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26 July 2014

on living with another adult

I had never really lived alone - without another adult - for more than a month or two until my second husband left, about three years ago. [Ew, saying "my second husband" makes me feel gross.] I have always hated living alone. I hated the loneliness.

Over the past couple years, I realized that 1, my primary relationship was with a person who had an aversion to co-habitation, and 2, I wanted that relationship more than I wanted a roommate. It took some internal work to come to terms with what that all meant for me. I considered whether or not I would always need another person living with me to be happy. Now I'm facing moving in with Archer, and I'm concerned about whether we'll each be able to adjust to living with someone. He has long been clear on his difficulties with cohabitation; I'm just becoming aware that I will have these difficulties. I've become used to living without someone else. I've started enjoying it, even.

This isn't a question of whether or not I want Archer to live with me. Always, I'm happier when Archer is near. This is a question of adjustment. I'm not sure exactly how it will happen. We'll get creative, I'm sure.

growing the little house of Bones

I live in a little house.
It might  be 900 square feet. It has two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, and a dining room.
There are no hallways.
I use the front porch and yard as my art studio.
My 'laundry room' is an attached shed; I have to go outside to reach it. I share that space with house spiders, because they keep the flies down.
This house is full to bursting with me, my son, and our dogs. This house has a friendly, warm feeling to it that I cherish. It's a happy house, and it makes me happy.
There isn't room in it for one more living thing. Or any more dead things, for that matter. In fact, I recently had to get rid of some books because I realized I could not possibly fit another bookcase in this house, and stacking them in front of the bookcases is hoarder-esque.

I didn't really understand exactly how full my house was until I considered how I might go about making a third person comfortable here. That third person, of course, is Archer. He will be moving in with me in the near future. So as I thought things like, "I could move this over there, and..." it dawned on me that no amount of shuffling furniture would make this house big enough for all of us.

So I'm gearing up to move out of this little house that has sheltered my son and I for the past almost-three years. This is the house that taught me there is no such thing as "hoarder-chique." It taught me that I can garden, and things will actually grow. It taught me the value of leaving a string of lights up on the front porch - my house always looks inviting. It taught me to love front porches - now a requirement for future homes of mine.

I'll miss this house. It will be awkward, for all of us, learning to live in a new space with a new person. And when I go to see a potential house, I'm looking for something I cannot see. I'm looking for happiness in the walls, peace in the floors, and comfort in the ceilings. 

11 July 2014

I'm making it: cleaning houses and finding balance

I finished my bachelor's degree last spring, majored in psychology and anthropology, minored in history, so now I can clean houses full time and work more hours at the cafe.

I can't, at this point, go back to working an office job. A "real job" as my mother called it. She apologized for saying that, acknowledging that cleaning houses was, in fact, a real job that results in real money. But she'd like to see me in a career. Something that pays the bills a lot more easily. It just can't happen yet.

Mostly I say this is because my son isn't ready to go back to public school, and working close to home and on a relatively flexible schedule allows me to continue homeschooling him. My goal is to have him ready for public school by the 2015 school year. He's seeing a therapist, who is working with me to help him with his social anxiety. All this is true. Even if I wanted a 'regular' job, he wouldn't be ready for me to be gone that much.

I don't want a regular job. Well, part of me does, but not the rational part. I'd love to have a steady, and larger, income with benefits and all that fun stuff. I'd love to know what work I was going to be doing that month, and the next. I'd be an awesome park ranger, or historian, or researcher.

The rational part of me knows that I have not won the battle with my depression, and in any job that is only a job, not a passion, I will crumble and give way. I will start the work with excitement, just happy to have a job. But depression will creep in eventually, and I'll do something - show up late, not finish assignments, whatever - and get fired, or laid off.

For now I'll keep working at the cafe and cleaning houses, which keep me physically moving and don't allow me to wallow. The happiness of my customers in both jobs is rewarding enough to make me come back, on time, every day. And soon I'll apply for graduate school. With a Master's degree, I can teach. That has always been my favorite work, and I could do that joyfully, in spite of my depression.

I'm having good days - when I end the day with smiles from the homeowners and cash in my pocket - and bad days - when the bank tells me I can't spend all that cash - but here's to hoping the balance will find more good days than bad. I have a few years left before I qualify for the 'real' job I can handle.

10 July 2014

Bones' Apothecary: Barrel Cactus

First, you should know that "barrel cactus" isn't a single species of plant. It's a common name that includes two genera of cacti: ferocactus  and echinocactus.
Second, they're somewhat cute, in a ugly-sneaky-menacing way. Not dissimilar to small, ferocious, ineffective, squishy-faced dogs. You know the ones I'm talking about.

From here.
An example of a echinocactus. From here.

And a ferocactus. From here.

I know you see what I mean. 

So anyway, these guys all have some basic shared traits that make them easy to identify as barrel cacti. For example, they are cacti with a roughly barrel-like shape. Also, they are ribbed, spiny, and they produce flowers and fruit. They can branch, but often they're just a single column sticking almost-straight up, not unlike a giant penis of death.

From here.

This one is starting to bud.
I love how ridiculous they look with their flower heads.
From here.

They do tend to lean a bit to the southwest, as they grow toward the sun. This can be a problem as they get taller. See all that ribbing they have? During the rainy season, they fill up with water and the ribs flatten out a bit. Gives them plenty of room to store water for the dry season (which is most of the year, in the Sonoran Desert). It also makes them top-heavy when they're full of water. Being top-heavy and leaning a bit means that these cacti don't usually get very tall - after a certain height, they fall over. Then they die.

Like this. See how it's starting to turn gray, and the ribs are deep?
It's dying, and it isn't storing water anymore.
From here.

Wikipedia says barrel cacti are dangerous to people. I disagree; barrel cacti don't move around much (not like those damned jumping chollas - more on those in a later post), and they're not very sneaky (once they're past a certain size they're pretty obvious, and below that size... well, don't walk barefoot in the desert and you'll be fine). The problem, according to the wiki page, is that "a puncture to human skin from one of the spines is considered a 'dirty wound'. If the puncture is deep enough to draw blood, antibiotics may be needed; and could take up to several months for the wound to heal properly."

That's quite a stretch from the reference the wiki author cites for that "information." The cited reference, the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum website (which is a great resource), does say, "with all deep puncture wounds tetanus infection is a remote but real possibility." This is not at all the same as calling cactus spine punctures "dirty wounds" that could take "several months" to heal. Cactus spines are, in and of themselves, neither poisonous nor venomous, mkay? In my personal experience, brushing up against a cactus spine accidentally gives you the cactus-equivalent of a splinter. Obnoxious, yes. Deep puncture wound, no. Now, if you somehow manage to jam one of those babies into your flesh a few inches, yeah, that could cause problems. But the problems wouldn't be because the thing in your flesh is a cactus spine; you would have problems because there's a thing in your flesh. If you had a monster splinter in your flesh, you might have to consider a tetanus booster, too, no matter how benign the tree was before you splintered it.

Moving on to other myths...

No, you should not drink water from the inside of a barrel cactus if you're thirsty and want to play cowboy. It is not a "traveler's friend," despite that unfortunate nickname. The water inside a barrel cactus is highly alkaline, and causes diarrhea and headaches - more or less of each depending on the species. For example, fishhook barrel cactus (ferocactus wislizenii) juice is more likely to cause diarrhea and joint pain, while Coville barrel cactus (ferocactus covillei) juice causes headaches. If you're really afraid you might die of thirst, you still shouldn't do it. Diarrhea will further dehydrate you, and you will die. Instead, try the prickly pear cactus for liquid sustenance; it's far more friendly to our digestive tracts and neural sensitivities, and if you're seeing barrel cacti, there'll probably be some prickly pears nearby. Like this:

That odd looking cactus in the top of the picture is a prickly pear.
The little red fruits are actually quite tasty when cooked.
Prickly pear jelly is The Awesome.
Anyway, back to barrel cacti...
From here.

That is not to say that no part of the barrel cactus can comfortably be consumed; the buds and flowers can be cooked (parboiled; this reduces their natural bitterness) and eaten, or sun-dried for later consumption. The buds or flowers are available for harvest for a few months each year, typically starting in late spring or early summer. The easiest way to harvest the buds or flowers is with a stick or two - you can pluck those little suckers right off there with a couple sticks. The seeds can be ground up like flour and mixed with water if gruel's your thing. Not sure how that would taste, but it's edible.

If you really wanna get gutsy - and careful - you can cut that cactus open and use it for a container. Their structural integrity is quite good. You'll just have to dig out the interior.

There aren't a lot of medicinal uses for a barrel cactus, but there's a possibility it could help with pain. Remove the spines, roast a slice of the body, wrap the slice in a cloth, then press it to a sore area. Again, do not consume the body of a barrel cactus. It will hurt you.

I've found zero references to barrel cacti in a spiritual context, so I'll just share a bit about what I think of them. Your mileage may very.
This is a plant whose most common cause of death is it's own weight, as it stores more water than it can hold at its angle. It's almost a perfect metaphor for hoarding. It could be a reminder that we can't hold on to everything; we can't save All The Things. Or maybe the barrel cactus could be seen as a reminder to let go of things that are weighing you down and keeping you from growing. That which you think is saving you (storing all that water for the dry season) might just be what kills you. As the Buddhists say: let it go.

References are linked as they are used, except this one because it's a real book:
"Indian Uses of Desert Plants" by James W. Cornett, published in 2011 by Nature Trails Press.

01 July 2014

This is one of those days, one of those posts, where I'm writing just because I have to write. Because I can't just sit here and cry. I missed my VA appointment yesterday. That one was with the psychiatrist, and I missed it because when I woke up I got distracted and forgot what day it was until about half an hour after the appointment was supposed to start. That appointment was at 8am. They only offer "those appointments" (I have no idea what that means) at 8am. Today, I will miss another VA appointment, this one because it conflicts with my son's counseling appointment; both our appointments are at 2pm. I called the VA clinic I go to, and rescheduled both the appointment I missed yesterday, and the one I will miss today. I waited four months to make these appointments, and waited five weeks between scheduling and, well, missing them (and in the midst of those five weeks, the VA changed the appointment times - I found out by showing up for an appointment that wasn't happening at the time I showed up - so the ones I'm missing are not even for times that I scheduled, all because the VA is evil). I'll wait three more weeks for the new appointments, which the VA may or may not reschedule, with or without letting me know. Both of the appointments are just to get referrals for other doctors. And all I want are refills. I'm not coping well. It all seems so fucking hopeless.

I just want to not be sick anymore.

Somebody please just make things better, instead of worse. My efforts aren't getting me anywhere.