A Work in Progress

Friday, August 28, 2015


I tend to forget just how huge egrets can be. They come and go in this area, and I forget about them for a bit, but then one day there will be a big white thing sitting in a tree branch in the backyard preening itself and my first reaction is holy crap these things are huge. Every time.

This week has been a week of heartburn and bad moods, and a lot of feels. I didn't initially think anything in therapy this week opened up a particularly painful vein but then I spent all of Wednesday mourning my mother and not really knowing what to do with myself. So, I guess my assessment was off. I can't even think straight about that part of me. I can't see it coming, and then it just sort of shows up, but then I can't even think my way through it when it arrives. More fodder for next week I guess.

The heartburn came roaring back after a few days' reprieve, so I've decided to go on Prilosec and see where I end up after a two week course. I think this is a sign that I am going to have to seriously modify my diet permanently. I can't live like this. The problem is all my likely trigger foods are things that Nate wants to eat frequently and use a lot of. He complains when I do all the planning or meal preparation, but honestly I'm not sure I can trust him to be okay with or not slip up on avoiding the foods that are provoking my heartburn.

The EPA has been calling me from like three different phone numbers in the last couple of days. I thought the phone tag was finally over and I had a re-test day scheduled, but then I had another phone call from someone else asking to reschedule to a Tuesday, and they'd better not take more than three hours because after that I have to leave.

I've only just started cleaning up the studio, and at least the reschedule gives me a longer timeline to get it done and clear a space outside in the shade for the bins. I have stopped freaking out at least. But I've been struggling to find the motivation to do it in the midst of depression getting to me again. At least when I had anxiety I also had the energy to work on stuff, even if the cost of it was me having panic attacks at night.

There's just no joy in this. I feel like I'm working toward something that's so far away it may as well not be there. And there will be no payoff from my brain when I get there, like there will be for normal people.

Monday, August 24, 2015


So the EPA got back to us, and it turns out that we did have enough TCE in our house to meet their actionable threshold, but because they found so much PCE with it, which was not part of the original pollution issue, they think we're doing this to ourselves with something we have in the house. Which means that my studio is highly suspect. They want to come back and take everything out that could possibly be giving off VOCs, and re-test the levels, just to make sure that this is not the superfund contamination.

As you can imagine, this is pretty triggering for me. So I've spent most of the weekend half-cleaning, half-dazed and worried. Meanwhile Nate has been trying to avoid me because he can't deal with me being upset, which has just left me feeling abandoned, etc. I tried to talk to him about this and what he should try to do instead, and then he counters with "I don't know what to do!" over and over and I'm like THAT'S WHY I AM TELLING YOU WHAT YOU CAN DO. Seriously, I am literally just asking him to check in on me more than once in a day and ask if I would like to talk about things or if there is anything he can do. Just tell me you're concerned and haven't forgotten that I exist. Yes, it's a gesture and most of the time I will not need anything, and sometimes if I'm flared up or tired I may not even know if I'm not okay or how, but it's basic human courtesy that says that you give a shit about the other person, and it's what I do for him, although he doesn't seem to need it as much as I do. And following me around and staring at me from a distance without saying or doing anything to interact with me is NOT helpful. WTF? I really feel like this is basic How to Human Being shit here; I grew up in a household where emotional vulnerability was exploitable and I still figured this out. I hate that this conversation ends up being centered on him defending himself and debating whether or not he did something wrong (and whether I did something wrong-er) rather than on the fact that I'm having emotional flashbacks and I would like to try and make them not-worse.

I realize that my barometer for shitty behavior may still be out of whack. And yes, I've had really grumpy/closed body posture this weekend and been spare in conversation, especially when I was still fogged before breakfast. But it really feels like unless I can shove everything down for five minutes and talk in a completely neutral, detached voice, Nate is just not even going to hear me. He's already mentally run away from the conversation. I can't even suss out from him what it is that makes him so afraid so that I can try and modify my behavior to be less intimidating. I just feel like that's way too high a standard of communication for conversations that may be taking place mid-crisis.

With everyone moving away from this expensive-ass area, I don't have people to lean on anymore. I have my therapist, but it doesn't make me feel really good about her being literally the only person I can talk to. I start catastrophizing about whether this is really the relationship I wanted, whether I'll have to just walk off a pier when this turns into exactly the emotional hell I resolved to never find myself in again because I have no more options.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

random childhood flashback

Back in early gradeschool, I had a "bully". I put this in quotes because it wasn't the typical bullying that people think of. There was a girl who paid attention to and interacted with me, and sometimes she would make me feel bad or make me do things I didn't want to do. But none of the other kids in class really seemed to relate to me so I ended up going back to her by default. My mom was very mad about this girl and had multiple teacher conferences on this subject. And my mom would get mad at me for continuing to talk to this girl. But no one else really talked to me, so I was put in the difficult position of deliberately being alone at recess. And then I would get yelled at when I got home for not making any new friends. My mom made me feel really bad for not being popular. So then I would end up talking to the same girl again, and get yelled at for that too.

I was haunted for years by the idea that I kept failing to do the "right thing", that I was weak, not realizing that the reason I kept being so confused by this girl's behavior and going back was because I had no model to understand that what this girl was doing was wrong. My mom also paid attention to me, and the price I paid for that contact was to occasionally be made fun of or be made to do humiliating things that I didn't want to do. So, there was no difference in my mind. The only difference to my mom was that she was the only one allowed to have that level of control over me, and this girl was not.

With all the teacher conferences that were called over this (I was never at any of them) I wonder if anyone ever wondered what was wrong with my mom. Did anyone ever care enough to put the pieces together? Did anyone ever worry about me?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

hump day

I ran out of wood glue Monday. The last bit is dried in the bottle. I will need to go to the hardware store again soon. Maybe I will go to Home Depot, and get aerosol cans and flat black spray paint while I'm at it. I can't believe I bought topcoat clear spray twice by mistake because the cap is black. I might have issues paying attention to detail these days.

Yesterday was mostly me researching rain barrel options to present to Nate. I'm not sure we came to any solid conclusions on what to get. And seriously, why does Australia get all the good looking options for residential water harvesting? The fact that there's not a robust market here for large rain barrels means we're all idiots. Anyhow, I do like the idea of a modular system because it would be earthquake-safe and easier to repair individual parts, but getting a few big cisterns would be cheaper. The issue is making space for them. Slimline tanks would fit but I'm really worried about what happens in a big enough earthquake if they're only half full. We could secure them to the house wall but it just seems like that's asking for them to rip out the wall. And I don't know what kind of stucco we have on the house, the fake kind or real stucco. My hunch is the contractor went for the real deal, so it might be straightforward to drill through that after all--but I guess we'll need to ask.

Also? If you let a plantain get really ripe, and then fry it in bacon grease, it's a bit boozy and super sweet. I might not let it ripen that much next time.

Today thus far has been mostly cleaning the house, and trying to hit my workout quota. I keep losing weight but it also seems like it's getting harder for me to complete my workout. I'm trying to eat more to compensate, which is not easy when your appetite has been fucked for a solid year. I'm humoring the idea of supplement shakes as a snack. That, and baking more protein-rich goodies. It's just so hot in the afternoon, which means I need to make sure I get up early if I want to fire up the oven.

Monday, August 17, 2015

plugging away

As it turns out, although I miscalculated my ETA by bus and was late to the game party on Saturday, I was one of the few people who remembered it was happening. So I was the first guest there. I got introduced to the card game Hanabi, which is a pretty light game so even my addled brain got the hang of it soon enough. I like the games that require you to talk to other people. Not a fan of the games that are essentially glorified accounting ledgers.

Nate got home earlier than anticipated, so he took the opportunity to rest before meeting me in downtown MV for dinner. We were thinking of trying our luck at Tomi but the line was already around the block as it was opening, so we went to Xanh instead. I stopped going there when it became insanely crowded on the weekends, but before 6pm it's no problem to get a seat. Forgot how much I missed that place. One day we have to go there with a group so we can try a bunch of plates at once.

Sunday we did brunch at Esther's Bakery. I tried their latkes, they're not as good as Saul's, but they were pretty good. Then we went food shopping for the week. Nate balked that I had already planned the meals ahead of time without his input... maybe I should let him choose next week's meals. I just didn't want to sit around being indecisive. He keeps talking about the Hawaiian-style pizza idea I jotted down to remember later--I should not have written that down where he could see it. In the evening, we watched The Fluffy Movie. I like Gabriel Iglesias, and I think it's because he genuinely likes people. I'm at the point in my life where I can't really get into the meta or cynical stuff, my brain can't deal. I want a good yarn and a sense of hope, and he is excellent at that.

Yesterday afternoon and today have been spent tackling more building projects. I've started gluing together the tool organizer. Still need to sand the rest of the tabs down, and I might switch to just shaving them down with a blade or chisel, because weirdly that takes just as long as the sanding wheel. And I've sorted the hardware bits from the utility closet into the extra bead containers I had, chiseling out some compartment separators as needed to make room for larger objects.

There was a brief respite from the heat, and then a frying day yesterday, which nearly killed a bunch of plants. I think the Meyer lemon is a goner at this point. I potted the moringa seedlings that are still alive, and emergency-watered the comfrey and avocado. Today I have to water the rest of the things, back to a three-times-a-week schedule.

Thus far, cutting minerals from my stack really does seem to have made the difference in my heartburn. I don't really know how to feel about that. Did I need any of those? How would I go about re-introducing them if I start to have adverse effects?

I'm still losing weight. I'm bothered by this. Sure, the new probiotic regime plus exercise could be responsible, but I don't like not having an appetite, and it would be so easy for any number of problems to be masked by my fibro and IBS. Sure, I could go to my primary doctor, but I doubt she'd be useful about this. I might go see my gastro if the heartburn lingers, though.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

the work continues

This week was mostly me trying to catch up on house projects that take advantage of Nate having been away, and also a week of stomach trouble. I've been having heartburn all week, and it has made me hate all the things. But I read that iron, calcium, zinc, and fish oil can cause heartburn, so I've taken them out of my stack for two weeks. I'm feeling slightly better after two days; I'm hoping I won't need to go back to the gastroenterologist, but we'll see.

I took apart the master shower, cleaned as much rust off the fixtures as I could. I tried baking soda, CLR, Barkeeper's Friend... in the end I just sanded them down with sandpaper and that worked a lot better. This is the stupidest grade of steel for bathroom fixtures, seriously. It's only been a goddamn year and they're all pitted, it makes me so mad. We'll have to replace them at some point. In the meantime I've coated them in car wax, and I guess I'll have to redo that every few weeks. I made the mistake of trying the sandpaper on the sink faucets and discovered they're chrome plated brass. Sigh. Well, they got waxed too, and I hope I can stop being sad about this and forget it eventually. If we replace the fixtures I'll be sure to start waxing them regularly.

I re-caulked the sink. I always do fine making the bead most of the way and then choke three quarters of the way through. Not sure if I will try to touch up the part I messed up. I thought the original caulk was latex but the latex caulk remover didn't do shit, so I just scraped it off manually and went out and bought silicone caulk to fill it. Also, Lowe's does not have backing rod. I just cut up some weather stripping and shoved it in there instead. I'm hoping that this solves the expansion/settling problem now. With the makeshift backing rod packed in tightly, the sink crack won't want to widen up any further.

With that done, I also went under the sink and bleached the wood holding the sink up, then applied wood sealer. In retrospect, not sure this is really going to do much now that the cracks are sealed. I didn't want to take everything apart to seal it so it was very uncomfortable and I missed a lot of spots. Maybe one day when I feel like torturing myself again I'll go back in with a small brush and a cup of sealant and actually brush the rest of the open edges in the holes for the hardware. Maybe. I can at least use the rest of the sealant on the espalier posts in the backyard.

NB: 50% bleach solution will dissolve plastic sponges in a couple of hours. No joke.

Somewhere in this mix I also started putting together the tool organizer and contemplated how to fabricate custom drainage trays for the kitchen and master bath sink. I revisited my idea for ceramics, and decided that I'm just not going to have the wherewithal for a pit fire. Maybe I can eventually do a rocket stove pit fire for some small stuff, but not a large enough fire for a flat sink tray. So then I thought about lacquer, but so much time spent on a purely functional, mostly hidden object is depressing, and besides it would be difficult to attach silicone gaskets to it. I would like an excuse to make lacquer objects, but this isn't going to be it. Then I realized I'm being a dumbass and I could make these out of fiberglass. So now I need to research that. I suppose, if I want to prevent further water damage to the sinks, I need to move that closer to the top of the priority list....

Meanwhile I got bored and looked at my leathercraft projects. I have shoes I need to paint and embellish, and a purse design in the works. I bought the rest of the supplies I'll need for those, except for the aerosol can spray guns that I might want to use for applying paint. I'm tempted by those. But they might be terrible if I don't thin the paint enough.

Omari dropped by to hang out at lunchtime on Thursday. We went to Turmeric, maybe not the best for my stomach, but oh well. Indian buffets are my great weakness.

Friday night Blondie was testing out gluten free cake mixes to pick one for the wedding, so she had a cupcake party. There were seven different types of cupcake to try, and it was a bit of an ordeal towards the end, but I was trying to be thorough... for science. General consensus is that the chocolate mix she picked up on a whim at the last minute (because it had a picture of a bunny on it) was the best, followed by one of the other chocolate mixes, I think the King Arthur one. I got a chance to reconnect with Jay, who I have not seen in years, and he invited me to find him on Facebook... except that he's under a fake name on Facebook and I would not have known where to find him if Drave hadn't told me. Anyhow, I bought home extra cupcakes for Nate to try.

I am supposed to go to a gaming thing this afternoon, and if I do, I need to jump in the shower, like, right now. I'm still tired from doing all the things yesterday, though. Dilemmas.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

bits and pieces

Can't remember Friday at this point. Saturday evening we were invited to a house naming party for the neighborhood folks I met through Omari. We were just shy of a half hour late according to the proposed starting time, but that meant we were very early, because no one is on time in the Bay Area. Full array of nerd entertainment that evening--games, juggling, some balancing board thing, table tennis, and petting the domestic animals (including, apparently, the fish). They even busted out the instruments and played some of their quartet repertoire for us. Ironically, the house had not been named by the end of the evening, but no one noticed because they were having too much fun.

Sunday Nate and I on a whim went to San Jose for some hiking. We stopped in at a rather eclectic cafe on the way and had paninis before driving to Alum Rock. It's kind of a zoo on the weekend but once you get away from the BBQ and picnic areas closest to the parking lots there's no crowd at all. Really interesting intersection of biomes out there. There's scrub and oak woodlands and riparian stuff, but it's sprinkled with species that come from farther inland, like stellar jays, bishop pine, and white alder. We took the Mineral Springs trail and stopped by all the grottoes built around what used to be a bunch of gushing cold springs (now most of them have died down to a slow trickle). There's quite a variety of mineral mixes in such a small area. Some of the springs clearly have a lot of sulfur judging by the smell, but a lot of them look like they must be mainly calcium or magnesium instead. Often, the mineral particles were just the right size to hang in colloidal suspension just above the bottoms of the pools they spill into. The creek bed the springs feed is teeming with life--lush plants, lots of small fish and turtles, insects mud-puddling in the seeps. On the way back out, we even saw a bobcat coming up out of the creek bed. We have smallish bobcats out here, but I was not prepared for just how small this one was. It wasn't even the size of a grown housecat. A juvenile, maybe, though it was on its own. I tried to snap a picture but it was too skittish. It ran up the hillside and into the branches of a tree, watching us warily in between grooming its paws.

This morning Nate took off for a conference and I've been puttering abut, scrubbing the rust off the shower and making bone broth with vegetable leftovers. I completely forgot to work out or water the yard. But I did take a look at my leatherworking projects and start drafting that purse I want to make. I'm going to need a lot of supplies to finish what I started. Sigh.