This.

November 12th, 2014 | Posted by Mush in Weather | Whining - (1 Comments)

In which it fucking snowed.

Fucking SNOW.

And frozen ponds and sub-freezing temperatures. It’s not even Thanksgiving! WHAT HAVE I DONE.

Weekend

October 26th, 2014 | Posted by Mush in Life - (0 Comments)

In which there are pictures.

On Friday I worked for 6 hours and got a flu shot. Then I ate this adorable lunch.

On the way home, I stopped and bought these flowers to go along with the orange lights and pumpkin that my beloved had already brought home.

Autumnal!

When Scott got home after work, we went out and got burritoes from Pancheros and brought them home to eat them.

And then the flu shot hit, and there was coughing and chills and aches and pains and I spent the next eight hours wishing I was asleep much more often than I actually was. It was utterly fucking miserable. It was exactly like having the flu and just as painful, it just didn’t last as long. I woke up at around 1:30 in the morning and was completely well, save for some residual muscle soreness.

Saturday we slept in well past noon, had a yummy big breakfast at home, lounged around for a few hours, then went on something of a shopping spree: Namaste Plaza for dals and spices, then a few dollar stores and a discount clothing place for shoes for Scott, Cub for a few groceries, Target for dice and a game.

Our Saturday night looked like this.

Yahtzee! Ten Thousand! Deer in the Headlights! Adult beverages! It was super fun. Scott won every single game we played because he’s mean.

Sunday, I worked from 9 to 1 as greeter at Home Depot, because OH HOLY SHIT I’M NOW THAT OLD LADY SAYING ‘GOOD MORNING’ TO YOU WHEN YOU WALK INTO A FUCKING HOME DEPOT ON SUNDAY MORNING BECAUSE YOU’RE A WEALTHY WHITE FIRST WORLDER WHO NEEDS TO BUY PAPER BAGS TO PUT YOUR LEAVES INTO. (Seriously, though, the astonishing waste of this country. We take perfectly good land, plant grass on it, then have to rake up the fallen leaves (which would otherwise turn back into lovely new dirt) and put them into bags manufactured for the purpose. Good God.)

Yeah, today I was a greeter. I have no idea how this happened, but there it is. I’m that old now.

When I got home I made a pot of chili and a pan of cornbread.

IMG_20141026_151715

We ate chili and cornbread. And then we took a nap.

The end!

Money and credit, poverty and fees

September 12th, 2014 | Posted by Mush in Finance - (0 Comments)

In which I have rejoined the regular people.

Once upon a time, I was married.

My spouse, who said, “You don’t have to worry about money. We can always get more money,” and whom I believed, talked me into quitting my job. And then he quit working himself, so we lived on my credit cards for awhile (because he didn’t have any credit to live on, because he’d never filed taxes and basically didn’t exist).

Then, because there wasn’t any money coming in, well, some bills stopped getting paid. And some nasty collections agency took fifteen hundred bucks out of my checking account [illegally] and there was nothing I could do about it because I was broke and legal counsel ain’t free.

Shortly after, for various reasons, the marriage ended. Interestingly enough, although money is one of the top reasons for failed marriages, it was buried pretty far down on my list of reasons for leaving. I was exhausted by being miserable; being broke was merely icing on the cake. It’s not like I hadn’t been poor before. Only this time my debt was actually the debt of two people, one of which wasn’t going to help me pay it off.

I cashed out my tiny little 401k and drank heavily for a year.

When I surfaced, I tried to open a checking account. Nope, you’re listed at TeleCheck. Can I open a savings account? No, no, you can’t.

So I got a pre-paid debit card. It cost $1 to $2 per transaction to use it, but you can’t survive without some sort of bank account. Eventually I started paying the $69 annual fee instead of the per-transaction fees. And I just resigned myself to being poor forever.

Because when you’re below a certain line financially, everything costs money. Far more than it should. It costs money to use a debit card, it costs money to cash checks, it costs money to pay bills. Once you’re a certain level of poor, you pretty much stay there unless someone pulls you out of it, because you’re charged for transactions that are free for everyone else simply because you’re poor. I’ve paid hundreds if not thousands in “poverty fees” in my life and I know that being poor is expensive.

Well, that $1,500 judgement that overdrew my checking account and basically destroyed me financially was over seven years ago now, and I’ve paid off most if not all of those bills. So on a lark I applied for an Amazon Rewards card. And I was approved! AND the card came in the mail with my credit score, which is now, mysteriously, almost 700 printed on the letter.

Which means I now have a free checking account with free bill pay, and a VISA card that pays me from 1 to 5% just for using it. In short, I no longer have to pay for the right to use my own money. I get paid for using my money. Even though I’m no different today than I was two years ago, except I actually have less income.

I’m now one of them; and the only reason for this is that I haven’t had to pay rent since 2005. All those years of paying off my marriage’s debt and having zero revolving credit has made me a good credit risk again, even though I have very little income, and have historically earned very little. Which is to say, companies that extend credit? After all this? Still don’t give a shit if they ruin you by giving you too much rope as long as they get their fucking fees out of you.

Luckily I’m old enough now to have conquered most of my avarice; I won’t be buying things I can’t afford with my nifty new credit card. And I’m glad that using my own money is not not only free but earns me rewards, but I think it’s fucked that I spent most of the last decade paying for the right to spend my own paycheck.

Charging the poor for being poor is nothing short of evil. Especially since most of the poor are there not because they deserve to be, not because they’re ignorant or lazy or sub-par, but because they just don’t have someone to help them up over that invisible line.

Greed, I believe, is absolutely the worst of sins because of the endless misery it causes in the world.

In which it really doesn’t matter where you go, because there you are.

Recently, maybe within the past couple of years, the Inner Guru appeared. Or maybe, to put it another way, I became capable of delving into mySelf enough to hear what the seers tell us has always been there. Or by the Guru’s grace — certainly not through my own merit or work — I’ve gotten enough dust off the mirror.

I have no idea how this came to be, but there it is. I can’t even describe my wonder and gratitude nor how utterly close and familiar the Inner Guru is. It sounds exactly like my own thoughts, it just knows shit I don’t, and regularly, if I’m sincere about wanting to know, dumps very large, entire concepts into my skull too subtle to be codified in language. I’ll just be riding my bike with questions about how and why and what for, and BOOM, there it is: I now know something I didn’t a moment before. It’s heart-breakingly loving and sweet and awe-inspiring and miraculous, and other times I forget completely about it. Because I’m human. Which is to say, my ego is still ascendant enough to make it impossible to sustain the wonder that will eventually destroy it.

I work retail in a gigantic industrial building with concrete floors and beeping forklifts and cutting equipment and horrible lighting and multiple incoming lines that ring incessantly. It’s a mile away from my apartment, over a giant interstate overpass not really designed with pedestrians in mind, and I often have to walk both to and from work, as well as untold miles inside the building each shift. I’m in my mid-40′s and my feet never stop hurting and don’t seem at all inclined to acclimate to my non-desk status. My bicycle has a flat tire and I don’t have access to a compressor — well, I do if you count that gas station a mile away in the opposite direction, but I’m not inclined to walk the thing that far to fill it up only to discover it’s a fast leak.

Anyway, I’m being scheduled more hours than I want and my feet hurt and the roads are scary and indelicate and the job is loud and indelicate and I’m exhausted all the time and my brain is buffeted with noise and the ugliness of modern American values and my ego is all up in this trip about how much I’m suffering and how I’m not comfortable and not getting what I want but truth be told I actually like the job when I’m doing it and a lot of the people seem really great and there’s climate control and anyway you have to do something and I’m working on my humility and getting to serve and I’m trudging my tired aching body down these sidewalks on my way to a job I don’t want to go to that’s just going to make me more sore and more tired and more wiped out from the sheer volume of input and I’m spinning around and around in my head just trying to solve this whole suffering thing because it’s not lost on me that these are truly first world goddamned problems and finally about halfway across the overpass in the hot sunshine and choking exhaust I just give up and ask, “How the fuck do I feel better? What do I do?”

And the Beloved within promptly replies with, “Sit here [and on "here" there's the indication of the heart center], and let the organs of perception and action operate themselves.”

Sit in the heart and witness. Let perception and action do themselves. There are, after all, entire laws of nature that define their behaviors. You are not them. They are not you. Let them do what they do. Understand?

Well, yeah. I do. Sort of. I do know that. Or I know about that, which is not the same thing, of course. I’ve read the Gita dozens of times, in as many different translations. But I still don’t know what the fuck the three gunas really are. Or what my dharma is. I mean, lower-middle-class white chick who drinks and sleeps a lot can’t be Dharma, can it? Even in Kali yuga it seems unlikely.

And so I’ve been trying to do that for a couple of weeks now. Trying and trying. Trying to figure out how replicate that spacious, contented silence I experience around Amma, thinking a lot about dispassion and what it really means, trying to quit bitching at my boyfriend about my feet and my fatigue and irritation at being scheduled 35 rather than 20 hours a week (because I really do believe you should treat your lover better than the strangers that are your customers and coworkers), trying to step back from my identification with and habit of having preferences that are, essentially, random and irrational. Doing japa and trying to serve and trying, just trying. And suffering at the jitteryness of it, like a radio station out of range, at my inability to not feel so sorry for myself.

Remember Ram Dass? That book Be Here Now? I bought a used copy at Powell’s Books when I was in my early 20′s. It was even signed. I enjoyed reading it, and kept it for a really long time because I thought it brought me some kind of importance, having a signed copy of Be Here Now, for fuck’s sake, but really my main takeaway from it then was that drugs are okay and you need a guru but you’re not cool enough to, like, go to India and find one, because you’re provincial and you didn’t go to Harvard like all these LSD trippin’ Western devotees. I have no idea what I might take away from it if I were to re-read it now, beyond nodding energetically at the part where he says the guru comes when the devotee is ready. Hell, I’ve still never gotten to India, but Mother came to me.

Well, Ram Dass is still writing and still pointing the way, even after a stroke. I bought Polishing The Mirror and read it and the advice to just sink into Self, to just keep gently coming back when you lose your shit, reminded me of something really important. Mainly that YOU ARE NOT DOING WELL, LITTLE SEEKER, WHEN YOU ALLOW YOUR EGO TO CONGRATULATE YOU FOR STOICALLY ENDURING YOUR SUFFERING. You’re not purifying, you’re not burning karma, you’re just feeling smug that you have decided — because that’s what happened, you decided — you’re miserable and you’re not bitching about it. Is this really a good use of time? Of your life?

And today I had to get up earlier than I wanted to, and when that irritation started I just sank below it, didn’t judge it, just sat in my heart and let it be. And my feet still fucking HURT but instead of thinking “my feet hurt” I just observed that there was pain and that it was okay and I didn’t have to engage my ego in having preferences about it, I just let it be what it was. And I kept gently returning to the heart while doing my morning stuff of coffee and eggs, and didn’t get involved with the whole OH MAN I REALLY DON’T WANT TO GO TO WORK AND I’M TIRED AND MY FEET HURT AND I’M TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT AND WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME THAT I CAN’T GET A JOB MORE FITTING FOR A 45-YEAR OLD TECH WORKER, even though I certainly tried to get involved, oh fuck yes I did, habits die hard, and I sat in the heart while walking to work and didn’t do the martyr thing (much), and the weather was gorgeous and I nearly got lost in the flowers I don’t think I’ve ever even seen before in front of that giant Alianz building even though I’ve walked down that long block dozens of times. And at work I tried to see the souls inside the humans I interacted with rather than the meat.

And it was much less tiring. I mean, my hips and feet still hurt, but I’m just letting that exist rather than investing in it. It just is. And I came home and took a nap. And I have the next two days off to be quiet and NOT WALK TEN MILES IN SIX HOURS. And I had a few moments of really deep light and love, just walking around in the biggest of the big box stores doing my little job/doing my little practice/being here now/sitting in my heart, witnessing, letting the organs of perception and action operate themselves.

I mean, it’s not continuous, but it turns out you don’t try to do it, you just Yoda that shit. When you realize you’ve stood up, SIT BACK DOWN. IN THE HEART. That’s it. No judgement.

There are some great meditations in the book. There’s an expansive meditation that’s really great (reminds me in part of the original IAM technique), and the one on the breath I’m doing like japa, of course, because I rarely ever formally sit for meditation but tend to just do the techniques that attract me while engaged in activity, which Ram Dass actually discusses — maybe some of us just are spiritual debutantes by nature. I mean, it’s never been lost on me that it’s better to dig one deep well to get the water rather than a hundred shallow ditches, but I’ve never been able to want regular formal practice even though I would self-describe with utter sincerity myself as having been applying practices in earnest in non-formal ways at least since I meet Mother, if not long before (albeit in stumbling, sophomoric ways). I even ask Mother every year to help me keep a formal practice, and the desire just doesn’t arise.

But years ago I prayed to always be reminded to do japa, and my prayer was answered. There were many, many little nudges to do japa. Now it goes on by itself half the time I’m awake. It’s often going when I drift off or wake up. I also have a little thing I do to sort of… wipe thoughts away, but I don’t know how to describe it. It just occurred to me at Amma a couple of years ago, and when the mind-thing is just freaking out and chattering and not being at all useful I can wipe it clean. It’s often only for a split second, but that’s better than nothing. Especially when your head’s being a jerk.

And now I’m going to go drink wine and read period romances. Because I’m human. A human being, and a human doing. Dying the cloth, dying the cloth.

Om Namah Shivaya.


UPDATE: Here’s something I found today on meditation, and maybe it’s not always sitting with the eyes closed and the spine straight:

Fried foods

July 14th, 2014 | Posted by Mush in Food | Whining | Work - (2 Comments)

In which there’s a snack orgy for Sunday dinner.

I worked all weekend, of course, because nobody gives a shit that I MOVED TWO THOUSAND MILES TO HANG OUT WITH THE GUY I LIVE WITH AND NOT TO WORK AT THE FUCKING HOME DEPOT. Working evenings and weekends sucks.

Yesterday evening my beloved came to pick me up from work at seven and then suggested we grab dinner from Chipotle since our coupon was about to expire, and that way nobody would have to cook.

As we were standing in the always-bafflingly-long line at the closest Chipotle restaurant, my beloved pulled out his phone and proceeded to show me a cheese and jalapeno samosa, which led us both to agree that we could sure go for some delicious Indian snacks…

…and then we left the line and drove to the Indian food store, where we bought five different kinds of frozen Indian snacks and two kinds of chutney — coconut and tamarind — to go with the mint chutney we had at home.

Then we came home and I fried a huge plate worth of samosas, pakoras, tikkis, and kachoris and we ate them for dinner. Indian snacks are fucking amazing. India’s been snacking for thousands of years and they have that shit DOWN.

And Oh. My. God., the aloo tikki is a puck-shaped tater tot stuffed with super spicy lentils and it’s AMAZING. Especially with mint chutney.

Oh, hey, I got Monday off.

July 7th, 2014 | Posted by Mush in Life - (1 Comments)

In which there are unrelated things in a list format.

1 – Since blogs are dead anyway, I’ve returned to a klunky old theme I liked. I know it’s dated, but I’ve been blogging for 12 years or some shit and I can pull it off. I’ll probably never change the theme again.

2 – I made dal makhani yesterday, for the first time in my life. It was a project twelve or more years in the making, because I’ve loved the dish since the very first time I tasted it in an Indian restaurant in Fairfield. Urad dal, for the record, takes forever to cook.

3 – Snot. Ugh. #summercold

4 – I’m still applying for jobs whenever I’m home on a weekday. I hope the Universe decides to give me a nice, decent-paying, part time gig during normal business hours, because this retail bullshit sucks.

5 – I’m fuckin’ old. It’s so weird, the things my mind and body are doing these days.

6 – Our neighbor, Nita, gave us a plate full of homemade fried chicken and catfish!

7 – I want a coffee grinder but there’s basically no room left in the kitchen cabinets for adding additional items. I wish I’d followed my instinct and bought that funky $20 shelf thing from Goodwill that one time: it would have made an excellent microwave stand/cookbook storage/kitchen sideboard thing.

8 – I need to get my hairs did. Badly.

Shitty summer cold

July 3rd, 2014 | Posted by Mush in Health | Work - (0 Comments)

In which there are germs and self-pity.

Last night around eight I started to feel really icky. By ten I was passed out under three blankets on the bed. By twelve-thirty my beloved was force-feeding me Alka Seltzer cold formula. (Orange flavored and nasty. Like angry Gatorade.)

This morning I felt awful and called in sick to work. They were bummed because I was scheduled to close and they’re eternally understaffed, which is apparently deliberate and part of the business ‘model.’ Now my next check will be even shorter than it always is, because I make poverty-level wages. All of this sucks, but most of the other service desk associates have already called in sick on me, and I actually am sick, so I guess it’s a wash.

My throat itches. My sinuses hurt. My body aches. I’ve decimated a box of Kleenex. UGH, SNOT. Weirdly enough, my sense of smell is annoyingly strong and everything stinks. I thought I was going to have a fit when the grounds were mowed this morning and the scent of fuel wafted in through the open windows.

It’s beautiful outside. Green and mild and fantastic. Really gorgeous. And I have a malady better suited to October! I’m a huge baby and I want my money back.

I’m tired but can’t sleep. I’m hungry but feel too wiped out to cook. There are pans in the sink that need to be washed but the idea of standing there for 15 minutes makes me woozy. I want a mug of tea but there’s no milk. Somebody shoot me: I’m clearly made of stupid complaints.

My beloved came home on his lunch hour to check on me, and I only have a cold. He’s awesome.

I guess I’ll go try to read on the couch for awhile. Ugh. COLDS.

In which I got to see the view from the 27th floor.

When I told people I was moving to Minneapolis, they invariably responded, “Oh, for work?” and I kept having to say, “No, for love. I think I’ll temp or something,” because apparently grown people don’t just move two thousand miles unless it’s for a job.

Then I got here and sort of looked around, became mildly overwhelmed (remember, I haven’t lived in a real city in a long time), and thought it would be better to work in the neighborhood, maybe someplace I could get to on my bike? You know, nearby?

Except that, well, the bulk of jobs nearby are retail and pay eight bucks an hour or are in obscure businesses in big buildings I have no easy way of finding anyway.

EIGHT BUCKS AN HOUR. Jeez! I can’t even get out of bed for that, let alone dressed.

So another week went by, I got a better handle on the area, and I returned to the temping idea. I freakin’ LOVE temping. So I applied at three temp agencies… and Friday, one of them called!

Saturday, we took the bus to St. Paul for a Cinco de Mayo street festival, which was fun, but mostly the day’s experience gave me a better handle on public transportation here. There’s a rush hour bus stop on the corner, and, for non-peak times there’s a park ‘n’ ride eight-tenths of a mile away with a bike rack for me to chain the Raleigh to, and the 9 bus goes right to downtown Minneapolis in ten minutes.

My interview at Robert Half went well over an hour, and I got to speak with three different recruiters! They were all really nice, and the meeting was in a conference room on the 27th floor of the US Bankcorp building with an amazing sunny-day view of Minneapolis. I wanted to take a picture, but was afraid it would be tacky to get caught with my cell phone out in an interview.

Now I’m glad that home improvement place didn’t call me back, because I’d much rather temp — I love the variety — than run a cash register for $8.20 an hour, even if it is in the neighborhood! Based on the things the various recruiters said in yesterday’s interview, this company really sounds promising, and I could do both those sudden “Can you cover reception for three days while the employee is out sick, starting in one hour!?” assignments and, apparently, the occasional three month-long project gig. With a bit of time off afterward I’d be quite happy.

So. Very. Excited! Even bought myself a metro transit card!

In which there’s been lots of consumerism.

So. Much. Buying. Stuff.

We’ve purchased the following things: a dish drainer, Pyrex casserole dishes, an immersion blender, a bicycle, many groceries, a big scented candle, a bike lock, a nightlight, a tiny bungee cord and a bike basket, a box of 25 different kinds of incense, a short coax cable, a small shelving unit for the bathroom and a can of spray paint, herb seeds, a rotary egg beater, and a cell phone.

We’ve been to three different grocery stores, an Indian shop, a junk store, Target, two Walmarts, Menard’s, a bike shop, and a Super America.

The kitchen cabinets have gone from more than half empty to stuffed. The linen and front closets are much less empty than they were. I’m using cardboard boxes in the bedroom for a dresser. I’m about 65% unpacked, with nine boxes remaining to deal with.

I’ve done tons of cooking and currently my fridge is full of leftovers!

I’ve had an interview, talked to a recruiter, and registered at three temp agencies. I think I applied for a dozen jobs last week.

Once the bike shop is done with the Raleigh, I’ll be more mobile and will be able to get the store and back in less than an hour. All I need now is a job! And for it to stop raining.

Life is good!

In which it’s the time of year known as ‘omfg i HATE the dread!!!’.

About once a year or so, usually around this time, give or take a few weeks, my panic and anxiety gets really rough and I get so incredibly miserable I finally consider going into the family clinic and begging for enough pills to get my crazy ass back on an even keel.

I never do it, though, because all the bullshit goes back into remission right after I consider saying uncle, and then I pretty much forget about it until the next year. I mean, I’ll have an occasional isolated day of The Dread here and there, but nothing I feel compelled to medicate. And, to be completely honest, one of the ‘features’ of my little condition is that it makes me utterly paranoid of pills even though my mind knows perfectly well that meds are cleaner, safer, and better-regulated than all the street drugs I did back in the day.

Yes, my anxiety has made me afraid of pills. Fucking fuck.

Anyway, so this is historically the worst month of the year for panic and anxiety and I’ve been having attacks of varying degrees of fucking awful pretty much daily for a month or so. On top of that, I just naturally happened to choose this month to move two thousand miles, so there’s an added level of disassociation and stress.

This is not the normal kind of move, where you put your shit into your car and escort it yourself by driving it to your new home. This is a move where I’m putting my things into the care of UPS and hoping they’ll deliver my life semi-intact to my new apartment.

My new apartment which just happens to be a security building, so the stuff can’t even be delivered. LDBF will have to go pick it all up somewhere.

So it’s panic season, plus moving with its attendant stress of quitting of jobs and bands. There’s also the pre-menopausal acne, which is insult to injury, and on top of all that I woke up this morning with what I think is a stye in my right eye. And I got fat this winter, eating all the white things I know better than to eat. (Sometimes, you just want to order a fucking pizza. (Where “sometimes” equals “like once a week or so.”))

Seriously. I’m, like, the least pretty girl on the planet. Which causes LDBF to tell me I’m the prettiest girl on the planet about every twenty minutes or so. He’s amazing about The Dread, too, listening carefully and saying wonderful safe supportive things and threatening to hug me for a whole month.

There’s been a lot of other support, too, for all my bitching, which I think is in part keeping me from having a total meltdown. Someone I don’t even really know has offered to drop moving boxes off at the house this weekend; the sun is shining; my newsroom co-workers are going out for a beer with me the Friday after next; my brother has a truck for getting boxes to UPS. I’ll get through it, but mostly I’d rather curl up in bed than pack boxes or haul crap to the growing Goodwill pile in the basement.

Honestly, I just want to be moved, past tense. Moving sucks. And on that note, I’m going to figure out how to pack my file box, once I remove the things too important to ship such as my passport and father’s POA paperwork. Ciao.