Saturday, December 31, 2011

In Remembrance of New Years Past

It's New Year's Eve again and it's hard not to look back at the year. To evaluate it, hate it or bask in its glory. I also find myself reliving family traditions in my head.  By far my favorite is the New Year's Eve bash.  Every year we invited friends and family out to our farm. They brought along food, beverages, their dried up Christmas tree and fireworks.  My stepfather would push fallen trees and scrap wood into a pile twice as tall as most full-grown men. With a bonfire lit and bellies full of food and drink, we nailed two 2X4s to the bottom of each Christmas tree to make stands and then decorated them with bottle rockets and strings of fireworks. When all the trees are decorated, we shoveled coals from the bonfire onto the base of the tree and whooomph! Nothing more exciting and [possibly] dangerous than the combination of alcohol and pyrotechnics. We sometimes spent hundreds of dollars on the extra fireworks for after the trees had gone up in flames. 
Best of all, we had plenty of room for people to camp out if they couldn't drive home. The perfect New Year's set up. 

But my favorite part of all was when our dear friend, Jeff Sefeldt, recited The Cremation of Sam McGee from memory. It amazes me to this day that he memorized it in the first place but to recite it after an afternoon and night of drinking Keystone Light is truly a feat of olympic proportions. 

Robert Service (1874-1958)
                  The Cremation of Sam McGee
    There are strange things done in the midnight sun
        By the men who moil for gold;
    The Arctic trails have their secret tales
        That would make your blood run cold;
    The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
        But the queerest they ever did see
    Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
        I cremated Sam McGee.
    Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
    Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
    He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
    Though he'd often say in his homely way that "he'd sooner live in hell."
    On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
    Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
    If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
    It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.
    And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
    And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
    He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
    And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."
    Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
    "It's the cursèd cold, and it's got right hold, till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
    Yet 'tain't being dead — it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
    So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."
    A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
    And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
    He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
    And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.
    There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
    With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
    It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
    But you promised true, and it's up to you, to cremate those last remains."
    Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
    In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
    In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
    Howled out their woes to the homeless snows — Oh God! how I loathed the thing.
    And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
    And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
    The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
    And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.
    Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
    It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May."
    And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
    Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."
    Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
    Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
    The flames just soared, and the furnace roared — such a blaze you seldom see;
    And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.
    Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
    And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
    It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
    And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.
    I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
    But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
    I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
    I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; ... then the door I opened wide.
    And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
    And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and said: "Please close that door.
    It's fine in here, but I greatly fear, you'll let in the cold and storm —
    Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."
    There are strange things done in the midnight sun
        By the men who moil for gold;
    The Arctic trails have their secret tales
        That would make your blood run cold;
    The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
        But the queerest they ever did see
    Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
        I cremated Sam McGee.

I hope you all have a safe and fun filled night out there tonight. I'll be here at work--Saving lives and stamping out disease at the Wonderbilt. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Yule and a Blessed Solstice

Last night marked the Winter Solstice. The longest night of the year has passed and the days will grow longer--The light returns. For us pagans, it is a time of reflection. Looking at ourselves, figuring out what we want for the year ahead. Take a few minutes for yourself this day to figure out where you want to be one year from now--health, work, creatively, emotionally--and what goals you need to set in order to see that to fruition.

I woke up early this morning and snapped this picture of the Yule Sunrise.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Time to have another look at this budget

No. I'm not getting political. I don't need anything else to piss me off. I mean my own household budget.

For the first time in my adult life, I am damn near broke. Paychecks are cutting it too close for comfort and the credit card is close to maxed out. One income for five people plus paying for my husband's college out of pocket (because we "make too much" for financial aid) has finally caught up with us. We aren't missing payments or anything like that. But it wouldn't take much to push us over the edge. Especially now that my husband's unemployment has run out.

Here are my solutions:
Go through our clothes, DVDs, CDs and toys for things to sell. This might not be the best time for a yard sale but there's always craigslist, right?
Stop buying every book that catches my eye. For the next year, I will only buy books that are part of a series I am already invested in. I will stop buying books in a series that has taken a turn for the worse in hopes that the author has somehow rescued the plot and characters from certain literary doom. Get a library card, too.
Stop eating out at work. No exceptions. If all we have is stale bread and peanut butter, then that's what's for dinner.
Start using coupons more frequently.
Ask myself "do we need this right now?" with every item that goes into the shopping cart. Now I only shop at two places: Costco and Kroger. Okay, three places. I go to Barnes & Noble maybe four times a year. If you people see me at any of those places, gazing longingly at something that isn't a necessity, call me out on it.
Freeze back food. We spend a ton on Dagan's gluten free food items. I will start cooking in the middle of the day and freeze back lunch stuff for him. I just have to drag out those gluten free cookbooks again.

So, dear folks...what are your best money saving tips?

Monday, December 5, 2011

TBR: To Be Read

Deniz, over at The Girdle of Melian, has posted pictures of her TBR (To Be Read) piles and it inspired me to do the same. Here are my piles. A few books in each picture I have read, but those are extra copies I bought with the intention of [one day] re-reading.
The Xerox box is full of books, too.

The Gabaldon books are extras for loaning to friends.

Disregard "linger", I read it this summer.

I've already read Lover Unleashed, too.

The bottom shelf has been read, plus it holds my blank journals.

A table in my bedroom.

The drawer in the table (above)

The white box is full, too...

Oops. I forgot about this drawer-full...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bringing up the rear

I am so far behind all my writing buddies in NaNoWriMo-land that it is beyond funny. So far beyond funny that it has come full circle and found its way back to being humorous. Most of them have already crossed the finish line today. And good for them. I can look back now and see all the times I could have written more and, like the procrastinator I am, said to myself, "I'll write extra tomorrow," which of course never happened. But I still got words down every single day. And that is more than I can say for my norm.

I started out this morning around 8000 words in the hole with only about eighteen hours to get caught up. A daunting task to be sure. More like horrifying. It is two in the afternoon now and I have 3,370 words left to go. I know I can do this. Even if I have to count this blog post as words, I don't care. It might be cheating. You know what I say to that? FUCK. IT. I have worked my ass of this month, not just writing. Being the stay at home mom during the week, the nurse at work, the sole-provider of money for home and tuition/books for my husband.

I won't give a shit what these fifty thousand words look like at midnight tonight as long as the math works out for me. So take that NaNoWriMo--who's your bitch? Not this gal.

My rewards: Scotch, four new books, Scotch, a Gillian Welch concert tomorrow night, Scotch, and free time to do whatever the fuck I want. Oh yeah, and more Scotch.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Oh, the humanity!

Please excuse my negativity today. I have reached a point of maximum capacity and I must purge before I explode in a rush of festering toxic sludge. For those of you who’ve experienced this verbal emesis from me before, my apologies. 
The setup: My usual Friday marathon. Awake from 06:00 until 09:00 Saturday morning. I have been sick since Tuesday morning around 02:00. So tired at work Firday night, I fell asleep at the desk. Twice. Not just a cat nap. It was the kind of sleep that leaves you with numb extremities and an arm covered in drool. The Best twenty minutes of my life. 
Back to the point. What was my point? Negativity. Yes. So. 
After I got home, I fed the two Littlest Heathens breakfast, played with them for a half an hour before taking a shower and falling into a coma at 09:02. This is the sleep absent of dreams and full of restoration, unless of course your husband is studying and doesn’t realize the kids are giggling and fighting about four feet away from your head. Granted, there’s a wall between us and I had my earplugs in. Still loud as hell and it was two hours before I_should_have woken up.
I banged on the wall. Nothing. The giggles continued. I waited ten minutes, and by that time the decrepit old bastard next door had begun obsessive-compulsively mowing the twenty foot patch of grass outside my bedroom window (that he just mowed yesterday), before yelling—with a not-so-effective-voice since I’ve been sick for the last three days— “SHUT UP!” 
That worked for the kids. The old man outside my window? Not so much. 
So I tossed and turned and I fumed, to the point that I was too angry to fall back to sleep. Plus, I had to pee. I was pissed about that too (yuk-yuk-yuk). Fantasies of slashing the tires on Old Man’s precious lawnmower danced through my head. Or even better, I could go to their house at four o’clock in the morning and blow an air-horn, or ring the door bell incessantly until they were forced from their comfy beds to shuffle to the door in pajamas and then hide in the bushes while they looked for the mysterious prankster. Maybe a skunk could even mosey on by and spray Old Man. Ooh, ooh. Best idea ever: I could wait until he finished mowing and use our blower to move all the leaves from our yard into his yard since he was only mowing to shred up the newly-fallen leaves. 
Finally, at 4:15, after fueling the fires of my rage for forty-five minutes, I threw the covers off, stomped to the bathroom, peed, slammed the lid down and marched to the kitchen spewing my verbal curse word salad like an R-rated version of Yosemite Sam. 
My husband sat on the couch, studying like a good boy. The Littlest Heathens played quietly in the floor like angels. 
“What’s the matter, baby?” My husband looked up at me from his ventilator study guide. 
“I’m sick and I’m tired. And that fucking asshole is mowing the goddamn grass AGAIN! I am over this shit.” [Now keep in mind, the Old Man has been told by myself and my husband on more than one occasion that I work every weekend at night.]
No response from my husband. He knows when to ignore me and let me vomit my anger at other people. My kids, well, I don’t know what they were doing because I was in the kitchen taking Mucinex DM.
“He_just_mowed the leaves yesterday.”I picked up the Brita pitcher (still cursing about the selfishness of humans) because the directions say I must take this giant bitter phlegm-buster with a full glass of water. The pitcher was empty. Son of a motherless goat. 
"Why does he have to mow the part next to the bedroom? Why not the rest of the sonofabitchin' acre he lives on?" I slammed the Brita lid on the counter and a large chunk of it flew off. 
Just fucking spectacular. 
I blew out a breath (it was more of a sob, actually) and calmly retrieved the superglue from the junk drawer and glued the lid back together, holding pressure while the water filtered drop by agonizing drop.
I was angry to the point of tears and that is not an exaggeration. In that moment the world felt like a dungeon of wrongness. An inescapable Hell filled with frustration, selfishness and unfairness. I was a five year-old wearing a grown up suit that didn’t fit and itched like a mound of fire ants lived inside the fibers. 
Then I got angry all over again. This time it was aimed at myself for being the selfish one. 
So what if the old man is senile and compulsively cares for his yard. It’s his right to do that. He’s lived long enough, paid his dues, probably has a wife he can’t stand so yard work is his only freedom. Who am I to deny him the one thing he has left? I am no one. 
Except, I am [theoretically] the very person he should be sensitive to. He’s already had one ambulance ride to the hospital this year. I estimated him to be somewhere between eighty to eighty five years old. Not getting any younger or healthier. When he ends up in the ICU, will he want the nightshift nurse who’s single-handedly providing for her family of five on six and a half hours of sleep in the past two and a half days? 
No, he would want the nurse who has had a decent night/day of sleep so that they have the patience to wipe his ass when he shits the bed for the tenth time in twelve hours, or help him walk to the bathroom (a trip that can take upwards of half an hour for some ICU folks, those of them that are lucky enough to be conscious), the friendly face instead of the impatient hard-ass, the one that reminds herself to “kill ‘em with kindness” just like they taught in nursing school. 
This is the nurse that I strive to be. No matter how bad my mood, my patients don’t suffer for it. Hopefully he has the same kind of nurse when his age catches up to him and finds the hospital visits come more frequently. Maybe they won’t, but if they do, he’ll be lucky to have a nurse like me instead of one that rolls their eyes (yes, this happens, you might even know someone who’s experienced this first hand), or sighs loudly at the request for Yet Another Soda. 
My point in all this--besides the fact that I clearly need more sleep, a very long vacation and possibly some anger management--is that you have no idea how much your actions affect others. Think about it the next time you want to mow your lawn two days in a row. 
And if someone brings something to your attention on multiple occasions, particularly something that is negatively affecting others around you, listen to them. Don't just blow them off. They might not be making it up just to piss you off. Maybe they’re onto something. 
That's pretty much it. I won't rant about cops holding down protesters in order to ensure that the pepper spray makes it directly into their eyes. That's for another day.

Thanks for listening, y’all. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Addendum to The Writing Life

Ahem. It has been brought to my attention *g* by Deniz over at The Girdle of Melian (who has her own synopsis of a typical writing day) that I neglected to tell y'all about my work-writing day. Well, I work every Friday and Saturday--nightshift in the ICU--plus either a Monday or Wednesday due to my husband's class schedule. I prefer to do nightshifts all in a row, but shit happens like Husband's Decision to Make a Career Change.

So! My Friday and Monday consists of the same schedule I posted earlier except I leave for work at 6pm, work until 7am (writing when I can*), home by 8am, then sleep all day Saturday, waking up at around 5pm to go back to work. This crazy schedule means I stay up for around 26-28 hours straight--twice a week. Sunday, after work, I usually sleep a little later, waking up at 7pm-ish to cook dinner and get the kids to bed so I can read or write** after they're asleep.

*Writing at work is hit or miss. If we're busy, I get nothing done. Flu season is on its way so I won't even try. But on the nights when I'm the Charge Nurse, I can usually get a thousand words in between my paperwork, starting IVs, admitting patients (or as another Charge Nurse calls it...Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic) and putting out theoretical fires as they come up.
**The back and forth of dayshift/nightshift (especially since I can't work all three nights in a row anymore) has taken its toll on my brain. I can't write anything worth a shit when I've slept so erratically. That means Sunday nights and Tuesday nights are usually a wash for writing. But I try anyway, even though I don't typically keep what I's jibberish.

There you have it. My crazy schedule. It's no wonder I drink so much coffee and have a messy house. I've learned to accept the clutter and walk around it. Life is too short to spend it all on chores.