Tuesday, September 09, 2014


Just some shots from my latest hike

My internal alarm clock is hilarious these days. Set the alarm for 10 so I wouldn't sleep too late, but wanted to allow myself a bit of a lie-in, given it was my birthday. I woke up at 9:57.

I woke up slowly, meandered out to grab coffee, check my email. Woke the Hubs up 2 hours later for bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches. The bacon's from Hickory Nut Gap, the eggs from Imladris (their 13-year-old son runs the egg business), the bread is homemade. I need to make more tomorrow. This recipe is proving our favorite, for a crumb that allows us to slice thin or thick and a soft crust.

I clicked on Google's doodle this morning, curious about the fact that I share a birthday with Tolstoy. Instead it takes me to their main page, where the Google is made up of birthday cakes and the alt tag says "Happy Birthday Melanie!" Have to admit, that's nifty. Creepy stalkery too, but nifty.

We left the house around 2 PM. I wanted to haunt the River Arts District a bit. I've been jonesing to try my hand at some mixed media. It seeped into my birthday wishes: I asked for and got some new acrylic paints, new brush markers, and canvas panels. People are going to be subjected to my idea of art in their Christmas stockings this year. Gods help them.

The inspiration was there. We both came away with an appreciation for Nancy Joyce's work, and wandered through a handful of galleries, admiring several different types of media. The artists were usually working, but welcoming and very willing to answer questions and explain their processes. Even as dilapidated as that area can seem, right on the train tracks, surrounded by buildings in various stages of exterior disrepair, all I could think was what a prime location it is for an artist's studio. Really good vibes down there.

I drove us up to downtown, snagged a meter spot in front of the Grove Arcade, and we walked to Urban Dharma, to watch the monks working on a sand medicine mandala, which will be completed at the end of the week and blessed in several ceremonies to commemorate the 2-year anniversary of the storefront temple and its continued good works. They're selling zafus and zabutons there now at good prices; I'll be visiting again soon. Next door is the Captain's Bookshelf, where we briefly wandered and came away with a tome a piece, because the Hubs and I are rather incapable of not spending money in a bookstore.

We hopped home to grab our pizza coupons and bring in the Amazon windfall from my Mom and Sis, and headed to Blue Mountain Pizza & Brew Pub here in Weaverville. I indulged in a microbrew created from local hops courtesy of Echoview Fiber Mill. Hubs hopped across the street to grab dessert before they closed or ran out, at Well Bred Bakery. Their chocolate fudge cake is a nice treat, and their Mountain Eclairs are rather legendary. Imagine a New York-style eclair the size of....I can't think of a decent size comparison. People call 'em cathead eclairs; the dang things are HUGE.

It's 9:35 EST here. I turn 45 at 9:56. I'm really relaxed now; the beer buzz has dissipated and was replaced with an impressive sugar high. I have 3 new books to tuck into, I'm itching to draw, and I need to get into work mode for tomorrow. I'm thinking of tearing into the 2nd bedroom and rearranging a bit again, getting it back in working order. It's gone to seed since the kitten arrived on the scene, and I've been working in front of the TV again more often than not...and then wondering why it takes me twice as long to get shit done. I'm ready to reorganize again.

The kitten's a purr machine in my lap, against my folded leg. Hubs feels bad because he doesn't think he got me enough for my birthday. I remind him that I have a shiatsu massage scheduled next week, and that the furry creature in my lap is the best present I've had this year. I'm having trouble keeping the wolf at the door these days, but I'm incredibly happy and know I have the strength to keep us here. What more do I need? I'm a very lucky lady.

Happy birthday to me!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Quick Check-In

I'm pretty good at avoiding the realities of life. This personality quirk keeps me optimistic in the face of scary stuff.

Money is painfully tight right now. I'm not making enough to cover all our expenses, and the tax bill will continue to creep up with penalties if I don't contact them soon. But I still have work, and I can always try for something more if things get too desperate. I just have to do more sites. That's doable.

I have a birthday next month. It's a big enough one to be sparking a bit of a midlife crisis. I'm mostly working on denial...for example, I've decided to stop aging beyond the aforementioned birthday on account of my fear of dying. But the timing is lousy, since money's so tight, because my dreams require money, or at least decent credit, neither of which are on the horizon right now. I want my farm. It's time to get working toward that for reals.


Loved that middle shot, just felt so "small town"...

So today I was crawling out of my skin and knew I needed to get out of the house. I thought about hiking, but quickly realized what I really wanted was to drive. I hopped in the car and headed toward Marshall, and then kept going. Hot Springs is 30 miles west of us, which translates to almost an hour away when you're new to the curvy roads. There were some serious drops and S curves to get down to the valley, and then you're tipped out into a tiny town that has made a name for itself as an Appalachian Trail thru point and a French Broad River access point. Rafting outfits lined the road near the river, and the Hot Springs Resort & Spa is the first thing you see as you drive into town.

Apparently there are actual hot springs that are supposed to offer healing properties there. I was more interested in the AT. I've been following Fimby, the Tougas family as they hike the AT, or as much as I can since I'm too cheap yet to purchase the vid series (yea, OK, not cheap, just frugal). Les and I talk about doing that crazy hike someday. It's a pipe dream, unless we can get physically fit and financially more stable. I know this in my heart though, so it motivates me. The drive took long enough where I didn't hop out to walk any of it, so I could say I walked the width of the AT, haha! But I'm glad I got out of the house. The drive was lovely.

That's what I needed the drive for, the motivation. I'm a little scared of not being able to keep the wolf at the door. I adore living here, and that could be taken away. I take chances with our finances occasionally, putting off paying a bill to take care of another, robbing Peter a bit to pay Paul, as my folks' generation would say. But in the back of my mind is the fact that we don't live in a normal apartment complex, that the landlord (who doesn't even live in the US apparently) could decide he wants to unload this investment property and not renew leases, and we'd be up shit's creek rather quickly without much locomotion. I'll be asking about a lease renewal at the end of next month, and I really don't anticipate a problem; but I'm a realist who likes to be prepared for any contingency.

I drove down the US highways at varying speeds, through gorgeous mountain ranges bordering the Pisgah National Forest. Mountains upon mountains, with views that literally took my breath away once or twice, reminding me of when we drove through West Virginia last year. I had escaped the house today hoping to see farmland, and I saw that and more. We're surrounded by farmland here, but you have to keep an eagle eye out for it because it's so nestled in the hills and valleys of the Blue Ridges. The fields are smaller than what you'd see in Pennsylvania or the Midwest, but they're no less agrarian, plenty of crops or stretches on their second cut of hay. Barns in various states of disrepair. I'll bring the camera next time.

I normally have every confidence in my ability to keep our heads above water. Money's thin enough lately to shake that resolve just a pinch. I'm thinking about downsizing, doing another purge of some of the apartment, wondering if we have anything worth selling. But I love living here way too much to lose it. Just gotta get a little ingenious, work a little harder.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Summer rains and kitten wrangling

We've been getting rain at night here, which is nice as it means less watering of the garden. But the fact it's July already has me worried about what will actually bear fruit out there. We should see flowers on the tomatoes and peppers this month. The Russett leaves have died off for the most part, and I need to sink my hands into the soil and see if that's because the tubers are ready, or if they're rotting under the earth.

We started seeds a bit late this year, and my organizing of the plants occurred late, and I fear I'll get a good lesson in how those slights affect my yields. But as I look at the tomatoes on their stakes and remember that every one of those plants came from seed this year, no seedlings purchased at the farmers markets, I still pat myself on the back. This is the time for learning.

I applied for a position at a local paper. It's a place that has already rejected me once, so I'm being realistic about my prospects. But it's also helping me think about what I want in a career. I don't even think of what I do as a career anymore; it's what pays for our livelihood. But as the IRS continues to send letters, I realize I need to step up my game. If I don't want to work outside of the home, a helluva lot more needs to occur on the homefront.

Ansel is a hilarious ball of energy, climbing wherever he can. Our bodies still bear his scratches and bites, but he's good at listening and showing himself to be more trainable than Fig ever was. Fig is rallying from her URI, thank goodness. Giving that cat medication is a two-man job; she's probably close to 15 pounds now. I'm so finding my peace with both critters. I appreciate Fig more now, and the little guy continues to heal my emptiness. I look forward to having more animals in my life.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014


Not much to report. The days are long, the weather's warm, the tea is sweet.

Kitten's name is still Ansel. Big cat got his cold. Garden stuff over at Dark Meadow. Accountability stuff over at Melanie's Gym.

My days this week are spent working, tending the garden, making exercise habit, and allowing myself to work slower at the laptop when there's a kitten hogging my left arm...

Ansel's a doll, mostly. Inquisitive, finding circuits to run in the house, biting and clawing mostly in play. I try to remind myself that he's teething, and we've employed spray bottles of water for when he gets too rambunctious. My scratches are healing. His belly is round.

Fig was almost reaching a level of tolerance and now we need to separate them again, because she started sneezing last night. It's all good though. We haven't really integrated them fully into each other's lives yet. We tried moving food and litter back into the common areas for Fig and found that a) Ansel thinks any litter box is a place to crap and play in, so b) Fig gave up food and pooping for 24 hours in protest. We don't want to have to resort to Kitty Prozac for her, so we're going at it more gradually for now.

I can't believe it's July. The calendar refuses to slow down, however badly I may want it to. I'm getting us back to eating in, not spending as much. It feels like we're missing out on things, and I have to remind myself that we both love it here and aren't going to be moving out of the area. That there is time. But I also have friends fighting cancer, and it's a good reminder not to let life pass by too. That making plans and following through on them is good.

Monday, June 23, 2014


I keep trying other names, but that one's sticking for some reason. We tried Orion last night, but it's not flying with me this morning. I almost don't want to name him Ansel, because Les flips it around a bit and calls him Aslan instead, and I'm not a huge CS Lewis fan. But when I look into his little kitten eyes, that's the read I get.
Poor little guy was terrific when we brought him home Saturday (after a detour to Petsmart to throw down ridic money on decent food and kitten toys, which he's so young, he's ignoring so far)...but yesterday after a long midday nap, the URI (upper respiratory infection) which is so common in critters that come home from shelters apparently, hit him big-time. Watching a kitten sneeze is frickin' adorable (well, until he snots on you a couple of times), but he started coughing last night, and you can just tell he's miserable. He has an appointment with the local vet this afternoon, not a moment too soon, because he's showing no interest in food today. Hubs is brilliant; he bought a little booger sucker and eye dropper last night, and I was able to get some water and milk into him this morning. I'll breathe a sigh of relief when he hits the vet's table though, or eats something solid.

Little dude turns 2 months today. We got him for a song (shelter was running a special). He's got his first shots, and he's neutered and microchipped. I'm hoping the vet takes the kitty insurance we've got for 30 days free, because I'd love for this not to be his well kitty visit, but owning pets is like having kids, so you find the money when it's needed.

I spent the weekend imprinting on him. He's a chest snoozer, to the chagrin of my posture. He's on my shoulder as I type this. Figaro is definitely more Les's cat, so we're trying this guy as more mine and so far so good. He's so tiny! I'm actually surprised they neutered him at a month and 27 days, because 2 months is norm, but he must've seemed strong enough.

We scored him at the first shelter we tried, about 15 minutes outside of Weaverville, one county over. I held a couple of other tiger/callie mixes and a white girl with black spots. Ansel has stronger tabby markings along his body, so when I spotted him, I asked to hold him, and he was definitely the most chilled out of the bunch. Slipped right into my arms and said hey. I went in there hoping they had orange kittens, but knowing I wanted to walk out with one, so the decision really wasn't hard at all.

Figaro is less than thrilled. Hell, she tolerates us pleasantly on a good day, but pet her when she's not in the mood or in the wrong place, and we're just as likely to get hissed at. 11 years old. She's a bit of a shithead. So we're taking her initial anger in stride. Les warned me she may act out, like not crapping in her box or something. Kind of seems right now that she's acting out by not crapping, period, so we moved her litter box to the bedroom for now, since we're isolating them anyway on account of the URI. Once Ansel's healthy and a little bigger though, we'll put them together more, ever so slowly. I swear, Fig's an above-average size cat, but I've seen bigger, but put them in the same room, and she looks like a friggin' panther!


Ansel's definitely feeding something in me...not sure I've been cross for the last 48 hours. I've been really damn mercurial this year, which I know is part hormones and part other body chemistry stuff, so it's nice to have my head and moods settled a pinch. I'm trying a new supplement, watching my moon cycle so I can supplement it with a tea that's geared to it, and I have a kitten on my shoulder. Life is good!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Quick vent

Nothing too exciting to report here, but I need to whine for a sec, and this is the place for that.

I did that 6K on Saturday. I fell once, but quickly recovered. I had my 2 days of soreness and almost-complete lack of focus following said walk. Then I woke up today hoping I would be back to semi-normal. My lower back apparently has other ideas.

Luckily, I'm not a person who has back problems, not really. It seizes up on me occasionally, but I get that it's thanks to the weight, and not (possibly yet) something else. I say that last part because my adorable Mommie is walking with a spine that's crumbling to pieces on her, and there's no way of knowing if that shit's inherited. But for now, I get that my back wouldn't be a whinylittlebitch occasionally, if I weighed less. That's definitely a given in this geometric equation.

But boy, when your lower back decides to be a whinylittlebitch, it affects EV.RY.THING. Try putting pants on like a normal person. Try bending anywhere without giving it some thought first. Try lifting your friggin' arms without pain. It's a blast.

So that's where I am today, when I was hoping to rearrange the 2nd bedroom, clean out the fridge of last week's leftovers, and hopefully get some damn sites done. The Advil isn't working, so I'll likely spend my last precious happy pill on this nonsense in the hopes I can at least catch up on sites. I hate taking the better part of a week to recover from busyness and exertion, but at least it's motivating and spurring me to real change.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Finding strength

Bartender: How old is she?
Iner: She's still shiny.....she still expects everything's going to turn out alright.
Bartender: That's a good age.

~ An Unfinished Life

You make allowances for family. It's a given, no matter how idyllic your family may seem. There are times when you must dig down deep and find your strength to deal with them. I wash dishes rather obsessively when I need to control my environment. Suffice it to say, we're gonna have a clean kitchen week here chez Johnson.

The MIL and niece arrived Friday. It's Sunday now. So far, time is crawling a bit. I have to start working, already have today, and my days will be full of it from now until they leave, and that will help with the whole time-crawling thing.

But I'm learning about myself as I interact with them, and it bears notice. How I am able to find patience when how I really want to react is "wow, seriously?!" (MIL was angry yesterday when she got a lousy steak at Cracker Barrel...how do you walk into Cracker Barrel expecting a decent steak?! Also, MIL's driving in general...I need a shot of whiskey before getting in a vehicle with her.) How allowances must be made for my niece's minor emotional and developmental delays, and when to take a hard line with her. The child could manipulate paint off a wall, but she's a product of an unhealthy environment. I've never been so glad that a child attended public school. I wish it were year-round. She needs the structure. And focus therapy. And speech therapy. And has no business going into any "gifted" program when she's getting C's in regular work. And....I'm not her parent.

My gods, the frustration!

But she's a smart critter too, bright and curious. I hung out with her outside yesterday, let her climb all over our creekbed. The water's way low right now, and there's plenty of bedrock there, so I let her explore so long as she remained in eyesight. She likes throwing rocks in the water to get a big splash. But she was also checking out bugs, wild strawberries, all the green.

We have an ancient and neglected playset just below our property, next to the creek, a climbing set with slide and a swingset. They're not 100% safe, and my first reaction was "absolutely not" to her playing on them, but I took another look yesterday and relaxed. What's the worst that could happen, she snags on something and needs a tetanus shot? Our town has an urgent care and she's Medicaid. Parenting, even spot/trial parenting, requires knowing when to react and when to relax.

Picking your battles...such a dance. Hubs was all, no problem, you can work in the bedroom, but I knew better. Could tell this morning that if I kept that up, I'd have a small person popping in every 5 minutes, half bored, half curious, wanting my attention. So I moved to the living room, and sure the work's going slower, but I'll make it work. The child is neglected rather criminally at home, so it makes sense she'd demand more attention. I'm not going to punish her for her parents' shortcomings.

I've popped outside now, so she can burn off some energy on that playset. She's being 7 this morning, a little needy, more than a little pushy. Hubs will take them up the Blue Ridge in a little while to see the views and picnic. For a second, just now, I thought some other kids had joined her. She's on the swings, singing at the top of her lungs. Such a great kid.

How different our lives would be with children. I'd get up earlier to knock out some work before the small ones rose, and my day would be punctuated by stolen moments of precious time, both for them and for the work that keeps my family fed. Same with if we had more animals, or a small farm. I'm not managing my time well enough in my present life, not nearly. Interesting that it takes a little reality to really see that. I wish, and say "if only" where the niece's raising is concerned, but the adjustment would be incredibly jarring. We are such lazy creatures.