to last week’s yogurt scarcity.


Recall, however, that I did identify the event as “another one of those Final Straws,” and that this sort of thing happens to me with “disturbing and irritating frequency.”  Also please note that I am fully aware my favorite yogurt has not been discontinued altogether; it’s just that our local Safeway no longer stocks it, either temporarily or permanently.  Just wanted to get that straight.

To illustrate this disturbing trend, following is an abbreviated list of products upon which I–and, to a lesser extent, my husband–had become very dependent, only to experience the repeated pain of their disappearance from the marketplace one by one:

• Aziza eyeliner pencils (the earliest product discontinuation trauma I can remember)
• Simply Organic Grilling Seasons marinade mix (the best marinades we’ve ever tasted–what the hell happened, Simply Organic?)
• Trader Joe’s unsweetened powdered chai mix (some people like to control the amount of sugar in their beverages)
• Burt’s Bees Bay Rum After Shave Balm (made hubby smell delicious and gave him a soft face–what’s so wrong about that?)
• Lily of the Desert Aloe 80 Clarifying Facial Scrub (are we the only ones who like scrubby facial cleansers?)
• Safeway’s O brand organic peach/mango fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt (seriously, am I the only person in the country that thought this was the best flavor ever?)
• Patagonia stainless steel travel mug (husband temporarily “lost” his [read “left at friend’s house in Seattle”], so loving wife tried in vain to find him a new one online)
• Star fruit (I haven’t seen one in the produce section in years–have they gone extinct?)
• OXO Good Grips Soap-Dispensing Stemware and Glass Wand threaded refills (who knew our dish wand would far outlast the availability of the exact sponge refills needed to make it work?)
Look–here are refills available for purchase online:


Don’t be fooled:  these refills are NOT THREADED.  They snap in to an OXO Good Grips Soap-Dispensing Stemware and Glass Wand identical to ours in every way but one.

And don’t even get me started on my favorite TV series that have gone by the wayside in (relatively) recent years:

Queer Eye For the Straight Guy
Most Haunted
UFO Hunters
30 Rock

At least The Simpsons is still going strong after 24 seasons.  Yaaaaaaay Matt Groening!  Yaay … uh … FOX? … Er, never mind.

Anyway, you may be wondering what kind of profound truths I have gleaned over the years from these recurring disappointments.  I’m one of those people who reads meaning into literally every seemingly coincidental object or event with which I come into contact.  For example, puppy and I were walking this morning, and I saw a squirrel use a crosswalk.  Really.  It was absolutely extraordinary, and I had to stop and take a moment to ponder the meaning of our timing such that we were privy to this singular phenomenon.

I interpret all these seemingly random product discontinuations as a message to be more


See how I made the word look like what it means?  I don’t care what those snooty graphic designers say:  it’s amazing what you can do with Microsoft Publisher.

The sad (and odd) thing is that the older I get, the less flexible I feel.  Yoga definitely helps with the physical flexibility, but I need to do some real work on the other kind.  A former yoga instructor used to say, “Flexible spine, flexible mind.”  Does physical flexibility, then, lead to mental flexibility?  Not necessarily.

What does it mean to be flexible?  I find that I sometimes learn more about the meaning of a word if I take a look at its antonyms.  So, what’s the opposite of flexible?

• rigid
• obstinate
• unaccommodating
• unadaptable
• unbendable
• stern

Ew.  That was easy.  I don’t want to be any of those words.  These words sound much nicer:

• soft
• springy
• stretchy
• adjustable
• limber
• willowy


I’ve been sitting here trying to come up with a nice, neat conclusion to wrap up this post, but I just realized that through the process of writing it, I’ve come to understand another small part of my life–which is the whole point of this blog anyway–and I don’t really feel like I need to provide a nice, neat conclusion to wrap it up.  I hope you’re okay with that.

This blog is like my online mat space and yoga practice:  it’s by, for and about me.  If, by chance, there are others of you who spend an enormous amount of mental and spiritual energy questioning
E    V    E    R    Y    T    H    I    N    G  ,
maybe you’ll identify with these posts.  I hope so, anyway.

[Afterword:  I just Googled “starfruit” in an attempt to find out why I haven’t seen them in the produce section for quite some time.  Look what has to say about a 2008 e-mail warning about the fruit:

The item quoted above, typically titled “Star Fruit Can Kill,” has been circulating on the Internet since at least May 2008. The original author is unknown to us, but the piece draws its information from April 2008 news reports surrounding the death of Tang Gon Sean, a 66-year-old Malaysian man Star fruit who on 29 March 2008 passed out after eating star fruits, was taken to Shenzhen General Hospital, and subsequently expired there after falling into a coma. Ten other patients at that same hospital experienced symptoms similar to his, and two died, said Tan Si-Yen, the doctor quoted in those news reports. All had eaten star fruit.

Relatively little known in North America, star fruit is popular in China, Taiwan, India, Philippines, Australia, Central America, Africa, and Brazil. While this foodstuff’s proper name is carambola, it is more commonly called “star fruit” because of its shape, which causes slices taken from it to resemble stars. It has a sweet, mild taste somewhat akin to a cross between apple and lime, and is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. It also has the potential to harm kidney patients.

Star fruit contains a neurotoxin that affects the brain and nerves but which people with healthy kidneys are able to filter out; it therefore poses no danger to those whose kidneys function normally. However, those with renal problems lack protection from that neurotoxin and thus risk “star fruit intoxication,” a condition that manifests with insomnia, hiccups, vomiting, numbness of limbs, decreased muscle power, twitching of muscles, confusion, and convulsions, with the time between ingestion and onset of symptoms varying from thirty minutes to fourteen hours. Intractable hiccups are often the first symptom to present itself.

While the majority of those hospitalized for star fruit intoxication do recover, some deaths have been associated with this condition. Star fruit-exacerbated complications in kidney patients are rare, but they are potentially fatal, and thus this fruit is best avoided by those with kidney problems, including those on dialysis. Indeed, dialysis is the only treatment known to be effective in treating this illness, yet it must be both daily and intensive to have the desired effect, and continuous dialysis has been recommended for severe cases.

The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) advises in its Dietary Guidelines for Adults Starting on Hemodialysis: “Always AVOID star fruit (carambola).”

Information about the interaction of renal patients and star fruit did not first surface in April 2008; medical literature has been documenting reports of and studies about the star fruit’s effect on kidney patients at least since 2000, with such findings subsequently reported by the general media.

Barbara “star report” Mikkelson
Last updated:   11 June 2009

WTF?  Intractable hiccups?  Convulsions?  DEATH???!!!  I’ve never been so thankful to have a perfectly-functioning set of kidneys in my life.

star fruit