Saturday, January 31, 2009

Water Baby

(No red in this one, for obvious reasons. Does this remind anyone else of that Nirvana album cover?)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Head Above Water

Argh. Things are happening that I can't control, and while I'm not usually all about control, I feel so pushed and pulled around lately. More to come on vague and secretive things when I know more myself.

'Tis the season for crankiness, but I still feel a little more nuts than is warranted. We finally got real winter, after a merciful and mild December and most of January. We've got snow as fluffy and light as cotton batting, over a foot of it in two weeks, and I've got Puck and the Caddy pulled into the driveway while Monte gets me over the ice and through the drifts. Forecast says a week of clearer, warmer weather now, though, so maybe I'll get Puck out and zip down to the hot springs, which I've been putting off because it requires removing my leg hair, and I'm lazy. Monte had a hard time starting the morning it was -5 F but he's been a trooper ever since. For a couple of days I had him in 4L and was tooling around town at 20 mph in fourth gear. But I never, ever slid. Unless I wanted to. No calls yet on the Cadillac, and I want to put her around town with signs in the window.

I've been "in" a lot lately, M and Mom are busy or on the road or inaccessible due to weather, so I've had way too much me-time, which contributes to the nuttiness. I think too much, and I order things online (I come up with things I need, honest, like base layer long johns and the Sweeney Todd piano book) just so I'll get something in the mail. I don't exercise enough and I'm eating too much of the wrong things, but now that we have snow maybe I'll get skiing again and back on the spinach and carrots.

I've been artistic, however, and though I don't have much to show for it, I finally got brave and called one of my favorite artist's studios tonight to order his instructional DVD. Ken Auster is a modern impressionist, a surfer and graphic artist, and I adore his sloppy, gloppy genius. I know his voice from the clip I watched on his website from said instructional DVD, and when someone picked up it was unmistakably him. "You answer your own phone," I said. "Well, yeah. If I didn't, it would keep on ringing." I guess I figured he'd have a secretary or a wife or an assistant hanging around, but I don't know why I thought that, because I've seen his little seaside cottage of a studio and probably nobody else could find the phone amongst the catastrophic mess that's inside. The man doesn't even clean his brushes and I want to be just like him.

I am chronically tired. I'm impatient and unrealistic and often hopeless. But tonight begins my weekend, and this winter, like everything else, shall also pass. But in the meantime, argh.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Says It All

Caption Contest

Slight Revision

The years have been a little kinder to Miss Wrinkles, and she's gray, as an elephant should be. Also the boy got some values and the couch got some kernels. Just for fun.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sunday Matinee

You Should Share

I have such a hard time naming these. And I couldn't decide if the television set should be visible in the frame or not. I don't want you to think the boy is surprised at the trunk invasion. He's merely glued to the tube. Again, not afraid of the one-ton pachyderm. Not afraid of anything.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bean Dip

I'm having a rather exhilarating night. I changed the battery in the Cadillac (which isn't a big deal at all with the right tools, but I've been putting it off because I was afraid the battery wasn't the problem) and when she roared to life I whooped out loud and startled Dave upstairs. Or maybe the roar startled him, because that car literally SNARLED. In a good way. She puffed a little white smoke and settled into a gentle rumble and was mellow and powerfully compliant when I drove her around the block. I'm going to get it together and list her on Craigslist and and hope that somebody needs a lovely, reasonably priced runner.

Her interior is not in the best of shape, the navy leather is intact and pliable but the stitching has come undone in places, and the carpet is a little frizzy and stained, and the faceplate of the aftermarket single-CD player doesn't fit exactly so there are slivers of chrome showing. But somebody will appreciate her glossy, clean ivory exterior and that big, feisty engine. She'll need a cheap muffler somewhere down the road but it's hard to find a clean, running car (and a Cadillac, no less!) for under $2,000 so hopefully the sheisty economy won't stop somebody from taking her home. A good home, please. Please.

I purchased a bag of dehydrated fat-free refried beans (I'm testing things out for food storage because most canned goods have this ooky metallic flavor I can hardly stand, with the exception of condensed tomato soup, which I LOVE especially when Bekah makes it totally taste like pizza) and decided to rehydrate a few tonight to go with my favorite Rojo's fire-roasted salsa. It turned out fine but somewhere in the middle of the process I was getting worried, because the taupe flakes were just floating in the cloudy water and looked alarmingly NOT like food, unless maybe it was processed food for pet birds or rodents. And it amuses me what we will go through to industrially "simplify" a foodstuff that should be natural and wholesome and, well, simple. I think I'll be buying my beans dry in the bag from now on, thank you.

It's been chaotic and stressful and sort of an emotional strain (I simply cannot be tactful ALL THE TIME) at work lately and I so desperately need the catharsis of blogging about my job, but the subject(s) deserve care and thoughtful expression, so it's going to have to wait until I have a few hours to give it my best effort. Lots of things deserve my best effort right now and I CAN'T DO EVERYTHING, people, not all at once. But given enough time, I'm beginning to think I can do everything. Eventually.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tryptophane and Sand

I had a vegetable-busy salad after work but, as is generally the pattern with salad, found myself snacky at 9, so I had some graham crackers and milk. And then I found myself thinking of Sorensen Drive, and of the midnight ticking of the adding machine in the little alcove between dining room and hall that Mom used for an office during the Paisan's Pizza years, where she also, for some reason, blow dried my fine, flyaway hair after a weekend bath. Maybe the bathroom was too narrow.

Sometimes -- it now seems like often, because I was unaccustomed to sleeping alone -- I'd wake up and not be able to go back to sleep, and I'd hear the ticking through the bedroom wall (I was perhaps 9, maybe 10, when I first had my own bedroom, the one on the west side of the house, into which the afternoon sun from the backyard poured) and I would haul my yellow quilt out to the kitchen table where Mom would give me graham crackers and milk. Or Grandma, if she was still up, but by this time she was sleeping in one of the bedrooms in the basement -- I remember it being a massive house -- and she may have done some sewing before bed. I don't remember her being up that late; she was always an early riser. Tea, and the local radio, and if I tuned that station in tomorrow morning it would still be his voice. If there was coffee, it was instant crystals; I don't rememeber a coffee maker.

Morgan must have been a good and heavy sleeper, and in fact I have many memories of her sleeping the way she does now, when I see her asleep, head thrown back, otherwise curled in a ball. She used to sleep in the car on our long drives between Kemmerer and San Diego, whereas I didn't want to miss anything, not even the intense sameness of the desert between Vegas and Bakersfield. I've been thinking about that drive a lot lately, although I'll probably fly in April; I promised Tonetta I'll be there for her M.S. walk and it's no hardship to me, since I've been dreaming about the beach and the soft pinks and tans of stucco and the scalloped Spanish tile roofs. It's been a year and a half, and I never have an easy time staying away for long. When I do get back it's only foreign for a few hours, mostly in the dark.

I met a woman (at the embroidery shop where I pay my rent, no less) who was born and raised in Imperial Beach, the town where I went to High School, all four years, plus 8th grade. She and her ex-Navy husband retired here because of the cost of living, luckily just before the cost of living here went way up, namely housing. She was telling me about all the City's plans for urban renewal, hack up Palm Avenue and raze the shopping center where the old sticky-floored theater and the stinking Goodwill and the bong shop were, create an imitation Main Street as is the fad these days. We have one here, only it's been here forever. Not an imitation, but just as awkward.

There was a covered alley in that shopping center, a little enclosed rectangle of a space, where I used to imagine I could run up the walls and across the ceiling and down and up again, in a spiral. These thoughts came on the nights we were roaming the town in a small but giddy adolescent pack, but the only mischief we got up to was to write our names in a wedge of wet cement (and draw bubbly eighth notes), which we sorely regretted when we nearly got caught. I learned how fast I could run and Twinkie discovered how small she could be -- and where were Hope and Tonetta? -- and Kym took the brunt for all of us. The worker was a woman, orange vest and blonde braids, leather skin and workboots, and she left bruise marks in a finger pattern on Kym's pale arm.

I didn't intend to meander like this tonight; I wanted to talk about work. But the boxer "puppy" in the apartment behind the kitchen wall is slamming around in its metal kennel, and I'm agitated and far away. And I miss the sound of the waves.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Jumping Rope


"Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that others feel secure around you."

-Nelson Mandela

I want nothing more than to totally erase most of December from my memory, except for a few days early on and the last four hours and thirty minutes of it. December featured a front row seat to the continued emotional self-destruction of someone I've known since I was 3 years old, but have only been close to on a superficial level because, well, she's mentally ill, and you can't ever actually be close to someone whose fear and self-loathing get in the way. And in some cases, there's nothing you can do to help. The more I read and understand, the more fascinated and horrified I am.

Her disease is the same as Oscar's, an external locus of control. She believes she is always the victim, that others are to blame for her problems (including children, and not only her own children), she refuses to take responsibility for her actions, she has no concept of consequences, and she absolutely, completely lacks empathy, which is terrifying. It allows her to be utterly selfish without conscience. It also means that her love is conditional, and she's demonstrated this on several occasions when her children -- and husband, mother, brother, anyone, really -- demonstrate minds of their own. (Her girls have occasionally reported her not speaking to them for hours without having been told how they upset her.)

I've watched this woman raise her three daughters to believe that their self-worth is derived from external things, and now that they're teens, they're suffering the consequences (low self-esteem, desperation for peer approval) without any emotional support from her, because, of course, she doesn't believe she's responsible and wouldn't know how to repair it even if she did. They get financial support, plenty of that. Her pretensions are notorious and her materialism the stuff of local legend (if she realized this she'd freak out). And as long as the girls depend on her financially, she can control them, which is what she wants. I can't imagine waking up in this woman's head and body, the paranoia, the denial, the huge, gaping hole in her subconscious that simply can't be filled.

To be fair, she's got issues of her own. Her father, who I knew fairly well and, as a child, was both in awe and terrified of, shared most of her traits of emotional imbalance. She despised him until he died. She was adopted as an infant, but it was the first thing she told us about herself when we met her; she was 9, and for whatever reason it was a major preoccupation of her life. She's a grandmother at 36; her oldest daughter said, "At least I waited five years longer than you did." You do the math.

I thought she was simply narcissistic when I first became reacquainted with her several years ago (she was one of my sister's childhood playmates; she liked to insist I pretend to nap in the doghouse), but upon further observation it almost seems like her emotional development completely froze when she had her first child at 15. Some of the emotional dysfunctions she exhibits, like those listed above, are characteristics of the teenage brain, and we all know what teens are like. (I know how I was. I remember waking up from my adolescence sometime in my early 20's and wondered how it was possible to just not think for almost a decade. I trust I've made amends.)

How could a person with such limited life skills be a competent parent? Since the oldest daughter turned 18, her mother has treated her like a built-in BFF (except when she was showing signs of wanting independence) instead of the daughter she should still be nurturing and guiding. (At the baby shower I overheard her say, "You'd better not be pregnant again this time next year so we can go to Vegas when you turn 21." This from her mother. This from a woman who not long ago was a staunch Mormon, another group that must have met her disapproval one too many times. Or disapproved of her, possibly.)

Sometimes you meet someone who is a little juvenile, maybe a bit bitchy, probably simply having an off day. But when a whole pile of personality disorders is obviously gnawing away at their functionality, it's clear that there's more than a little problem. Our specimen has been alienating person after person and group after group for over two decades, and her circle's shrinking. She's no longer on speaking terms with her in-laws -- her husband seems unable or unwilling to stand up to her, even where his relationship with his parents or his daughters' welfare are concerned, and seems to occasionally buy into her irrationality, although it seems more like apathy most of the time, apathy and terror -- and is now enthusiastically hacking away at her fragile relationship to her mother and brother, who have been giving and forgiving for years.

Suggestions that she seek help are met with disdain and defensiveness. It's impossible to communicate with a person who is manipulative, and our girl here is a scary, scary pro, and quite the bully. She makes snide, passive-aggressive remarks that are calculated to punish but instead simply magnify her insecurities. She's also completely, oddly incurious about the outside world, for the most part uneducated (by which I mean higher learning, and she rarely reads anything but Mary Higgins Clark and fashion magazines that make her feel inferior), and lives in an insular, unrealistic, borderline imaginary world my sister and I call The Bubble. Anything that interferes with her idea of the perfect life has got to go, including church and anyone who doesn't subscribe to her unhealthy point of view.

Her oldest daughter, 20, gave birth earlier this week (the father's 19, and they're living in her home again, right where she wants them). Her middle daughter, 15, has been in a camp for troubled teens somewhere in Utah since mid-November, after several mild offenses, one big nasty one, and a runaway attempt that sucked family members into the drama who really didn't deserve to have to pay for her shortcomings as a parent. Her youngest daughter, 10, sports a spoiled-princess personality and social skills and manners so appalling that you can only take about three minutes of her, and we've watched her create that monster by hand. No attempts at discipline have ever been followed through on with any of her children. She's so insecure that she's afraid they won't love her.

I don't know when you cut your losses with a family member and just back quickly away, especially when there are other hearts at stake. I'll miss the girls dearly and I hope for the best for them, and hope that if they ever need me and don't know where else to go, they'll know that I'm here and that I'll do whatever I can to help, within reason (remembering, of course, who raised them, and having seen how much of her mental illness they've unfortunately inherited). But at some point you must think about your own well-being, and for me, and my sister, I hope, and her mother and brother, that point is here. And I'm sure there's no way she'll ever let them near anyone who got close enough to see through her. Her children will eventually grow up, and they will eventually judge her.

She'd be mortified by this public exposé, having spent her entire life trying to engineer what everyone in the world thinks of her (and failing miserably), but by now I've lost all sympathy (and I didn't name names; she's still just a sad phantom to you, unless you're family or you've guessed her identity from past posts about my "nieces," and it doesn't matter anyway because I'm pretty sure I'm done with her at this point and besides, I have nothing to lose, because in a parking lot in December I made some not-universally-offensive but certainly emphatic gestures that offended her [while she was being utterly unreasonable and bitchy to me and my sister and cruel to her brother and her youngest daughter, all in front of the sobbing pregnant one, to boot] and once you're on her shit list, there's no gettin' off) and I almost hope she reads this, even though she would deny it all and insist that I'm the one with problems. (You can't sweep your mistakes under the rug forever, X. Good luck.) I have always refused to play small around her, and she has always resented me for it. I'm tired of pretending and watching everyone else pretend.

And I've got my own set of faults, it's true, but I've set about identifying them and doing what I can to improve or offset them. And mine don't seem to be estranging anyone (in fact, dagnabbit, some are apparently endearing). As long as she's unwilling to get help, she doesn't deserve people like my sister in her life, and she will most likely never learn to treat others with respect and trust. When you have that much to hide, everyone around you is a threat. I should feel sorry for her, knowing what I know about what it must be like to be her, and I do occasionally, but even as objective as I am, she has continually abused the people I love; I'm tired of it and I want her as far away from me and my family as possible. Permanently.

Like the December (and the major commercial holiday Miss Dysfunctionality managed to brutally mangle for everyone, although there is reason to believe that she had a fine time -- or pretended to -- despite being "devastated" about the plight of her middle child, who is reportedly sleeping under a tarp on the ground), which is fading in the rear view mirror. I couldn't even find any pictures in the "December, 2008" folder that were worth posting. And that's telling, ain't it?

I have Tom Petty stuck in my head.

Well I know what's right
I just got one life
In a world that keeps on pushin' me around
Gonna stand my ground

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

QWERTY and Dirty Jobs

Jeffie was rooting around in the old plant, which has a few eye-level gray metal file cabinets filled with manuals, catalogs, spec books, dirty comics, and three decades' worth of Car and Driver, when he found a tattered, coffee-splotched photocopy of a mid-80's article from Playboy Magazine. When I came back from lunch he had forgotten what he'd originally gone looking for and was examining it excitedly. He'd mentioned it not long ago, "I wonder what happened to that copy of that article we had about the boom?" He remembered it differently but it was still fun.

Written by then-staffer Craig Vetter, it's a single-page feature about his two months in Evanston (yes, Wyoming, although he apparently now teaches at a university in or near Evanston, Illinois, and I bet it's a daily reminder) in 1981 working on the rigs as the local oil boom began to trickle out. Vetter remarked on the class of man in the oilfield and what that type of fellow (generally convicts, generally large and unfriendly) might do to him if they found out he was only working on the rigs to get a good story. He also vaguely described the dangers on an oil rig, that some piece of equipment he couldn't even name might crash down at any moment and kill him.

He didn't give a lot of page to the oil field itself; the focus of the piece was his trip through town five years later, probably in the summer of 1986, and how he expected to find the town "used up and left for dead" and found it thriving instead, with new construction and various other improvements and a friendly and active citizenry. $18,000,000 in tax revenue pouring in from the oil field had apparently been put to good use, he mused. That's true. Evanston did well in the boom and after.

I didn't live here in the early 80's when the boom would have been on its downhill slide, but I lived 45 minutes away in Kemmerer, and I know that on our way to Salt Lake on various errands, we rarely stopped here. But what people who did live here during the boom seem to remember most is the ruthlessness, the lawlessness, as if for that almost-decade Evanston reverted to the Wild West.

When oil was discovered near here, the greedy circus arrived and derricks grew up like a forest. And then came the roughnecks. People are rumored to have been shot in alleyways and repaired hastily in the E.R. with superglue. Jeff says if your car broke down on the way to work and you managed to find a ride with someone else, you might as well not even lock the doors and be sure to take everything you valued, because by the time you came by after your shift there would be nothing left but the frame, not even the dash or door handles or headlights. Vetters mentioned the trailer park where he rented a room and the horrors he witnessed there. Men slept in vehicles or in makeshift camps on the outskirts of town by the river, and they showered at the Flying J truck stop (which might have still been the Husky) for $5. Doesn't sound like much now, but they were making $12 an hour on the rigs and that was big money. Jeffie cackles at the owner's gall, someone he knew. He worked there during high school.

Money is the thing, I suppose, so much of it changing hands and winding up in the wrong hands, black-stained hands attached to thugs, but also the odd cowboy or the odd family man like Jeffie. Local men knew the boom would eventually bust -- Wyoming runs that way, like a heart monitor, a constant pulse and drain -- so they took City jobs like Jeffie or got on with the railroad or the State Hospital, Wyoming's forbidding brick mental institution, which is just down the hill from the plant, overlooking the freeway across a sweeping slope of lawn from behind a line of cottonwoods planted like sentries.

(Story goes that the City fathers had the choice: mental institution or university? They chose the sanitarium because they thought the doctors would bring a lot of money to town. They didn't, but my great uncle practiced general medicine there for a time and the City judge recalls Dr. Bertoncelj in the exam room as he rebroke the arm Judge Lavery had broken skateboarding and left too long untreated. "I remember his cigarette just dangling there on his lip and those two big paws on my skinny arm. I must have been about 10." I'm sure I've mentioned this, but Grandma used to hunt arrowheads down the hill from the State Hospital, in Uinta Meadows where Morgan's house is now. That fascinates me.)

Anyway, I pestered Jeffie to tell me what working on the rigs was like then, and he's an enthusiastic story teller and a good one. He described the ineptitude of some drillers and the danger and filth on a rig. "Green" was the word he used, and "dirty." He sketched the blocks and the kelly and the turntable and the drill bit itself, and the hose that carried mud (at 3,300 psi) to cool and lubricate the bit. This was the rig he worked on twenty years ago, not the rigs they use now. I wanted to keep the Post-it he doodled on and scan it for you but I forgot to grab it. (Never attempt to rescue anything from any trash receptacle at the plant. Two of the four of us chew tobacco, and I'm not one of them. And Jeffie quit decades ago.)

We practiced scanning with the article (Jeff got a new computer and scanner when he took over so we can scan our reports and lab results and e-mail them directly to the EPA, and he's learning to scan, e-mail, and type, although it's still pretty much hunt-and-peck. He's doing very well but there are occasional setbacks, including his spelling, which is so incredibly phonetic that sometimes SpellCheck can't even offer suggestions for the word he meant, and sometimes he'll accidentally write an e-mail in the "notes" section of a contact's digital business card. But he likes to right click, click and drag, and copy and paste, so it's getting easier). It came out on the screen looking crinkled and ivory with age, with a few spectacular dribbles of coffee here and there and some badly smudged text in one corner that was still readable. Just like the original. It looked like a treasure map. And because I like stories, I like things keys that unlock stories, like that tattered paper. So in its way it is a treasure map.

And so the days are passing.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


This is what I did it on,

... and this is what I did.

For Christmas, Brent procured for me the best art table ever. I've been waiting for Alvin to get their crap together and reissue the glass-topped Craftmaster II Art Table that's been off the market for over two years due to "manufacturing issue," but Brent was surfing art supply stores and found something even better, a Studio Design drafting table topped by a sheet of glass the delicate blue color of an Italian lake. It arrived the day before Christmas and was so easy to assemble that I had it done and arranged by the time Brent got here New Year's Eve. I've been obsessed with the glass ever since I saw the Alvin table; I'm so hard on my art surfaces due to the variety of media I use, including the X-Acto blades and sanding blocks for watercolor paper. The table elevates easily, rolling on sturdy pins, and locks into a sawtooth brace without me having to twist, screw, or hook anything. It has trays and drawers galore and a monster surface area and I LOVE IT. Plus it fits nicely into the corner slot in the living room and my stuff all fits snugly underneath, whereas the round wooden dinner table I was using took up a quarter of the room and I had to crawl all the way under it to reach things that were stored. Thanks so much, darling.

Tonight I was rather inspired to draw but wound up painting Big Cat with oils, just because that's what was more accessible (my pencils and lead are spread all over the living room floor, while my brushes, solutions, and paints are already neatly organized in the portable easel M got me a few years ago for Christmas. Also, Bekah should know that Big Cat was immortalized using the long blue brushes she gave me a while back. I adore them).

The living room doesn't have any kind of ventilation at all and it's probably hazardous for me to paint in there because of the fumes, but I'll figure something out. First I have to get rid of this headache, though. I fee like I accomplished something, so now I can go to bed.

It's turning out to be a productive new year.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Little Miss Muffet...

... got off her tuffet.

It occurs to me that I'm unintentionally producing a series of artworks that depict children in rather unusual situations with potentially dangerous creatures. I do not wish harm on any child, not even the Snow Pile Kids (who have been scarce this winter); more likely these images are subconsciously popping out of a buried place of my own faced and discarded fears. I am no longer afraid of bears (thanks to the .454 Casull) or spiders (thanks to four years in the basement), not the oversized common house spider (Achaearanea tepidariorum) above or even hobos, a few of which I've met and conquered above ground, too. So no, I am not subliminally sending threatening messages to those of you with young children. I just believe in the monsters that only kids understand.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Change is as Good as a Rest

After a blissful four-day respite with Brent, 2009 begins in earnest with a glassy clatter as the crusty snow and ice peel off Puck's sunroof and bounce along the roof, shattering on the asphalt of I-80 as I plunge home through Echo Canyon, playing leapfrog with the semis. 2009 begins with the stink of the damp cellar of this old and moldering house, where a copper pipe froze and broke, one of the auxiliary supply lines to the boiler that turned out to be relatively unnecessary but was sure spewing water, which appeared to be leaking out of the cellar ceiling.

I heard the water roaring when I got home from Salt Lake, where I had dropped Brent off at the airport for his flight home, always a painful situation and one that leaves me forlorn and discombobulated. I called Morgan and Kelly, which is what I always do when I have any kind of emergency, and M had the presence of mind to suggest I shut the main water valve off. This required finding the key to my old basement apartment and traipsing out into the freezing night, fumbling around with the lock and the light switches in empty rooms I could once traverse blindly at top speed. The memory came back quickly and I found the valve handle in the shower, blackly crusted with mineral deposits and rust.

After it was ascertained by the baby-faced plumber, Lane, that the fix could wait until morning (the boiler is holding pressure and temperature just fine without the fill line, recirculating preheated water through the radiators in the house), I briefly wandered around the basement apartment and tried to recall living there. It felt haunted by the previous years, some of them rather unhappy, striving, reconstructive years, and I was already in a fragile state of mind so I came back up to these airy rooms and tried to get on with my life.

I have great hopes for 2009. Except for several rather magical adventures with Brent or my family or both (and it almost felt as if those glorious days had to be stolen from the calendar, carved out like a pound of flesh I'd have to give back), 2008 was sort of a mess for me. Sometime around February, attempting to mitigate some of the depressive effects of winter (I suffer from Seasonal Affectation Disorder, and if that seems like a cop-out or an excuse to you, you've never passed a winter in Wyoming) and P.M.S. that came with bouts of alarmingly increasing rage and despair, I switched birth control pills hoping that a monophasic treatment -- the same dose of hormones every day, as opposed to the triphasic I was on, which tapers the dose throughout the cycle -- would help with the mood swings. Unfortunately, the new pill contained a high level of the hormone progesterone, in the form of synthetic Progesterin (which is derived, incidentally, from a Mexican yam), which is THE DEVIL. I lost over half a year of my life (and nearly the rest of my life) to a chemical that made me completely insane.

Much later, when it finally occurred to me to Google it, I found that I'm not the only woman whose emotional boat capsizes when her balance of progesterone is out of whack. A post from a woman using the log-in "rmjtweety" on "... I have found myself in a sinking hole of depression and anger like I've never felt before. I bawl at McDonald's commercials and become enraged if the dishwasher isn't loaded properly. I am ecstatic one minute and severely depressed the next. I have even had thoughts of suicide since being on this shot. I am normally a very outgoing, athletic, cheerful, happy person - but since taking this shot, I have become a stranger in my own head... I have lost all sexual drive, am thoroughly exhausted by 9am and find myself crying at my desk at work by late afternoon because I am so tired. My family thinks I am going crazy and I've never fought more with my husband. My daughter has gone to grandma's for a while because I'm just so tired and irritable that I feel like an awful mother. Migraines have also come full circle since the onset of the shot as well as blurred vision and shaky hands." Poor thing. There are hundreds of similar accounts all over the Internet, and I became the same explosive monster, the same zombie who didn't really want to live even though I had every reason to.

Fortunately I live alone and pretty much everyone who had to deal with me, especially Brent, managed not to take it personally when I became ferocious, needy, or utterly impossible, utterly hopeless. It came in waves and I didn't always see it coming, and even when I did I could do nothing to stop it; usually exercise or creative pursuits do a lot to improve my mood, but not with this. I was still a basket case on the cruise in August but it turned out to be a wonderful time anyway, probably because my family is so forgiving and gracious and Brent generally knows just how to pacify me. It was also a vacation, and I was so happy to be somewhere extraordinary with the people I love and getting enough sleep and exercise and new scenery that it was hard to focus on my misery.

I also miraculously managed to keep it together at work for the seven or so months I was possessed by that demon, but in September when I started seriously wondering if a leap from the top floor of the Wells Fargo building -- the only building in Evanston over three stories tall -- would finish me off and what it would feel like, I figured it was time to do something, so I went back to the clinic and demanded a pill with the lowest hormone dose possible. Within a week I felt the blackness in my soul dissipating, and even though some residual pockets must occasionally hit my brain (I recognize that feeling when it comes over me now), it seems to be happening less and less often. I am happy, and I am hopeful again. I feel like myself.

A change is as good as a rest, Jeff says, and so he's right. I should know. I am very adaptable and easily become complacent, but I respond well to change after just a little resistance, even crave and yearn for change of various sorts. I'm known for being unable to keep a hairstyle or color, I settled on a dozen different vehicles before I bought my car, I rarely make a recipe the same way twice, and I read four books at once. But I need for 2009 to have major changes in it, the variety of change that often sparks the phrase "a new life." I'm not making new year's resolutions; like Brent says, there's no reason you can't resolve to change something any day of the year, and January 1st is a day like any other, unless you're hungover. But it happens to be a convenient time this year to rearrange my priorities and routine to produce different results. Because there's no sense complaining anymore if people can point out that I'm really not doing anything to change my situation, and I rather resent people who are all talk and no action, which is something I never was. So why allow myself to be seen that way now? I'll be 30 this year. It's as good a time as any to get going.

Happy new year, friends and family. To change. [clink]