Betsy Whitt

I read. I write. I think. I live.

Category: On Life (page 2 of 3)

Night Roads

One of the things I make a point to do when I visit my parents in Ohio is to drive on the country roads at night. It’s not so much to see the sights (after all, how much can you see at night?) as to revisit bits and pieces of the past and, little by little, set them aside and move forward.

Twenty years ago the land for miles around the town where I grew up was farmland. Ten years ago the farms were being sectioned off to be sold as residential lots, and now there’s hardly an open field to be found between the housing subdivisions. But there are areas with big yards and older houses tucked back along the creeks and in clusters of trees. There are long white rail fences and twisting, turning lengths of road where you can flip on your brights and drive for miles without passing another car after dark.

There is something meditative about driving the back roads. Caught between the yellow and white lines, guided by their endless presence and at the same time held off-center, forced to one side of the pavement near the mailboxes that slide past in the night rather than the open security of the middle of the road. Following the sweep of headlights I breathe easier and the cares of the normal world fade into the darkness along with the houses and the trees and the rest of reality.

But there is also melancholy, because I first explored these roads and found comfort in their hypnotic unfurling ribbons as a teenager with far too many thoughts and worries in my head. I slipped along those roads in my dark blue hatchback feeling invisible on more levels than I can remember now, and wondering if that feeling would ever leave. A part of me wishes I could reach back and squeeze my younger self in a hug and whisper that everything will be okay. The other part knows it wasn’t necessary.

So I drive my roads at night. They are my roads because they made me who I am, or at least because they’re the roads I traveled on the journey that is only mine and no one else’s. And I drive them now to remember where I’ve been and where I’m going.

And so I drive my roads at night.

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Imposing Limitations

I came thisclose to hyperventilating when I saw our credit card balances this month. In a panic about the amount of money we apparently let flow like lifeblood in the month of January, I issued a household moratorium on buying anything not immediately related to the continuance of life (i.e. food and medicine), conveying us to school and work (i.e. gas), or furthering our education–until the end of March, at the very least.

Then I looked more closely at the statements and realized that we spent a lot less than I thought, because we paid both our tuitions last month. Januarys are brutal that way. But I’m sticking with the not buying stuff thing, because buying less is a good thing in terms of financial stability. Also, not buying things means not spending valuable Writing Time shopping instead of writing. Not that I ever do that….

Unfortunately, it also means I can’t just swing by the bookstore and pick something up for fun with all those 30% off coupons they keep emailing me. But I’m confident that I’ll survive. It might get rough sometimes, but I’ll pull through somehow. I hear they’ve got these new places called libraries, and rumor has it you can use their books for free! Imagine that!

I’ve also decided that I’m unplugging all internet access this weekend. Matt will be up in the mountains for the youth group’s annual ski trip, and I can’t really express how much I need to buckle down and write. There will be no hanging out on the couch all day Saturday watching movies.

So what will I be writing? Well, I need to finish filling the gap between my new beginning and the old one, and then I think it’s past time to get down to business about my B’nei stories and legends. And, if by some miracle I work my way through all of those, I’ll pick back up at the tournament where I left off back in October.

And maybe I’ll play around with Vince and Audra a little bit, too. I still haven’t decided whether they’re good for anything more than fiddling at this point, but I think they do well together so I’m going to keep working on them here and there and see where it goes. Regardless, they’re a diversion so I can keep writing when I need to redirect my thinking about the thesis, so they’re secondary no matter what.

So don’t expect to see me online after tomorrow at noon, responding to emails or chatting or anything else. And if you do see me, harass me in whatever fashion you feel suitable until I come to my senses and return to work.

Thanks. I owe you one.

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Wednesday Wednesday

I’m at work.  Do I post blog entries while I’m at work more often than not? Hmmm… I think I might. There haven’t been updates lately because although I’ve been getting things done, none of them have been terribly interesting. I mean, I folded four loads of laundry, but that’s not really worth blogging about unless the lint trap in the dryer caught fire. (That did actually happen once. My roommate didn’t know you had to clean out the lint trap, and as a result she almost burned down the house. Gotta love that.)

We also signed all the paperwork to renew our lease despite the crazy price hike, the dog got her rabies shot, and I went to the doctor. See? All good things checked off the list, but not really blog-worthy.

Ok, almost not blog-worthy. I went to the doctor because I’ve been having trouble sleeping… I wake up five or six times a night, on average, and have wacky dreams. No, really. Wacky ones. I don’t remember a lot of them, but in one, a town had built a dam and pumped all the water away from their shore (which wasn’t really a shore, but more of a vast shopping mall right on the lake) and they were all pitching in to make it deeper by hand. I’m fairly certain it was Lake Michigan. Yes, they dammed out Lake Michigan so they could make a tiny piece of it deeper. I was looking for a friend, but instead I sat down in the middle of a middle-school concert band, which was directed by my 5th grade band director. I didn’t have an instrument, so I just sat there in the trumpet section while they practiced outside with the mall behind them and people digging with shovels and backhoes all around them. I played a lot of instruments in my band days, but trumpet was never one of them.

Yeah, I’ve got no idea where that came from.

At any rate, I haven’t been sleeping well, so we’re trying out new medication and I have instructions not to drink caffeine after noon. The biggest trouble that presents is that I usually drink tea while I write in the afternoon and evening, which means I need to find decaf loose-leaf tea, of which there seem to be surprisingly few varieties. Or, at least, few affordable varieties that don’t require also shelling out for shipping. But as far as the new meds go, I think I slept straight through last night and I don’t recall any dreams, so I’m thinking that’s a good thing.

But I should stop fiddling around online and get other things done. Things like catching up (again) with my reading journal. Oh, yeah, and writing. Maybe a bit of that, too….

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Love and Lists

Yeah, love and lists. Let’s get the icky love stuff out of the way first. ;)

I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.

On the one hand, it’s a commercial scam to get people to buy chocolates and out-of-season flowers and jewelry and go out to dinner. It usually ends up making people who have someone to call their valentine all panicky and guilty because they have to find a good present (but then you know how I feel about obligatory gift giving) and it makes a lot of the people without valentines for whatever reason feel lonely and dissatisfied and otherwise depressed. For all those reasons, I wish somebody would do away with Valentine’s Day. It’s not worth the trouble.

On the other hand, I have a special place in my heart for February 14th, because that’s when Matt and I went on our first Official Date. There were a few Not-Dates before that, because neither of us was allegedly interested in dating at the time, but by this date five years ago we’d given up and finally admitted we were interested, and we went out for dinner and a movie. We were surprised at the number of couples who were out to eat, and suddenly we realized it was Valentine’s Day and neither of us had even realized it.

Let me just say I was appalled. I mean, really. What kind of sappy romantic cheeseballs go on their first date on Valentine’s Day? Apparently, we do. I won’t bore you with the details of all the reasons I was appalled, but some of them were good and some were sort of lame. But really, honestly, we didn’t do it on purpose. If it makes any difference, the movie we saw was really terrible. Bad Valentine’s Day date. That makes up for some of the romantic sappiness, right?

In any event, I remember this anniversary more easily than our wedding anniversary most of the time, but maybe that’s because they make candy just for the occasion and plaster the entire world with pink and red for a month beforehand. Hey, if somebody would start hanging up big “Happy Anniversary, Matt and Betsy” posters everywhere starting in early May, I’d probably remember it before I see the calendar that morning.

So that’s my Valentine’s Day dichotomy. Stupid holiday; happy anniversary. End icky love discussion. ;)

Now, on to the lists. There’s a lot that needs to get done, but I’ve been putting it off for one reason or another. My work schedule has changed, so that now I’ll have more time for writing and a more stable work schedule, which should help me find a groove. I work well with grooves, and I need to be working well.

In an effort to kick-start that, I’ve made myself a list. Normally, my lists are of all the things that need to get done rightnowtoday. This list is of all the things I’ve been meaning to do for however long (more than a month, most of them) but I haven’t quite gotten to them. Some of them don’t have deadlines. Some of them have deadlines that have passed. Some are just annoying, and I don’t want to do them.

There are 11 things on my list today, and I have 3 of them checked off already. I intend to check off at least six more before the end of the day, and have the remaining two tasks at least halfway finished, so that I can mark them off by tomorrow night. Then I won’t have things to worry about instead of actually getting other important things done.

I’ll be able to focus on writing and all the other important things instead of wallow in my chronic inability to finish everyday tasks.

For a little while, at least. :)

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Skiing: Aftermath

What a fantastic way to spend a day.

Immediately when we returned to out car from the ski hill, I had serious trouble getting my boots off because between bending over and tensing muscles to pull my foot out of my boot, it seemed like all the muscles in both my legs cramped up all at once. It took seven tries to get two boots off, with huffing, puffing, and exclamations of “monkeys!” liberally interspersed between attempts.

Twenty minutes later, my toes were almost thawed and I hobbled rather like a city slicker who’s just spent his first day in a saddle into the restaurant where we stopped for lunch. After eggs, bacon, pancakes, and a significant infusion of coffee, I walked almost normally back out to the car.

Dinner tonight will include chocolate banana milkshakes. Best way I’ve ever found to eat more than one banana’s worth of potassium at one time, and I know my muscles will tell me about it in the morning if I neglect them. Did you know they don’t sell potassium supplements with more than 6% of the DRV? Apparently you can OD on that stuff. Crazy. I hope you can’t OD on bananas. I mean, I’ve never had an issue, but it bears consideration.

At any rate, it was beautiful. Fabulous day, and between the fact that it was midweek and the metro Denver area roads were horrible this morning, most people decided not to venture up into the mountains–as soon as we got four or five miles west of the city, everything cleared up. The sun was shining all day, we only had to wait for the lifts once or twice, and that was because they stopped, not because there was a crowd.

The snow out here is wonderful… I only skied like a weenie on one run–part of one run, really–and that’s only because we came upon a section of mountain with my absolute least favorite snow conditions, and all of a sudden I freaked out about pretty much everything, leaned back and skied on my doggone heels half the time, and in general looked like a total n00bie. Luckily, Matt was the only one around. I did manage not to fall. And in my defense, it was a black run and it ran through a field of boulders taller than us, so hah. But those things didn’t bug me. I would have weenied out in that snow on a green trail. Mutter.

In an attempt to counteract my weenie-ness I threw myself down a steep, bumpy section of the mountain at full speed on the next run. No less than five times in under a minute, I was pretty sure I was about to bite it and end up rolling down the mountain, but I held it together and skidded to a stop at the bottom of that section with my heart beating only twice as fast as usual. Take that, weenie skiing! Matt followed me (at a much more reasonable pace, mind you) and actually complimented my form. Ha! Victory! Take that AND THAT, weenie skiing!

And just so you don’t start thinking I’m too cool for words (haha), I did fall once. Naturally, I was hardly moving when it happened. Matt and I were stopping mid-run to decide which break in the trail to follow, and my ski tips slid over his. In my attempt to correct, I fell over sideways. Glamorous, yes? The saddest thing is that if I hadn’t remembered to let go of my pole, I probably would have hurt my wrist pretty badly. How pitiful would that story be?

I don’t even want to think about it.

But all of that is just extras. The real fun comes on those runs where everything comes together, when the hill gives and takes in exactly the right places, when the absurdity of flinging oneself down a mountain with waxed boards strapped to one’s feet recedes and those boards become extensions of oneself, when you get to ride back to the top of the mountain with your best friend in the world and tackle it all again. When you go so fast you might as well be flying, and there’s only the pure joy of the wind rushing past and the shushh of snow around you.

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To Keep You in the Christmas Spirit…

What is the deal with giving presents?

I’m not saying I don’t like giving gifts. Or getting them. What I don’t like are all the darn rules around giving them. The following are the rules I have a problem with. Yes, I just ended that sentence with a preposition, and no, I’m not changing it. What can I say? I’m feisty today. The bad rules:

1. Presents must be given at Christmas no matter what. This rule has two aspects that peeve me.

a) Presents must be given even if the giver has no good gift to give.
Really? Just because it’s December 25th, I have to come up with a gift for you? And don’t give me any junk about celebrating Jesus’ birth, because that has very little to do with most people’s thoughts about exchanging presents at the holidays. This goes for people who expect me to give them fabulous birthday or anniversary presents. I buy gifts when I find something perfect, and if that happens to coincide with whatever monumental date you’ve got going at the moment, that’s great. But I’m so tired of buying something, sticking it in the designated gift box, and then forgetting about it by the time your Big Day comes around. Do you know how many double gifts I’ve gotten? Do you know how many times I’ve forgotten I already sent a present and then have to scramble for something else at the last minute? Did anyone ever think that maybe sometimes the best gift is no gift at all?

This rule is sometimes voluntarily suspended by families in favor of a gift lottery or other such thing, which is a good idea, but then other complications ensue. For instance: what if I have a perfect gift for one of my relatives that I’ve been saving for Christmas (mutter) and I don’t get that person’s name in the draw? Then I’m giving an extra gift, and that’s not fair! I say names for lotteries should be drawn a year in advance, to allow for all-year shoppers like me to have a clue about what’s going on. Of course, then some folks would send next year’s Christmas presents in January and I’d have to keep track of them too.

b) Gifts must be given even if the givee doesn’t want anything.
Honestly, people, the only things I need at this point are a house and more books. Ok, and some cash for some new clothes. A girl’s gotta have some new clothes now and again. And if I get many more books, we’ll need another bookshelf, so I’ll add that to the list now. Never hurts to be prepared.

Now, if you find something that just screams “Betsy needs this!” and you still believe it after five minutes of sober consideration, by all means send it my way. If you just think it’s cool, take a picture and email it to me. I’ll enjoy it just as much. Or follow my mom’s example with her garage sale shopping (hi Mom), and just send me the money you would have spent. Really really. I don’t need more knickknacks. Even if I really liked them (which I generally don’t) I don’t have room for any more. If we had room for anything else in our house, it would be more stuff for the kitchen, and we already have everything except an angel food cake pan and an air popper for popcorn. No really. Ask me. We probably have it in some form or another.

Just to be sure this doesn’t focus entirely on me, I have to say that I know a whole lot of people who feel the same way. We’re a society that buys what we need when we need it. And most of the time we buy what we want when we want it, too, which makes for precious few gift-giving opportunities. I realize that.

An interlude here.
For those who are familiar with the whole idea of love languages, receiving gifts is not one of mine – which means I often don’t put much importance on giving them, either. For those who aren’t familiar with the five love languages, go here to learn more. And since we’re on the topic, I’m a words of affirmation girl.

Now, back to the rant. Bad present rule #2:

2. Presents must be appropriate in size and value for the social norms surrounding the giver and givee’s situation.
Now before I go on I want to make a distinction in this section between a present and a gift. To me, a present is something bought to be given at a specific occasion – a wedding, shower, homewarming, birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc. etc. etc. A gift is simply something that is freely given, regardless of circumstance. Some presents are also gifts – some are merely presents. And some gifts are presents, as is only logical, but some are just gifts, not for any special purpose or at any certain time. Just gifts. I guess what I’m saying with this whole thing is that I’m interested in giving more gifts, rather than presents.

The reason this is an important distinction is that a gift often doesn’t conform to the social norm for presents. If I know the perfect gift for my coworker is a handmade queen-sized quilt, that’s what I want to give her, not the little tin of candy that is socially acceptable. Heaven forbid that coworker be a man, because then something Serious might be happening. Yeah, like me seriously caring for and knowing about what my close acquaintances and friends like.

What’s the point? I’m seriously declaring a personal moratorium on all enforced present-giving. You’ll get what I want to give you when I want to give it to you. Anybody have a problem with that?

Now, if only I had the spine to enact it.

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Just for Variety…

Since I wrote last Saturday about how the creative muse drops off the face of my brain by 2pm (hah! I don’t even know how many mixed metaphors I got in there), I find it necessary to explain that there is a significant exception to that rule, and that is that on Wednesday evenings when I tag along with Matt to the church building while he helps run youth group, when I can hole myself up in the youth min office, I’ve had some of the more productive writing sessions of my writing career.

Given, most of the time I don’t write earlier in the day on Wednesdays, for one reason or another, but it is exceedingly odd.

Also, the car alarm has taken up its old hobby of going off for no discernible reason.  Excitement, excitement.  Actually, so far it’s been related to the almost dying in Kansas incident a year ago, but we thought we’d taken care of the last bit of problem back in June.  *sigh*

In other big news, our house is for sale.

No, we don’t own a house.

But we take lots of walks through nearby neighborhoods, and we have a few favorites, and the one we always walk past and say “yeah, if that one actually had a yard, we’d really really like it” is officially for sale.  And since we’re curious little buggers, we took a flyer from their box and it turns out there is actually a decent back yard.  Better than we thought there was, anyway, and all enclosed, which is nice in its own way.  Of course, we promptly looked it up on ReMax (I think this link should take you there) and found out that we have incredible taste.  It’s a bargain at only $910,000!  Hahaha.  Ah, but it’s fun to window shop.  I haven’t got a clue what I’d do with a house like that.  If I’m gonna have that much space, I want a real, old-fashioned farm house.

Anyway, still 300 words left to meet my daily word count goal (300? A trifle!) so it’s off to write, off to write…

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Early Morning

I have to say that I feel a little bit nuts for being awake at 6:40 on a Saturday morning – and I feel even crazier for having been awake for an hour already.

Ostensibly, there are three reasons for this.  The first is that throughout the summer my sleep schedule slipped farther and farther toward “bed at 1am, wake at 9”, which is lovely for late-night reading (nothing like finishing a book in the middle of the night and sneaking into bed) but horrible for my productivity.  My brain begins its shut-down process for creative endeavors at about noon, and by 2pm I’m usually toast if I’m trying to write.  If it’s a really good day I might last until 4.  This is regardless of what time I start working.  I’m not saying I can’t work on creative projects (like quilts or editing) after that time, but the designing or creating bug just goes to sleep.  I can continue projects in process, but have a hard time coming up with new material.

So if I wake up at 9, by the time I’ve eaten and dressed and done everything else that needs to get done before I get to work, I have maybe four or five hours of productive creative time.  That just doesn’t cut it.

Also, I have to be at my day job by 7:45am, which conflicts with sleeping until 9.  And I do best waking up at roughly the same time every morning.  It’s annoying, but I’ve tried all sorts of things and I just work best on a regular sleep schedule.  So.  Here I am at 6:45 on a Saturday morning, awake for my own good even though my body says “Please, please let me go back to sleep!”

Oh, and I missed the required SHU chat session on Tuesday night, so I’m waiting for 7am to log in this morning and talk to someone about something.  I’ve never actually done one of the make-up chats, so I have no idea how many people might be there.  Lucky east-coasters get to make up their chat at 9am, but that means 7am out here.  I’m betting pretty much none of the west coast people ever miss a Tuesday night chat, just so they don’t have to get up at 6am to make it up.

And since I’ve officially slipped into rambling, I think it’s time to go make me some breakfast and tea before the chat.

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What I’ve Done This Week

Because sometimes it’s nice to see the list:

  • Laundry, including the tablecloth
  • Cleaned the house
  • Two bike rides, and got the bike tuned
  • Paid all sorts of bills, both monthly and annual (mmm car insurance)
  • Returned a pair of pants that pulled an important seam after 2 wearings
  • Bought new clothes for the upcoming new job
  • Sold Pampered Chef (woo!)
  • Made doctor and dentist appointments
  • Finally did all the paperwork for the car accident back in May
  • Sent Papa a thank you note
  • Verified that our old checking account is, in fact, closed
  • Called Alaska about the mukluks we ordered a few months ago
  • Finally sorted out the whole cell phone debate (i.e. finally found the company with best coverage and price)
  • Wrote (almost) 25 pages of new material for my deadline.

That’s a pretty stinking big list, if I may say so. Of course, in all fairness I should mention that Matt helped with the cleaning and writing the thank you note (which is only fair, since Papa is his grandfather). Some of those have been waiting to get done for weeks or months… I can’t tell you how nice it is to cross them off the list.

And since I’ve done this much, it’s only fair to mention what’s left to do before Monday:

  • Write 2 book reviews
  • Buy CO2 cartridges for the bike repair kit
  • Check with the local bank about which ski pass their promotion involves, so I can:
  • Book a lodge for a week in December so we can go skiing
  • Attend the annual picnic for church youth leaders and their spouses
  • Edit all the material I just wrote, and catch up on all the edits suggested by mentor and crit group last month
  • More laundry
  • Set up the office as guest room for a one-night stopover from the in-laws on their way back east
  • Get ready for the new job… kinda strange, to know I’m going back to “real” work so soon.
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Bowl Me Over

I read Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion all day. At least it’s a required book, and the longest for this term, coming in at 1,014 trade paperback pages, but I feel a little guilty because the only other thing I did was make a fruit salad and work on the laundry.  No bike ride; no writing.

Both of those are at the top of the list for tomorrow. I’m having a TON of trouble moving forward with the novel. Part of the trouble is that I can’t figure out whether I’ve misjudged how things should move forward or whether I’ve already made a wrong turn – if the latter, I can’t figure out where it went bad. Very frustrating, and I’m having trouble pulling out of the black hole of two weeks with invaders in my house. (Really, I do love them all, but two weeks in this apartment is a bit much.)

I have a long list of things that I need to get done. I made it the other night when I couldn’t sleep, and it’s been sitting quite handily out of sight in the office for the two days since. I’m a little worried, actually, because this is acting like the first stages of depression – tons of things to do and no motivation or idea how to start, either in real life or on the writing front.   And my best defense, which was always quilting, is just not going to work this time around. I don’t have enough initiative to plan a project or buy fabric, and I don’t have any projects in limbo to pull out and work on until I get my momentum back. I should probably mention it to Matt. Part of the reason I married him is because he’s good at helping me stay sane.

On a totally unrelated note, a random question from my mom this afternoon made me wonder exactly how many bowls we have in our kitchen. And of course once I started wondering I had to go and check. Keep in mind that this is a household of two, and always has been.  We have 52 bowls – that’s including cereal bowls and salad bowls and serving bowls and food prep bowls. It doesn’t include plastic food storage containers that might double as bowls; or huge latte-style mugs that can be used for any number of bowl things, like soup or ice cream; or other items (cake pans, baking pans, pie plates) that might serve as high-walled food receptacles in a pinch.  Including all of those possibilities, we’re probably looking at more like 90-100 bowl-type items currently in our kitchen. Funny thing is, we use almost all of them pretty regularly…   Is that sad?

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