paulak_rumin8: Robert Frost (miles to go)
Once in a while a mood grabs hold of me and cranks up the volume on something raucous with a lot of cymbal, like Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," instead of unceremoniously changing the channel. For a little while, I just sat, driving the car, the part of me that craves contradiction smugly enjoying the noise at the expense of the gentler, less edgy part of me. It was a kind of symbolic bludgeoning of that other part of me that is conscientious and responsible. Some sort of existential rebellion, I guess.

Anyway, my sister graciously volunteered to take my GMC Yukon and seven children downstate with her for the week, which leaves me with a big, quiet house. Not quite free, I am still encumbered by my full-time job and my sons' evening paper routes, two fairly low-key cats, and one un-dead frog. The thing has been with us for coming up on sixteen years. Seriously, I don't know whether it will die, or it did some years ago and I live with a post-mortem, perpetually animated pseudo-amphibian. The frog hatchery kit claimed I would be a frog-owner for five years max. Hah! The little creature has outlived the store I got him from by at least a decade.

I'm riding that line between seeking social interaction and "why bother?". The latter has carried me for the past several months, at least, and maybe the majority of my life. Ideally, I'd have one deep-rooted friendship, a soulmate. I know, sounds cliché, but I mean that. I do great with just one best friend. I even appreciate peripheral friends and friendly acquaintances better, armed with a solid best friend. I had one, for probably a good 15 year stretch. That may happen again. Who knows? But I can see from here it's a hell of a long way back, and I don't know how much time it's going to take to get there.

In the meantime, I write. That is a safe, sufficient outlet. I have nothing profound to say. This doesn't even approach "art." Maybe it more appropriately belongs in a journal somewhere, but at least here, online, it's going somewhere. Even if it's a pebble toss in a canyon, at least it's traveling. And I don't have the time or the heart to put the requisite effort into a work of fiction right now. No, throwing pebbles into the abyss is sufficient for one night.
paulak_rumin8: Robert Frost (miles to go)
I used to work in a jail. I spent two years at the county lock-up, the sole nurse for the place, 23 years old and crazy oblivious to the fact I was quite clearly in over my head.

I was game for anything that came my way, which probably proved helpful. I was a very nice nurse. I had the tendency to see inmates as ordinary souls wearing a lot of orange and carrying unfavorable back stories.

The jail was deceptively large. It looked like a squat, single-story, brown brick extension of the much older, much larger, much more elaborate courthouse next door. But as it turns out, about 2/3 of the jail is underground. And about half of the inmates are not local. The county recoups a little of its criminal justice expenses with some (mostly) federal cell rentals.

The locals were primarily people with addictions doing what addicts do to score their substance. The Feds were of a different ilk. Some of them were street hoods, gang-bangers. Some of them were in all likelihood involved in gun-running and crime syndicates. Allegedly. At the county jail, they weren't convicted. Not yet.

I had an office downstairs. The walls were grey, painted cinderblock. There was a closet where I stored my files and a few supplies. There was a med cart that held the inmates' prescriptions and all the OTC stuff they seemed to crave (Tylenol, Benedryl, etc). There was a desk, also gray, up against the wall in front of the room's only window. It overlooked the F block across the hall. I kept the blinds shut. Too much orange looking my way otherwise. There was a desk calendar on which I daily crossed off the days, counting down to my wedding day. It was eerily similar to doing time.

Except I could get out and go for lunch at the wonderful little sub sandwich place across the street. And when I rapped on the dispatch room window, someone released the latch and let me out of the place.

Every morning, I would greet everyone, get a report form the officers on duty about what was up, healthwise, with the inmates, and receive an updated roster sheet. From that, I would compose a list of inmates who were due for their obligatory health intake and TB test, and the TB test reading 2 or 3 days later.

I spent a lot of time just waiting in my office to see people. You see, in corrections, and probably even more so at the county level, the health needs of the inmates are of minimal concern to the corrections staff. These people, from the law enforcement perspective, are already getting free room and board on the taxpayers' dime, and now I want to appropriate even more toward optimizing their health. What were they doing about these pressing health concerns on the outside, anyway?

The argument did have some merit, I can't deny that. The one line that always galled me, though, was the officer who used to declare with some regularity, "Too far from the heart to kill 'im." That was the typical response I would get from that guy to my requests for the contracted doctor to come see someone for a genito-urinary concern, or for someone with an abscess to go out for a tooth extraction.

I carried a pager at all times. Whenever someone was booked who was carrying a prescription med, I was paged to verify it and give the officers the okay to let the guy take the med. Sometimes people with diabetes get arrested. Sometimes people with seizure disorders, or heart conditions, or asthma go to jail.

One time I was paged because the booking officer believed the inmate was having a heart attack. When I asked him why he was calling me instead of 911, he responded that protocol said I was the first to be notified in an emergency. I had absolutely no sway over protocol, which was both frustrating and a little scary.

I've been thinking a lot about that period of my life lately. It coincided with a passing interest in public health. I pursued a graduate degree in that area for a time, before I read between the lines and saw that the answer to programs and policies geared toward public health that sucked up tax dollars like sodium polyacrylate was to keep throwing more dollars at it. Maybe I didn't know where my talents were best applied, but it couldn't be in an endless parade of grant applications and politicking.

I've been mining my past a little more deeply lately, remembering things and landing on interests that haven't crossed my mind in decades. For pity's sake, I'm listening to 1970's easy listening these days...CCR, John Denver, Simon and Garfunkel, The Velvet Underground. I'm digging in deeper, poking around in the more shadowy places, hunting down perspective. So far, it's led me back to jail. Sounds ominous, doesn't it?
paulak_rumin8: Austin and speck (Default)
Random thoughts...

I have a terrific idea for a psychological thriller, but I don't relish the idea of immersing myself in such a depressing project. Therefore, it will have to be made manifest by somebody else, somebody I'd probably rather not know personally.

The greatest reservation I have about taking on a writing project is spending all that time and energy and ending up with an awesome read no one will crack open. That's like Cinderella showing up at the palace ball only to find out the event's been cancelled for lack of interest.

Interesting. This chicken sandwich that wasn't doing much to inspire me to eat a hearty lunch is magically being consumed under my conscious radar while I am occupied with writing. This is good to know, for future reference.

Today, in Myers-Briggs-speak, I'm letting my extraverted intuition (Ne) out for a romp. It's such a pleasant way to be me: energetic, witty, sociable, fun. It sure would be nice if I could turn this on at will.

Also in Myers-Briggs-speak, I've landed on the notion that if I could just get my introverted feeling (Fi) and extraverted intuition (Ne) to get together and sack and bludgeon to death my pesky last function, extraverted thinking (Te), life would be so much sweeter.

And finally...Something to look forward to. Next month I'm taking a day off work, driving into the city, and meeting Parker Stevenson. What are the chances of him blowing through town twice for a public meet and greet? I already know what to say. "I was a shade young to appreciate The Hardy Boys, and I never really got into Baywatch, but between those two you had another show. That's what brings me here..."
paulak_rumin8: Austin and speck (Default)
I've been making pie.

Over the summer, I tackled a pie project with the home-grown tart cherries from my parents' yard and rhubarb from my yard. I tried twice, and both times resulted in gorgeously photographic products with tasty filling with crust you could chip a tooth on. It also resulted in compromised sleep, because in my mind, it makes sense to begin pie projects after all the kids are down, which is nine o'clock or so.

Yesterday I began yet another pie project, this one involving Bartlett pears from my sister's bounty. I had a recipe for pear pie I saved from a magazine some 14 years ago and never actually made, so it seemed reasonable to embark on that project after the kids went down. I actually planned ahead enough that I had almost all the ingredients handy, even 4 tablespoons of brandy I lifted off my dad when I was visiting earlier that day. No vanilla bean, but extract suffices. Who keeps vanilla bean anyway? And no lemon zest, but a dab of lemon juice was good enough.

The project resulted in a fair amount of frustration when it came to rolling out the crust dough. Yes, it was imperative that I make crust from scratch. It was a combination of too wet and too crumbly. I was using some rather foul language for me, and my oldest son decided he'd stay up and lend moral support. I ended up having to roll, scrap, and roll once more for every one of the four crusts, which irked me because I was trying so hard not to over-handle the dough and make the crust tough.

The award-winning recipe said to cover the crusts with foil 30 minutes into baking, but somebody tell me how you wrap foil around hot-as-hell crusts in the door of a 400 degree oven. I gave up on that and told everyone on Facebook "I hate pie" several times over.

In the end, the pies turned out well. They were tasty, fruity goodness with flaky, crumbly crusts that did not become overly brown. I made my husband pose with a pie for Facebook, and I brought one pie to work to share with work people.

One such person, a fellow nurse, asked why I was so intent on making pie since it seemed a source of aggravation and stress. And ever since then, I've been thinking. Why? Why do I keep making pie?

I don't know. Maybe it's just a challenge, like playing Mahjong. I just wanted to see if I could do it, and do it well. I wanted to overcome the hassles, just to have bragging rights for a day. Or maybe I'm just looking for something I can sink my energy into, something manageable and tangible to accomplish, to make me feel like something out there is attainable and finite. The reward is so beautiful. You make a successful pie, and for a day your kids think you're a baking goddess. And you get to eat something you made yourself, which makes it taste just a little bit better.
paulak_rumin8: (Austin and Mickey)
Today was good. I wish I could have logged on a lot earlier because I had witty thoughts and a higher level of alertness for recording various happenings then, and now I'm winding down and ready to shut off the ruminations for the night.

But today was good, and I don't want to waste a good mood by not recording it for posterity. So I'll take a few minutes and highlight the finer points of the day.

First thing this morning...well, after breakfast...I got on a roll and started dishing out chore assignments. School's out for most of the kids. Oldest is wrapping up a book report. Third-born is free, free, free. Kindergartener would be done but Mom and Dad haven't been motivated enough to complete the last week. C'mon, it's just kindergarten we're talking about. Second-born is my little high-maintenance project-evader, and so he's chained to the dining room table with bread, water, and the occasional potty break until he pays up with his book report and a field trip report for History.

Anyway, I exempted Second-born from chores because he has enough troubles for now. Oldest and Third-born were issued cat care and lower level vacuuming. Oldest responded to the request with predictable 11-year-old moping and agitation, mumbling under his breath on his way to the utility closet that the lower level bathroom carpet stinks and ought to be ripped out.

"So do it," I answered. And he did.

We made a project of it. Tore out the cumin-orange shag, pried out the tack strips, swept, mopped, and fixed a malfunctioning fluorescent fixture while we were at it. In the end, I had a half-bath with linoleum tiles from probably 1950, but they're in pretty good shape, all things considered. I picked up a couple bath mats from Wal-Mart to perk it up a bit. It's a terrific improvement, cost next to nothing, and the lower-level bathroom (a.k.a. the cat room) is no longer stinky.

Husband, meanwhile, accomplished more landscaping in one afternoon than in 13 years of marriage, I think. He de-weeded the front and side yards, and uncovered many non-weed, flowering flora we didn't know we had. It was enough to bring a mist to my eyes.

I went grocery shopping and kept it under $150. Not bad. And I even took the time to purchase a thoughtful gift for a niece's second birthday we're attending tomorrow. Usually we're scrambling for something reasonably appropriate in the right price range on our way to these functions.

Husband's copy of the DVD "ADD and Mastering It" arrived at our local library a couple days ago, so we watched that last night. Every time Husband puts in time researching ADD he ends up taking on some ambitious project the next day.

I'm six weeks into maternity leave and finally hitting my stride. Too bad I'll have to get back to work on the 25th. My daughter is cute, though. She said we can celebrate my birthday and my going back to work on the same day, with all the innocent joy of a child whose sentiments put re-entering the workforce following childbirth on a par with cake and ice cream and presents.

The Good Lord's sense of humor touched us a number of times this week. Knowing how conscious I have been lately about our finances, he sends thoughtful gifts our way, just to ensure my gratitude...or perhaps to stir my shame over a lack thereof. Anyway, small checks kept coming in the mail. A belated new baby congratulations, a gift from work. Then came a big reimbursement from work on my insurance deductible, which I was loosely hoping for but in no way expecting. That one caused a little happy dance. Yesterday, a local recycling factory that recently opened in town called my husband to say he won a Visa gift card in the grand opening drawing he entered. He went down and picked it up right away. Crazy, but half an hour later the place sustained a major fire that drew in 5 fire departments in the area and made headlines. I told Husband the moral is either "When you win a gift card, don't hesitate", or "If you are a company giving away gift cards, Husband may be an omen of doom."

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paulak_rumin8: Austin and speck (Default)
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