Surrounded in Comfort

Surrounded in Comfort

A TINY handful of my favorite stuffed animals

“Act your age.” Don’t you love it when people utter those words? (As if you’ve been this age before or received a pamphlet on your birthday detailing what this age requires) My usual response is an eye roll and continuation of whatever I was doing that prompted the comment in the first place. Which includes adding more and more stuffed animals to my collection.

Oh, yes, I said stuffed animals.

Stuffed animals perch on the furniture in pretty much every room of the house (every REASONABLE room of the house). The ones in my office often find themselves on the floor when Tonks decides to play with them – an occupational hazard for anything in my office. And Juniper tries to take some of them as HER toys, and we have to rescue them and swap them out for the stuffies that belong to her. And there’s the fact that there are no children in this household, nor will there ever be.

Do I care? Not in the slightest. My stuffed animal collection makes me happy and takes my stress level down. They add color and memories to our home – much better than the stuffy, expected “adult” decor a person demands. We live surrounded by personality – not expectation. Which isn’t to say that we lack culture: I have a kitsune, an anhinga, alebrijes, and dragons of various regions. Not to mention the menagerie of various animals.

It always comes back to being yourself, especially in your downtime.

If you rejuvenate sitting in a leather couch with a glass coffee table and architectural magazines, then that works for you. That image alone gives me hives and makes me feel like I wouldn’t be able to move or even breathe for fear of damaging something.

Maybe you surround yourself with art canvases, easels, and palettes of paint – ready to capture whatever your muse drives you to create. It’s not practical for our household of critters (and I have zero art talent), but I know creative people who’d salivate over that possibility.

I like sinking down into my couch, surrounded by soft comfort and color. The cushy faces remind me that things aren’t so bad. (And when they’re knocked on the floor, they don’t break) For someone with uncertainties, having something to hold reassures me the world isn’t so bad.

Where’s it written that, as soon as you pass the age of 18, you have to surrender everything fun and comfortable and sweet in favor of hard angles and boring dreariness? I tried that for a few years – pushing my stuffed animal collection into tubs in a closet – and I was MISERABLE. My home felt confining and uninspiring. My writing suffered for the environment. Nothing felt right, and the words came halting and bland.

I lacked ME!

Now, I don’t suffer from that problem. Even if some people walk into my house and sniff at the abundance of stuffed animals tucked here and there. Am I worried about having the house featured in some magazine? Of course not – why would I? I’m more concerned with setting up a home that feels comfortable and sparks my imagination. That means fuzzy faces poking out from the top of speakers, shelves, and even the top of my printer.

Never let someone else’s judgement interfere with your personal flair. If your home drives your imagination and creativity, who cares what you use to decorate? Stuffed animals, collectible toys, skulls – go for it! “Adult” is a terrible appellation – avoid it at all costs.



Image by Vidmir Raic from Pixabay

If you’re a writer or someone else who spends most of your day sedentary, you know the importance of doing SOMETHING everyday to keep yourself active. Exercise is a four-letter word, I know, but I’ve touched on how you can use regular activity as a way to recharge your creative mind. And, honestly, is it THAT bad to move around for 20-30 minutes a day? Endorphins are your friends. More importantly, they’re the friends of your imagination.

Six days out of the week, I do that crucial SOMETHING. While I wait for my Ortho doc to clear me, it’s nothing exciting and dramatic (you’re talking to someone used to kickboxing), but it’s exercise nonetheless. And I feel better for the routine. My little imagination brain cells click away, my worker synapses calm down and get more productive, and I feel like a human being again (or, you know, as close to one as I’m likely to get).

And then I make the mistake of stepping on the scale.

Who invented that idiotic torture device?! (I’m honestly tempted to blame it on a man because I swear their the only ones who benefit from the damn things) Four weeks of barre (five times a week) and yoga (once a week). Four weeks in which my hip’s stopped hurting, my balance (you can read that as “lack thereof”) has improved, I’ve finally been able to do a real push-up, and I’ve upped my weights from 1 to 2 pounds and considered going to 3 pounds. And the goddamn scale sits there taunting me?!

If it weren’t for the fact my fiance’ uses it for his telemedicine calls, that thing would have been chucked into the nearest trash compactor. (Or set on fire – whichever I felt was more destructive) I’ve certainly cursed at it, gripped it tight in my fingers and contemplated throwing it across the room, and made numerous threats at the little digital window. And then my shoulders slump, I slink past the mirror without glancing up, and I wonder why I’m bothering with the routine in the first place. (Oh, right – because it’s healthy)

Scales are the epitome of evil.

For those who may follow Silentio Sonante, you know that I’m one of those people with body image issues. Which is why I advocate IGNORING the scale if you want to check in on your health progress. It’s pointless and degrading, and it WILL make you feel like a worthless human being. Honestly, I think every scale comes issued with a gremlin that waits for you to walk in, gauging your mood so it can tweak the number to make you feel as wretched as possible. (And males are immune to goblins, apparently)

I hate that scale to the ends of the Universe and back again…about fifty times. It makes me feel worse than I do on a normal basis. It’s tempting to throw in the towel and park myself at the computer permanently. I mean, I’m a writer – I have more imagination than the average person anyway. Who needs endorphins? Plenty of people survive without exercise all the time. It’s a tempting path to follow.

Not the right path, just a comfortable one.

Instead, I’ve forced myself to measure this “success” in a different way. Screw the numbers (I’m a writer, not a mathematician). But I just rambled off an entire list of things I HAVE accomplished that didn’t involve numbers. My physical therapists are impressed and delighted that I walk in with a pain score of 0 each time. I’ve hit and surpassed the benchmarks they set up for me (and it’s definitely not from doing the assigned stretches…which I’m still not doing).

I wobble here and there on my ankles, but I’m also not using a death grip on my “barre” anymore. I even make the attempts at lifting my hand and sometimes succeed. Hell, I don’t even need the arm support for one of my stretches at PT because of my improved balance.

I’ve done push-ups on my knees since grade school. For the first time, I don’t drop down. I’m not claiming they’re the most elegant push-ups in the world, but I’m up on my toes. No, I can’t stay up on my toes when we have to lift one leg, but I’m proud I can do even that much. It’s more than I could manage four weeks ago.

And, yeah, single-digit weights sound small (even to me). Except the program doesn’t want you to go above 5 pounds. And when I boldly tried to start at 2 pounds in the beginning, I couldn’t do it. Having to drag myself down to 1-pounders was embarrassing. Being able to work myself back up has felt good. It reminds me that I’m human and regaining strength.

Not numbers, but success all the same.

If you’re battling that goblin, walk away from it. Look for some other way of “measuring” what you’re doing. Think of it like submissions: do you count the number of rejections or the number of times you’ve submitted your work to the world? You choose the more positive association. It’s healthier, and it makes you feel better. (Crazy, right?)

I still want to dismantle that scale (piece by tiny piece). It still makes me feel an inch tall when I dare to set a TOE on it. But shifting focus away from the thing that makes me feel bad to what makes me feel BETTER helps. We’re writers – we know how to shift focus. And we know how to turn a negative into a positive.

Final Countdown

Final Countdown

Wedding Prep Items: Gift Box and Program

Our wedding’s roughly a month away. I’m not exactly sure when that happened. Final payments have been paid. We have our guest total. The decorations are finished and tucked away in plastic totes for transfer to the beach house. (After we realized we only ought two owls last year – complete and utter brain fart) We even have the favors assembled and in the plastic totes, ready to go. There are still a few stray tasks left on the calendar (my fiance’s vows, which I know he hasn’t written despite several months of badgering), but we’re in the final homestretch. Custom (or is it tradition? Maybe obligation?) states I should be excited or at least nervous by now.

I’m not, though.

I’m tired, which I think I’m entitled to at this point. Other than the few tasks I’ve placed on my fiance’s task (Kuiil goes on top of them – our private joke), I’ve handled the bulk of the work. You can translate that to the majority of the stress. (Okay, I was going to shoulder the stress, no matter what – it’s what I do) I’m allowed to feel tired. I knew how much work was going to be involved; that never frightened me. I’m a dedicated worker, after all. Feeling tired is a badge of honor. It means I survived the process intact. More to the point, so did everyone else. (And, believe me, there’s a list of people who came close to funerals)

I think the problem is I’m more upset than excited; more disappointed than anticipatory. I knew back in March that things weren’t going to fall out as planned, but there’s a difference between theoretical thought and reality. Talking yourself through worst-case scenarios A-Z differs from watching them come to fruition. Eventually, you run out of internal pep talks, and they become mechanical recordings on auto-repeat.

And then the guilty side of your brain joins the fracas.

What right do you have to feel bad? Friends aren’t even HAVING weddings this year, and you’re upset yours isn’t turning out the way you thought? No one’s wedding is approaching “normal” this year – get over it. (As if the words “get over it” have ever actually worked in the history of the phrase) I bury my disappointment in cheer and the phrase, “I understand completely.” Never mind the words stopped having any meaning months ago.

Was stocking up on hand sanitizer and soap part of the original plan? Nope. Did I expect my father to gift us with two digital forehead thermometers to check guests as they enter? Definitely not. Was I planning to spend every day of the week in the house wiping down counters and surfaces with disinfecting wipes? No. Have I confronted all of those things with a gracious smile? Yes.

Do I spend at least ten minutes looking at the stack of RSVP cards sitting on my desk every day? Yeah. (Never mind that there’s no reason to even keep them at this point. The responses are logged in my binder, the preferences are marked in my notebook, and I have the answers burned into my brain) Have I avoided responding to an email because I can’t muster a bright, cheery response even through misinterpretable text? Yes. And does my guilt eat into me every single night? Of course.

So, no I’m not excited.

Probably a terrible thing to say, and I’m sure I’d catch shit about it in normal social circles. Do I have doubts about one aspect of the ceremony or reception? Of course not – I planned everything years ago. We’ve thought through the contingencies and made sure we’ll keep everyone safe. It’s not how things were SUPPOSED to go, but do I have doubts it will be anything less than it should be? Of course not.

But am I excited? No. I’m just tired. Tired and sad. Maybe talk to me in a month and ask me then. My answer may be different then.

The Great Couch Battle

The Great Couch Battle

Juniper on the Couch - FINALLY

We’ve always known Juniper was a strange Greyhound. While still a lazy, cat-like dog, she avoided the couch and bed. We chalked it up to her refusal to use her back legs. Planting her front legs on things presented no problem, but getting those back two up? Nope. It’s made for comical scenes every time we have to haul her into the car.

Especially when you consider she’s a retired racer.

Greyhounds have to jump in and out of trucks and vans as part of their routine. It’s a natural part of their training. No one wants to lift THAT many heavy dogs all day. (We’re not huge fans of the times we have to) But from day one, she’s just looked backwards over her shoulder at us as if she has a sudden paralysis. And while getting into the car isn’t optional, the couch certainly was. So she was left to her beds scattered in just about every room of the house. (A situation that worked for the cats)

And then came the fly.

For whatever reason, flies are where our weird dog draws the line. She’ll trample bees in the yard, attempt to snap up cicadas, and ignore mosquitoes. Flies, though – every fly is out to steal her soul. If a fly enters the house, she goes into full-blown panic mode and hightails it for her crate. We then have to go through an insane process of getting her to come back out. (After Tonks disposes of the offending insect)

It was comical and tragic at the same time. Especially the night THREE flies made it through the door. Tonks wore herself out trying to catch them (poor thing was sprawled on the floor in exhaustion), and Juniper refused to enter the kitchen to eat dinner. She was THAT petrified. We decided it was time to draw the line.

So we implemented the no-crate policy.

The next time a fly came in, we put the baby gate up. Deprived of her hidey-hole, Juniper miraculously figured out how to jump onto the couch. We were stunned. (We shouldn’t have been – flies were the only thing that got her to JUMP the baby gate in the first place) For whatever reason, the couch made her feel comfortable while our resident exterminator went to work. Since we’d long-since agreed the couch wasn’t off-limits, we left her there.

Didn’t take long for Juniper to realize the couch is a comfortable sleeping spot. She could curl up or sprawl out, with room to spare. There was just one problem: Squeak had made his migration to the couch, and he wasn’t impressed with the jostling motion. He also didn’t appreciate sharing the space with a gassy dog.

Thus began the great couch battle of 2020.

Squeak’s brain may work differently than other cats, but he’s still a cat. It didn’t take him long to figure out that if he shuffled further down the couch, Juniper wouldn’t jump into her “new spot.” We’d hear her whining and find her standing beisde it, staring at him. It got worse when Firefly decided to take up a spot, too. (Never mind that there’s a second couch in the den – she wanted the first one) We had to sigh and direct her back to her beds.

Squeak and Juniper sharing the couch

Morning’s became an epic battle over who could reach the couch first. Who got to the “prime” spot before the other. And who was willing to slide over and share. It’s amusing – almost as funny as watching Juniper slide into my fiance’s spot when he gets up!

Juniper finally discovered the other couch, but she gets grumbly when she has to shuffle out there. She whines when Firefly chooses to sit out there, even if he chooses to sit on the back instead of the couch, itself. The battle promises to continue into the future (and I’ve put my foot down on buying any more couches).

And she still refuses to get into the car without assistance. We point out the car is the same height as the couch, but she continues that pathetic paralysis stare. Logic doesn’t apply to Greyhounds, apparently.