It’s Saturday here, and the time is inching — minuting? seconding? — toward noon. It looks to be a scorcher, close to a hundred degrees, so of course I’ve been cooking and generally mucking about the kitchen since I got up at 4:30. I cooked up a family pack of chicken thighs two different ways, one set of four with mixed herbs, one primarily flavored with lemon pepper. The chicken, along with its corresponding pan juices, is in the fridge for later. I may be obsessive, but if I have the stamina, that’s how I roll.
With the bulk of the chicken out of the way, I found I had one chicken thigh and two pork chops left in the fridge that wanted cooking today. I figured okay, breakfast chops with country gravy, maybe with fruit, bread and some mashed potatoes, since it’s getting too warm to bake biscuits. Alas, poor timing!
The chops were about half done when Bryan had to go rest. He doesn’t sleep well at night, so it happens. So, while finishing up the chops, I decided to go full-on with the gravy. I dredged the chicken thigh in the same seasoned flour I’d used for the chops, then fried it and cut it up small. Then came some Black Forest bacon cooked in the same pan, because bacon. When that was done, I drained the bacon and poured off the fat; the chopped chicken mopped up the bacon glaze in the pan nicely while I cut up the bacon. Both went into the container holding the last of the seasoned flour to make a roux, which I dosed with thyme to make up for the lack of sausage. When everything is well-chilled, I’ll mix the cold pan glazes into milk to flavor the gravy, which we’ll most likely have tomorrow with eggs, more bacon, and biscuits.
What about the chops, you say? I’ve been eating off and on since I got up this morning, and Bryan just wanted chops today, so he had the chops sans gravy. It happens.
Mother’s Day is pretty much like any Sunday around here. Neither my roommate Bryan nor I has kids, and our mothers died years ago, but it’s a beautiful day, so I set to cleaning the kitchen and cooking. Today it’s spicy baked chicken smothered in onions, bell pepper, sliced Roma tomatoes and shredded cheese. That will wait ’til Bryan’s up and moving; he’s mostly nocturnal these days, and I want him to enjoy what I cook when it’s fresh. The apartment building is noisier in the early morning — the husband of the couple he shares a wall with works in construction and gets up about 3 AM — than it is during the day, so once the neighbors settle down for the day, he can rest. His sleeping habits make for a solitary life for both of us; I can’t sleep more than an hour or two after sunrise, and usually I’m up when the first rays hit my window shade. Still, the cool of the morning is easier to work in than the fading heat of the evening, and keeping busy keeps the darker side of solitude at bay, especially on holidays.
All in all it was a good morning; the dishes done, the casserole in the fridge for now. The brilliance of summer vegetables and fresh meat, plans for a pilaf and salad to go with the chicken were on my mind when I opened my door at noon to cool the place out ahead of the afternoon heat. I had a tall mug of cold coffee with brown sugar in hand when the Young Ladies’ Science Team came by with their brother to chorus me with “Happy Mother’s Day!” They were going door to door greeting all the ‘moms’ in the building, and it reset the tone for the rest of the day. Frankly, I’m still grinning, even though the allergies have my eyes running all of a sudden.
It’s a little chill this morning; there is enough wind to sway the oleanders and plum trees outside. It’s still quiet; the mockingbirds have settled into the work of hatching and feeding the babies born of the love song competition that wound up about a week ago, and there is no morning rush hour nor school drop-off on a Sunday morning as I sit here with a mug of tea and a pbj, surrounded by pieces of the crumb quilt I plan to work on this morning.
Bryan and I have lived in this building almost nine years now. That is the longest time I’ve lived in one place, and it’s only in the last several months that I have felt solidly rooted in it. When I was a child, my father sold real estate, selling tract houses and pulling up roots every Fall when the last houses of the school-year rush had passed escrow. We would move during the Christmas break, so there would be yet another new place (or two) to occupy for a while, another classroom in which to be the new kid through the Spring. I made friends the same way I made art in those years, with all the skill and care I had, knowing they would disappear into the past like my ephemeral art into the trash when we moved. Things stabilized somewhat when my mother took her Social Security settlement and bought a trailer in the park where my grandmother lived; she lived there until she died, and I with her most of that time. Nothing but the memory of those times remains to me, I think, but a first birthday card and a photo of me in the fourth grade. My sister has a few more bits, but she’s off into the past as well now, so eh. It’s done.
After my mother’s death, the peregrinations began again. I was talked into buying a house for a day and got out of that, then there were a series of rooms, a couple of studios, then back to rooms in others’ homes until I went to work in Rancho Cordova, where I could afford a one-bedroom apartment and no furniture as long as my call center jobs lasted, then couch surfing first in Sacramento, across Texas and Oklahoma until I got back here to Sacramento. I was fairly savage by then; after I’d found and rented our first apartment in this building, I told Bryan I wouldn’t move again unless he could find us another place that either of us could afford alone if something happened to the other one. Eight years later, we’re still here in what is probably the cheapest two bedroom apartment in town, and we’re gathering the things we need to make it more comfortable for the long haul. I still have friends I made more than two decades ago. I’m not uncomfortable having them in. It’s been a long time coming, but this is home.
I woke before dawn and dressed, then I heated up a bowl of lentils and a massive mug of black tea for breakfast before I set down to find some Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) on the Mechanical Turk site. The pay is terrible — I made just over six dollars in four hours of surveys and scraping data today, which is about average for me — but I often learn something about myself or the outside world in the surveys, and I figure it’s a way to make my opinion known in an effective way when I am part of a group asked about political issues, ranking medical outcomes, and so on. That notion softens the edge of having to make bad money quickly without a lot of other options, and I often come away with ideas I can explore further in my free time.
I’m sure I would make more if I made some of the face- and emotion-recognition videos that many requesters want, but I’m just not comfortable talking to a webcam or letting my face be scanned while I watch advertisements. It’s just too much intimacy for me to sell for a couple of dollars, even if it’s confidential, just for industrial or academic purposes, or whatever. I may video chat with friends at some point or make a video for YouTube and publish it for free, but at this point I’m just not comfortable with making a video of myself as I work or describing a random minute of my day on camera.
It’s about an hour before noon as I write this. I just finished my third mug of tea, and I’ve stitched a few more pieces together for the crumb patch throw I’m making. I could make a few dollars more scraping data to answer a cluster of ‘opinion’ questions, but the inquiries are inane. I’m not as dedicated — read desperate — at this point as the workers interviewed by Alana Semuels forThe Atlantic, so I won’t wear myself out just yet, in the hope I can keep working a few hours a day and come out with a hundred or so extra each month without getting burnt out.
There are certainly days like that, but this is not one of them. A few days ago I decided to stop fighting sleep. I’ve had a chronic problem with afternoon fatigue hitting as early as late morning (before lunch), and I’ve tried all kinds of advice from various doctors, with no good result. I’m done with the cycle of fighting the fatigue that ends with me up until midnight (or after) and waking at dawn, still tired. If I have to sleep, then I have to sleep, and if that means I go to bed in the late afternoon or early evening and get up in the wee hours of the morning after seven or eight hours’ sleep, then I’m ahead by an hour or two of rest I’d not get otherwise. Conventionality fails yet again.
I decided to go back on the diet again, too. I may have put on a few pounds in the last several months, but summer is a good time of year to do this, and I’ve found I really can get out and walk again without all the old aches and pains, so there’s another use for those cool hours between dawn and OMG-it’s-hot! in the morning. I’ve mostly used them for doing gigs on Mechanical Turk. Mturk doesn’t pay well enough to live on, but it’s worth a couple hours of my day to bulk up the finances while I have breakfast. The rest of the time, I’m better off working around here and walking a few blocks while the mockingbirds fill the morning quiet with song. The honeysuckle is blooming in response to the first real heat of Spring, so it won’t be long ’til the roses shut down for the summer and the rosemary puts on its darker green summer coat, but for now it’s a pretty day, and there’s stuff to be done.
My last post was 82 days ago, early in the day my sister walked out of my life. I didn’t see precisely that coming, but I have to agree with her that we’re both probably better off. We got a lot of important things done over the years, but the last three or so became increasingly pressurized after I went into therapy for a few months after a friend’s death. It was then I found out how much she hates me and blames me for bad things in our lives, but we struggled on, as I was her payee for Social Security., and we got her custody of her grandson last Fall. That accomplished, things went downhill fairly quickly, and just over eight years since I came to live with her from Oklahoma, she said enough. I’m no longer her payee; once that was done, she and her daughter blocked me on Facebook, so for all intents and purposes, we’re dead to one another. I wish her well.
Since then, I’ve given matters a lot of thought. I’m 59 now; physically, I’m about where I was eight years ago, plus or minus some parts, and since the parting I’ve been more emotionally stable and balanced than I’ve been in more than a decade, if not longer. I’m creating things again, mostly home comforts from my thinned out stash and cooking; I belong to some upcycling groups, which are supportive and interesting, and I’m looking more deeply into how best to weather the changes in our world, both politically and environmentally. I’ve put the diet on pause, though I am still wearing the smaller clothes, and I’ll get back on it in five days, when I get paid, if not sooner, because I like the results.
The latest weigh-in marked another six pounds off. I am disappointed that it was not more, but I was only mildly surprised. The weather has turned chilly, and I’ve been sloppy about tracking all the minutiae of what I eat and when. I am bored sick with the diet and with writing about it. Mind, the benefits are marvelous. 27 pounds is enough that I’ve had to buy new pants and such because the old ones won’t stay up, and while I still have a limited walking range before the body’s protests are too much, I am able to move much more freely.
I am also resting well. I went to bed when I was reasonably tired, but not nodding off, last night about 8:30, and I slept eight solid hours. That almost never happens, but I think I have it figured out. I was full of vegetables, thoroughly hydrated, and I wasn’t dead tired and hurting when I went to bed, so I could sleep soundly in the dark well before sunrise and woke rested, without pain a little after 4:30 this morning.
So, after a weekend to think, eat meat and think more, I’m ready to start changing things up. I’m not getting as much benefit from exercise, as I’m not moving around so much mass, and I’m getting more efficient in what I do, so it takes less time to do a given amount of work or distance walked. What I can do is change the challenges — set walking patterns for, say, a half hour at a time — and accept the limited calories I’ll burn doing housework. There is only so much to do, and deeper de-clutter requires some organization on my part, as I’m down to my actual crafting materials and I need to get to work with them. More on that later.
I mentioned fibro fog in the last post, and that it’s made itself known more the last couple of weeks. Technically, I’ve noticed it more, I think. I occasionally have to deal with people and situations around me not being quite as clear as they appear or as I would like, but as my daily activity increases, I notice it more. I have to make lists. I forget something I knew in detail yesterday — and which may come to me in detail five minutes from now. I space much-anticipated (and even desired) appointments and events that I have been planning for months and have even written down on a calendar and in my planner.
Those blanks used to terrify me when I was still working or trying to, especially when the fog would deepen under stress. Now it mostly just confuses me and makes me short-tempered. I know the fog won’t get kill me, and does end, but while the fog’s rolled in, I’m edgy. Exercise helps, so more days approaching and over 1200 calories burned are in my future, but I can sort that as I go.
So, this happened Saturday while getting ready for Sunday’s D&D game. I’m not entirely sure it’s accurate, as I have been dealing with some fibro fog drifting through now and then over the last week or so, but I did work most of the day cleaning, shopping and cooking in patches, taking breaks to drink a mug of water and log my time for different phases of activity. I’m glad I’ve made this much progress — four months ago this would have been impossible — but the numbers scare me. I like the way I’m eating, the exercise seems to push back the pain and fatigue, and I want to build up more speed and endurance, but what the hell is with doubling the rate at which I’m burning calories? How will I stay at just two pounds a week when I’m up to doing this kind of thing daily? I’m not planning to stop, but I need to sort this out.
When Bryan runs a game at our place, I cook and put out snacks for whoever is here. Recently my food for the group is pulled pork tacos made according to the Easy Pulled Pork recipe at Chowhound. I’d bought a 5 lb pork loin to cook for the weekend, so when plans changed, I decided to make it anyway. I usually serve it as the main ingredient in a burrito bar with cheese, olives, sliced red onions, chopped tomatoes, salsa, and sour cream, but I’ve discovered the pulled pork makes a most amazing open face hot sandwich on sourdough bread and dosed with some of the extra defatted broth from the crock and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Even so, it should last us through to the weekend, when I get to make it again for Sunday’s D&D game. I really should get some salad made to put under it as well, because oh, my, it’s good that way, too!