Sunday, May 22, 2016

In Which The Good Typist Makes a Spectacle of Herself, Buys a Dresser, And Upsets her Dental Hygienist, All Practically in the Same Week

Last week, I had to be in a parade. I have managed to make it to the ripe old age of forty-six without ever having to be in a parade, and now my record of forty-six parade-free years has been obliterated. I did not wish to be involved in a spectacle. I did not wish to be looked at by anyone. I did not wish to be accosted by marauding hordes of tiny, grubby children digging their clammy hands into my bag for candy. I did not wish to smile and wave. But I did all of these things, for in the end there was really no choice but to just embrace it. People are cheering and waving and you can’t just ignore them and be the crabby one and let your fellow parade-mates down. It wasn’t so bad. It was over fairly quickly, and I got a tee shirt out of it. I don’t think anyone looked at me that closely. But if I have to do it again next year, I’m wearing a disguise.

A number of years ago, Mr. Typist and I decided that rather than buying each other presents on holidays or anniversaries, we would buy something together to collectively improve our lot in life. We slowly started upgrading to new furniture, getting rid of the shabby college-dorm, mismatched particle-board stuff and replacing with it a reasonable facsimile of grown-up, matching furniture. But the one remaining holdout to an upgrade has been our bedroom dresser. It was already well-used when a friend of a friend donated it to me over fifteen years ago, and it has slowly gotten more buckled and sad-looking over the years. Plus, it’s a light blond wood, and everything else we have is now a dark cherry wood. It was our anniversary last week, and so when Mr. Typist proposed a weekend get-away, I countered-proposed that we go shopping for a new dresser. And I won! We nipped off to the mall, where it was extremely slim dresser pickin’s. To the point that it was a little scary. And then I realized that’s why I never upgraded the dresser. Furniture shopping is a pain, selections are uber-limited, and Good Lord, furniture is expensive. My only criteria for the new dresser was that it be cherry wood or at least faux-cherry wood, and that it have knobs. That was it. And there was exactly one dresser in all of the stores that met those humble standards. I knew that I was at the tail end of my frustration tolerance, so I got a sales person, pointed to the  one I wanted, ran the card, and it was done. Bam! Next week our new dresser will be delivered, and it will probably get us through the next thirty years.

I went to the dentist a few weeks ago for a standard cleaning, and it was a disaster. I was in so much pain that the poor hygienist was not able to get more than ten percent into the cleaning before the whole operation was scrapped. I have to go back this week. They are going to full-on numb my entire right side with injections of anesthesia, clean my teeth, and fill some cavities. I know that makes me sound both like a wimp, and like I never brush my teeth, but I swear I am not a bad-tooth-taker-care-of! I do all the standard stuff you’re supposed to do; I even floss, but I also grind my teeth a lot, and as results, I have…problems. And because it’s painful to go the dentist, I put off going for way longer than I should, thereby creating a cycle of pain=avoidance=more pain. My dentist office folks are all very nice, but I see them giving meaningful looks to each other over the chair when they think I’m not looking. Meaningful looks that say, “She’s mentally fragile. We need to remember our de-escalation plan and proceed carefully and calmly.”

I don’t have any amusing Buddy stories for you this week. He’s been semi-behaving himself, although Mr. Typist just yelled at him from the kitchen, so I think he may have made off with our dinner salmon. I supposed I better go scope out the sitch, so until next week, take care of those teeth and don’t stumble into any parades!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Third Installment of "Wolfpine Glen" is Up!

You can read the 3rd installment of "Wolfpine Glen" here:

Movie Review: 99 Homes, Buddy Breakout, Shopping Win

I usually watch movies or read on my tablet before falling asleep, which means that it sometimes takes up 3-4 tries to watch an entire film straight through, because I always  doze off halfway in. Yesterday, I finally watched “99 Homes” through to completion. I almost wish I hadn’t, because it left me with a sad knot in the pit of my heart. This small, independent film is an unsung gem. It didn’t get a ton of attention upon release, but it’s nonetheless masterful in its examination of difficult questions about morality, choices, survival and victimhood. Dennis Nash, soulfully played by Andrew Garfield, is a construction worker who is struggling to keep his mother and son afloat amid the height of the housing crisis, as work dries up and they go further and further into debt. His family is soon evicted from their home by the almost cartoonishly psychopathic Rick Carver, a predatory real estate broker who is making a killing on foreclosed homes. Dennis’s family is forced to move into a crummy motel in the company of other families who have been similarly evicted. In his financial desperation, Dennis slowly gets suckered into working for Rick, engaging in legally sketchy activities, then escalating to ruthlessly evicting others from their houses.

“99 Homes” forces the viewer to confront uncomfortable moral territory. A large part of me was very much rooting for Dennis to get as much as he could out of his questionable relationship with Rick. After all, Dennis was the hard-working victim of a rigged system, and I wanted him be able to support his family and profit from the ruthless Rick. But I was also appalled at how quickly and unquestioningly he took on the role of victimizer in his determination to be the heroic breadwinner he wanted to be for his family. As Rick’s demands on Dennis became more and more extreme and legally risky, I wanted Dennis to rise up somehow and outsmart him at his own game. But true to his character, Rick, although loyal, is hardly a criminal mastermind, and in the end, his altruism is both his savoir and his downfall. If you have some emotional strength to spare, I’d recommend watching this film. It’s a fine commentary on the American obsession with home ownership and the illusion of security.

In cat news, Buddy, who has been plotting a breakout for months, finally got his wish last week. He sailed over the railing off the deck and ran off to parts unknown, where he hid out for a full day and night before finally returning, bedraggled, dirty and scared. He scrambled up the tree and back onto the deck, snarfed down an entire can of food, then sped off to the bedroom and hid under the bed for twelve hours straight. Good. I hope that blasted cat now realizes that the grass is not greener on the other side of the deck, and having to hunt for your dinner sucks. Buddy is now perma-banned from the deck, but Mr. Typist took pity on his wanderlust soul and got him a harness and a leash. He and Buddy now go on regular “outings” to various parks, where Buddy can safely indulge his zeal for the outdoors without the danger of being a free-roaming cat in an overcrowded, traffic-heavy city.

Yesterday, I went clothes shopping, and to my utter shock, it wasn’t terrible. I actually found an abundance of sensible work clothes in more or less in my size, at reasonable prices and in a variety of colors and styles. My work wardrobe had become embarrassingly shabby and faded, and picking out my clothes out for work was an exercise in depression. It was high time for a purge-and-replace, but I dread shopping the way most people dread going to the dentist, especially with the debacles I’ve had recently trying to find anything that isn’t a drippy blouse or a maxi dress. But Big Major Department Store actually had some nice, non-drippy tops and even more surprisingly, a few pairs of pants that actually fit me. It’s by no means designer stuff or even high-quality, but I’ve been so beaten down by the retail system that I’m grateful just to have something I can put on my back, even if it’s a cheaply made shirt sewn by slave labor. And shopping is over for another year or two, when the crappy fabrics will no doubt unravel and fade, and I’ll have to do the whole thing all over again. But for one, whole glorious year I will have New Stuff to wear to work, and that’s all a lady can ask for.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Attack of the Smuglies, Query Count, I’m Taking a Workshop!

This time of year, I always brace myself for the inevitable onslaught of smug Mother’s Day articles full of pious humble brags about how selfless motherhood has made the writer, and what purity of soul her sacrifices have rendered, and how childless women like me may think we’re getting away with something, but in the end, we’ll get our comeuppance when we’re forced to face the Terrible Realization that we’re selfish witches who will never know love. It usually starts out with some polemic about how self-involved and shallow the author was before she gave birth, as evidenced by her running around Sex-in-the-City style, obsessed with brunch and shoe-shopping, until she gazed into the face of her newborn and Everything Changed. These are usually shored up by the equally dull and offensive articles that trump up the dollar value of stay-at-home-moms by comparing them to professionally trained chefs, chauffeurs, physicians and therapists. (Don’t everyone pile on—I have nothing against stay-at-home moms, but putting a bandage on a cut does not a pediatrician make.) 

If you’re a mom and you’re happy about it, I’m genuinely thrilled for you. I commend anyone brave enough to deliver a life into this world and attempt to mold it into a functional human being. But can we please stop with the overworked “mothers are selfless and spiritually enlightened/non-mothers are shallow and self-involved” narrative? Can we kindly stop fostering the idea that the only legitimate form of love is between a parent and a child, and that no other kind is real or meaningful?  And while we’re on the topic, maybe we can acknowledge that perhaps some of us are capable of accessing selflessness, generosity of spirit, and the impulse to serve our community without being forced into it through becoming a parent. Gah. Rant over. I’ve sworn off the internet until the end of Mother’s Day.

In writing news (since I’m selfishly childless and have time for stuff like that), I sent off another novel query yesterday. That makes a total of thirteen since early December, with two rejections, seven no-responses, and three outstanding beacons of hope that were sent too soon to be considered non-responses, and have not yet been rejected. Hooray! With this whole query process, I am walking a thin line between much-needed optimism and Not Getting My Hopes Up.  Not Getting My Hopes Up was a grand theme of my childhood, as I was often admonished not to do so, but it turns out that my hopes have a mind of their own, and they get up. They just do. They’re like wild horses; I can’t control them. My plan is to keep sending out one query a week until I get a bite. And after a period of time, if there are no bites, I believe in this novel enough to figure out an alternative.

In the meantime, I’m tinkering around with the Wolfpine Glen stuff. I have no idea where this series is going, or how fast I’ll be producing content, but right now, for me, it’s really just a way of entertaining myself and staying engaged in writing through pure play. I’ve been harboring thoughts of perhaps once day turning it into a audio drama. And bam!—it turns out there is a local workshop coming up on writing audio dramas, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to go. I’ve always loved audio dramas, and really want to learn how to write them. So I think I’m going to actually leave the house on a Saturday and go and meet other humans and learn something. It’s a far cry from my normal Saturday routine of holing up with Tomb Raider and shutting out the world…but my hopes are up that it will be worth it.

--Kristen McHenry 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Buddy Ban, “Wolfpine Glen” Goes Live!

Buddy has been permanently banned from the deck for being a jerk and constantly climbing into the tree next to our bedroom window. Mr. Typist spent all day one afternoon this week diligently putting up a mesh screen to prevent Buddy from jumping into the tree, and within mere minutes, Buddy found a work-around: He simply leaped onto the railing and dove into the tree, completely bypassing the mesh screen. Oh, the cries of woe and injustice we are now subject to from Buddy. Oh, the high-pitched whines and the wailing and the rending of flesh and rolling about of his little cat body. Oh, the deprivation and pain it has caused him to no longer be allowed on the deck. I have never witnessed such drama in my life. Right now, fortunately, he has exhausted himself with his temper fits and is fast asleep in Mr. Typist’s laundry basket. Thank God. I can’t take any more of his theatrics. I wish I had a big farm he could run around on, but unfortunately for him, I’m not a farm person. He’s stuck here in this little apartment, and must now make do with pressing himself against the window screen to get his outdoor ya-ya’s on. If he wasn’t so pig-headed about jumping into the tree, he could have deck privileges again, but since he can’t control himself, he’s out of luck. God almighty, why on earth did we get yet another cat? I think I have toxoplasmosis.

In writing news, I have put up the first installment in the “Wolfpine Glen” series! Please let me know what you think and if you want to see more.

--Kristen McHenry 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Fun with Co-Dependence, Bad Back, New Coke Flashback

Recently, I did an elaborate survey/personality test type-thing involving videos of people berating me, pleading with me, or otherwise trying to sucker me into involvement in their nefarious plots.  In the interest of protecting intellectual property, I’ll keep the details vague, but I got my results back, and I was shocked to find that it said I have “excellent access to feelings of joy and love." As a person who struggles with depression, I was incredibly surprised by that. I also scored the maximum possible in the category of "empathy and compassion." (Not so surprising there—I’m an emotional sponge.) And, I scored unusually high in “access to feelings of sadness.” On the surface, it may seem that all of these things are contradictory—how can someone with “excellent access to feelings of joy and love” be the same person who feels unusually high levels of sadness? Perhaps because access to any sort of intense feeling is not discriminatory—those who feel joy and happiness deeply will inevitably also feel pain deeply.

I also think it’s because all of those things go together when you’re empathic. You see deeply into people; you can see who they really are, and what their potential is. This same ability to see into people is also what makes you a finely-tuned emotional antennae, so often, against your will, you feel everything everyone around you is feeling. It is rare that empathic people have anyone to teach them how to shield and set emotional boundaries. It’s all just one big emotional stew if you’re not careful and aware. I don’t know if the survey was any good or not, or how it was vetted, but I have taken a deep, poetic comfort in the phrase “You have excellent access to feelings of joy and love.” It’s a good reminder that I am not, in fact, dead inside--something I often worry about when I shut down emotionally after getting fried by being overly-attuned to other people’s feelings. Or, to say it more plainly, exhausted by my own co-dependence.

I don’t usually have back problems, but this entire week, I was plagued by severe back pain, just before a Big Event I had to put on, with an enormous amount of self-induced pressure to do well. I got into this horrid stress-pain-spasm-fear cycle with it—the more pain I had, the more fear I had that I wouldn’t be able to carry out the event, which increased the fear, which increased the pain. (Can we just pause here to reflect on what an icon of emotional health I am?) At any rate, the event went off well, in spite of me getting no sleep the night before because I was twisting in agony. Immediately afterwards, the pain was about 80% gone. I still have some twitchy stuff going on and I need a massage, but it’s nothing like the lie-flat-on-the-floor-and-gorge-on-Advil pain I had before the event. Maybe I scared the pain away by my event success, or maybe it really was mostly psychological—who knows? At this point, I don’t care. The event is over for another year, and I feel physically functional again.  

My friend Frank recently re-traumatized me with his blog post about the New Coke debacle. I keenly remember when New Coke came out. I was around 13 or 14 years old, and I felt deeply betrayed. The crispy, zingy, predictable taste of Coke was the one constant in my life, and they took it away and replaced it with a bland, sugary, lifeless facsimile. I was bereft, and I took great glee in the fact that they were compelled by the market to bring back “real” Coke within a matter of weeks. I dimly recall that this was such a massive business failure that there is a documentary out there on it somewhere, and they use it in business classes now as a teaching tool and a dire warning. Good! Since then, they have left my beloved Coke the hell alone, and I still have one shining beacon of predictability in my life.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Writers Love Misery, Rug Update, Cat Cartoon

I met today with my writing “group”—we are now pretty much a group of two—and we were commiserating about how hard writing is. She said it’s like having homework as a hobby. Spot on, my friend. It’s lonely, complicated labor, and there is little pleasure to be derived from it most of the time. It’s not glamorous or flashy, and none of your friends are interested in your work until you actually get published, and sometimes not even then. Which is why I have come to appreciate my little rug-making hobby so much. I can see the progress of my work in real time. I know there will be a real thing created that will bring a bit of whimsical happiness to the recipient. I’m working with my hands in a way that I find meditative and relaxing. Writing is hair-pullingly frustrating, and no one has the slightest empathy for your struggle. Why should they? You have elected, entirely of your own accord, to create some imaginary world that exists only in your head. It’s incredible to me that I choose to spend most of my free time engaged in such an activity. Which leads me to an explanation of why this week’s blog post is going to be a short one—I’m feeling a bit burnt out, and I just want to work on my rug while watching mindless TV. So that is what I shall do. Here’s the progress of my rug so far:

And here is video of a cartoon cat:

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Against the Tyranny of Nice Weather, Pillow Tragedy, Gaming Update

Yesterday, Mr. Typist did his best to convince me to go for a walk. He had a checklist of hyper-logical, lawyer-ly arguments involving a rare window of good weather in Seattle and “health benefits”, and when those didn’t work, he pulled out the theoretical physics card, citing the time-space continuum and how in some parallel universe I am going take a walk, and may have in fact, already taken a walk, so I might as well just go since it’s all a done deal anyway.

I’m almost always up for a good, brisk walk. I love walking. But yesterday, I rebelled. I was exhausted. I logged over 20 miles on my Fitbit this week. I worked long hours. My pollen allergies have been killing me. And, ironically, I strained my back trying to assemble my ergonomic office chair at work. I was grumpy and a bit depressed, and I just wanted to curl up with a good book as though it were the dead of winter and we were in the midst of a howling snow storm. And yet, It Was Nice Outside. Therefore, according to some strict societal mandate, it was incumbent upon me to Go For A Walk, or, alternately, Get Out and Enjoy It!!  I did not want to Go for A Walk or Get Out and Enjoy It!! I wanted to shut the world out while I fell asleep on the couch reading a post-apocalyptic novel, then I wanted to get up and play Tomb Raider with my headphones on and all of the lights off. I had no wish to leave the house. I was effing tired, people. Why should the fact that it’s mildly warm outside and an annoying yellow ball of light is present in the sky mean that I should be compelled to drop everything and go dance in the streets? Screw nice weather. I could care less. I’m not sure, but contrary to popular belief, I suspect most suicides take place in July rather than in December. It’s just too much pressure to be happy when it’s hot and sunny out, and the cognitive dissonance of being depressed in 90-degree, “good” weather is more than some of us humans can bear.

I was about to post a photo of my triumphantly completed fox pillow---I sewed it and stuffed it and closed it up by hand!—when Mr. Typist delivered the tragic news: Some time during the dead of night, (or maybe just when we weren’t looking), Buddy got his formidable claws into it and tore out a section of yarn:

I don’t have the heart to be mad at him. I mean, there it was, a tempting palette for his artistry, just lolling there on the recliner, begging to be manhandled (or cat-handled, in this case.) I can’t say I blame him. However, the fox pillow, once repaired, shall henceforth be kept out of Buddy range, and my new peacock rug-in-progress (which will be an actual rug rather than a pillow) will be secured within the confines of our hall closet…where it will hopefully remain unmolested until he figures out how to open the door. This is why we can’t have nice things. Anyway, here’s a preview of the peacock rug:

 I did get a little Tomb Raidering in yesterday during my short-lived adulting strike. “Rise of the Tomb Raider” continues to be fun and intriguing, I just wish it were a little less twitchy. I go along quietly for hours, lulled by the meditative jump sequences and puzzle-solving and readings of ancient texts, then suddenly all hell breaks loose and I’m being attacked by a gang of thugs in riot gear,  forcing me to instantly switch from calm, thinky, exploration mode to heart-popping, holy-shit-I’m-going-to-die mode. And die I do. If I can figure out how to beat the current level I’m on, I’ll write a proper review one of these days. I’ve been reviewing this game piecemeal because that’s the only way I can play it—in little bursts and starts. I’m sorry. I’m a sucky gamer and an even suckier game reviewer. But I do have enthusiasm! Hopefully that counts for something. Here’s a little clip of what I’m up against in this next sequence. The chick who put up this video up makes it look easy. Believe me, it’s not:

--Kristen McHenry