Sunday, July 25, 2004

I, Fig
The figs have arrived.

And I am now suffering from Fig Fatigue, a term I've borrowed from Friend A, who also suffers from Hearing Too Much About The Figs Fatigue. Aside from work, the figs have taken over my life for the past week or so.  Blogging time has been usurped by figging time. It's insane.

I've mentioned before that I have a fig tree in my backyard. And by 'tree', I mean a giant, humongous, really, really ridiculously large monstrosity. It's huge. I cut it back last year, only for it to come back at least twice as big this year. It's everywhere. I cannot escape it. I'm pretty sure it controls the tide, rather than the moon. The gravitational pull of the Fig Tree has to be the missing link to what would make time travel possible.

It's a really big tree. With lots of figs.

Last year the birds ate all the figs from the tree before I could get to the figs. I was very sad, and vowed this year to not let the birds have the figs. Those figs are mine. For the past couple of months as figs began to appear on the tree, I've kept careful watch over them. I checked on them daily, anxious for them to ripen as I watched them so that I could grab them from the tree before the birds became wise to the ripe figs. As I watched, so did the birds. I knew this would be a duel down to the very end.

Figs. Will. Be. Mine.

Now, the history of figs is as such: In the beginning, Adam and Eve wore fig leaves as clothes. Several thousand years later, my Mamaw and Papaw had a fig tree in their yard. From this tree they would gather figs and make them into fig preserves. It became a family tradition, and something the kids and grandkids grew to love. Anytime I would get a jar of these fig preserves, I would make it last as long as possible, knowing that once the figs are gone for that year it could be a long while before I could get my next fig fix. It was an addiction.

These jars of figs were like gold. Brown, gooey, sugary gold.

Many people do not know what a fig is, and are only familiar with the term 'fig' by way of the Fig Newton. This, faithful readers, is a tragedy. For when put in preserved form, the fig is an amazing delicacy. Sure, there are likely 108 other things one can do with a fig. But in my family, we preserve them. Put on toast or biscuits, you will think you are eating a little piece of heaven.

Brown, gooey, sugary heaven.

Well, one day my Mamaw and Papaw no longer lived in the house with the fig tree. And consequently, there were no more figs and no more preserves. My entire family went into fig withdrawals for many years.

We need our figs.

Jump ahead a few years, and I become an adult of sorts. I buy a house. It coincidentally comes with a fig tree. And now, after this fig-less era in the history of my family, I will be the bearer of fig preserves. The torch has been passed.

I, Fig.

So, after consulting my Mamaw, the Matriarch of Figs, my mom and I collected all we needed to know about the figs. I continued to watch the figs, waiting for them to ripen. Mamaw said it would be July, but I wasn't sure I could trust that. They looked like they could go at any minute. But sure enough, last week the first of the figs became ripe. Mamaw knows her figs.

I spent last Friday night and Saturday morning picking the first batch of figs. Now, if you've never experienced figs or a fig tree, let me give you a brief glimpse of what it's like. From afar, a fig tree is a beautiful thing. Tall, green, full of large leaves and bronze figs. A work of art, if you will. However, once you get up in the tree, it is quite possibly one of the most disgusting thing I've ever experienced.

Fig leaves are sticky. And by 'sticky' I mean that everything you touch sticks to you, and consequently anything you touch after that will also stick to you. Plus, the stickiness is really, really ridiculously itchy. And it's itchy in a "want-to-scratch-my-entire-body-with-steel-wool-then-roll-around-on-some-sandpaper" kind of way. Once the itching starts, it doesn't stop until you flee the tree and immediately deposit yourself into a hot shower.

But, to get good figs you have to embrace the sticky itchy, and get all up in the tree. As well as endure the other unpleasantries associated with what goes on in a fig tree. The afore mentioned birds tend to take up residence amongst the tree, waiting for what they see as 'their' figs to ripen. Hence, the sticky leaves are not only covered with fig tree stickiness, but there's also a nice layer of bird bomb on many of the leaves. I can only suggest that if you should ever decide to pick figs from a tree, keep your eyes open and your mouth shut, and try to keep the branches from hitting you in the face. Otherwise, you'll be sorry. And don't say I didn't warn you.

So, when I can stand the icky, itchy disgustingness no longer, and I manage to fill a bucket full of figs by climbing all over the tree and pulling branches down to get the higher figs, it is time for that hot shower mentioned above.  Fortunately, the shower does the trick. It provides immediate relief from the evils of sticky fig goo. Refreshed and sticky no more, it's on to the next step.

My mom and I then wash all the figs, first in water and baking soda to rid the figs themselves of the stickiness, then again in just water. Once we have clean figs, then comes fig grooming, to remove any unwanted fig shrapnel. Finally, once the figs have been deemed clean and pretty, they are put in pots and introduced to their new best friend: sugar.

And by 'sugar' I mean pounds of sugar. Literally.

In it's preserved form, the common jar of figs is likely two parts fig to eight parts sugar. This concoction stands for several hours, then it is heated over several more hours, then poured into jars. If all is done well, each jar will seal itself tightly to the sound of a 'pop'. And there you have it: fig preserves.

And by 'preserve' I mean these things will literally last forever before opening a jar, and will also likely survive any future nuclear holocaust. The obscene amount of sugar in the preserve concoction could probably mummify a small child for several centuries.

But, they are soooooooooo good. I must say, having never made fig preserves before and having only eaten the fig preserved perfection made by my Mamaw, the figs we made this week turned out really good. Brown, gooey, and sugary- just like they should be.

It's a lot of work, but it's so worth it.

So, the figs have taken over my life for the past week. One batch of figs, from picking to jarring, takes about twelve to sixteen hours and must be done almost all at once. Some of the sugar-soaking process can take place overnight. But once a fig is picked from the tree, it waits for no one. 

It. Must. Be. Preserved.

Fig Jar Count To Date = 50 jars, from three batches of figs, with at least one more batch to go.
I, Fig.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

MIA but A-OK
Again, apologies for the MIA postings lately. I'm still getting used to my new schedule and being busier than I'm used to. I have many fun stories to tell, so I promise to have something of substance up soon.

Thanks for being faithful to the blog!! I miss writing......


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Can someone tell me where the bathroom is?
I've made it through a few days of the new job. This is always a stressful time for me, for any new job I've ever started. It's mostly because I worry about everything, I'm extremely neurotic but too introverted to show it outwardly, and I just simply fear new things.

I have to say, though, that I'm enjoying the new job. Oh sure, it's completely insane and I feel completely inept at most things I've been asked to do. I've had way too much information thrown at me, and I'm already expected to do things with that information. It's the complete opposite of working at the shelter. It's hectic, it's busy, it's very little downtime. And people are nice and stuff. But even just environmentally speaking, it's a good job change for me, so far.

Of course, there are always the things at a new job that make anyone and everyone feel like a complete idiot. They hired me because I have a college degree, I have the appropriate work experience to fill this job, and because they feel I can come in and do this job well. Masterfully, even.

So.... why can't I operate the fax machine? Why do I have to have a lesson on how to work the copier, followed by proving I still don't know how to work it? Why can't I figure out how to check my voicemail or get into the system to record my outgoing greeting? Can someone show me where the bathroom is? Does my coffee cup go in the dishwasher, or should I wash it? Should I even use these cups? Where is the paper for the printer? Where is the printer? People ask questions like, "Has anyone shown you how to check your email?" Or, "Do you know where your mailbox is?" Or, "Have you ever seen one of these before? It's an Excel spreadsheet."

These are the things that reduce me to an absolute mess in my first few weeks at a new job. It's bad enough having to learn the job itself, learn new products, procedures, people, etc. When the computer won't let me log in because I forgot to enter my billable hours for the day before, that just pushes me over the edge.

On Day Two of this new job, the Fax Machine and I had a day-long duel of wits. It simply would not let me fax. Three or four of my co-workers kept coming to my desk with the non-confirmation-your-fax-didn't-go-through page from the fax machine, which incidentally alerts all who pass by the fax machine that the new girl can't fax. I have a college degree!!

Turns out, I wasn't dialing '9' before the '1'. Yeah, it took me five tries to figure that out.

It's simple stuff, but I forget how much of it I take for granted before going to a new job. I may have hated the last job, but I knew how it worked. It was familiar. I had my routine. I knew how to use the phone. It offered little frustration in the way of office equipment and procedures. At the new job, someone had to show me how to park in the garage yesterday. I know how to park, I've been in garages before. Yet, we had to schedule a time for Parking Garage 101.

The best part, though, was during my first day, amidst all the paperwork and introductory stuff. It was....... the Sexual Harrassment Video. Soooooooooooo great.......

I had to sit in a room, a room with windows that allowed everyone to see me in the room, alone, watching this video about sexual harrassment. I couldn't decide whether people should see me interested in the video, or if they should see me as casually uninterested. I'm the new girl. These things could dictate the rest of my social career a this place.

But, I found I was inadvertently intrigued by the video. It was a preventive/warning type video. But the title of the video is printed on the cover in such a way that if you look at it without really reading the whole title, the words that stand out are "How To Sexual Harrassment". I'm pretty sure it actually says something like, "How To Avoid and Prevent Sexual Harrassment." But, it was more entertaining to me to think of it as a 'how to' FOR sexual harrassment. Beyond that, the bad acting and instruction of the video just really made that twenty-four minutes a welcome part of my first day.

In fact, I'm making plans to create my own Sexual Harrassment video.

I'm sure it will involve a scene at the fax machine, learning how to use it AND avoid sexual harrassment at the same time.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Day One: I Survived
Today was Day One of the new job. I survived.

I'm too tired to post much about it now, so I'll go into more detail later. But overall it was a good day, as far as first days go. I didn't get lost. I met some nice people. They bought me lunch. I didn't do anything embarrassing, like walk into the men's restroom. That's always a plus. To NOT walk into the men's restroom, that is.

Some minor tragedies that occured include having to sign a very long document about the company policy of 'seriously encouraging' minimal to no use of the internet for personal use or email. I was heartbroken at this, and have since suffered severe withdrawal from having to go an entire day without checking email, checking any of my normal websites, and without blogging at work. My whole world is in freak-out mode right now. I've had to spend my personal evening time catching up on email and the web. It's insane....

Also, my chin hair decided to re-appear today. I'm fairly certain it's not quite of length to be noticed by the untrained eye. I doubt anyone saw it today. But then again, with my luck and as first days usually go, I now have a great fear that I am the New Girl With The Chin Hair. This will be my nickname. It will stick with me as long as I work there.

I dutifully plucked the chin hair again tonight, because I do actually have to go back and face those people again tomorrow.

Freak. Out.


Monday, July 05, 2004

Making me think
No small task, by the way - making me think.

I've been a bit obsessed with a new cd over the past week or so. Sometimes to appease my freaking out when stressed or upset or excited or in the midst of change, I purchase a new cd. I've actually been off of cds for awhile, kind of in a music funk, not really sure what I like anymore, not inspired by anything. Therefore not buying anything new since I don't really know what to buy. But on my last day at the homeless shelter, I left and on a whim went to buy a cd. It just seemed like it needed to be done.

Little did I know that I was buying a cd that seems to almost completely apply to me these days. I'm by no means a music expert. I like random stuff, often for no good reason or just because I like the way it sounds. I usually hear music before I hear lyrics, and sometimes I never even get around to knowing the words to songs. I have no consistent music taste, and I usually shy away from music conversations with most of my friends who happen to know and appreciate music for very intense reasons. I love music. I just don't have a good reason why or what.

The cd I bought was the newest from Alanis Morissette. I've been a fan of hers since Jagged Little Pill, although not always liking all of her stuff. She had a phase there where I had to break up with her for awhile. I even sold a cd or two of hers to get it out of my house, so she would know I was serious. But when she has something new, I like to check it out before I decide if we are still on a break or not. I'm not sure why, but something about her angst has always appealed to me.

I'd heard her new cd is a bit less angry and a bit more self reflective. Alanis has apparently found love, and I'd read or heard that this change is reflected in her new music. So I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But as I left my job and prepared to go spend time with friends to celebrate the end of a bad job and the soon-to-begin-and-hopefully-better job, I knew I needed a transition of some sort. So I bought the cd and popped it into the player in the Jeep.

And, me likey.

Like I said, I usually hear music way before the words ever penetrate into my brain. But for the first time I can remember, the words caught my attention on the first song. And, I'm almost embarrassed to admit, I pulled over into a parking lot so I could hear the song again while reading the lyrics. I completely disregarded that I was supposed to be somewhere with my friends. I wanted to make sure I heard what I think I heard. (if you're familiar with Alanis, sometimes you really have to listen to decipher words, short of reading along with the lyrics sheet to figure out what the heck she's saying)

And what I heard was this person I don't know describing me as accurately as I've ever attempted to describe myself. It was a page out of my journal, only said better than I've been able to say it, or rather better than I've ever been brave enough to admit. It almost made me think that maybe this is what people see of me, or perhaps many reasons for things that I've struggled with, and it got my attention. Here's what I heard, from the song "Eight Easy Steps":

How to stay paralyzed by fear of abandonment
How to defer to men in solve-able predicaments
How to control someone to be a carbon copy of you
How to have that not work and have them run away from you

How to keep people at arm's length and never get too close
How to mistrust the ones you supposedly love the most
How to pretend you're fine and don't need help from anyone
How to feel worthless unless you're serving or helping someone

How to hate women when you're supposed to be a feminist
How to play all pious when you're really a hypocrite
How to hate God when you're a pray-er and a spiritualist
How to sabotage your fantasies by fears of success

How to lie to yourself and thereby to everyone else
How to keep smiling when you're thinking of killing yourself
How to numb a la holic to avoid going within
How to stay stuck in blue by blaming them for everything

I'll teach you all this in eight easy steps
A course of a lifetime you'll never forget
I'll show you how in eight easy steps
I'll show you how leadership looks when taught by the best

I've been doing research for years
I've been practicing my arse
[edited by C.T. for viewers] off
I've been training my whole life for this moment (I swear to you)
Culminating just to be this well-versed leader before you

Um, wow.

Now, there's no need to go into details about which of those lines really does apply to me or in what ways they apply. If you actually know me, you can make some guesses and you're probably not far off. But let's just say most of them (if not all) do apply to me. And in a literal sense.

What I liked about the song most is that it's not from the point of view of someone calling that out about someone else. It's personal. Autobiographical. It's "hey, I've realized these things about myself, and they're not pretty. Please don't be like me, but I can show you how to be this way if you'd like to learn quick. I'm somewhat of an expert from years of experience." And I might as well have written it myself, although Alanis beat me to it.

Of course, I'm not saying that Alanis has it all figured out, or that this is the most monumentally profound song that has ever influenced my life. I'm not an Alanis groupie. It's just a song. But it did come along at an oddly perfect moment, as I went on to meet friends (a bit late, I might add - I did some good thinking, followed by needing to compose myself in the parking lot before I headed on). I had the words of the song on my mind all night, and pretty much since then.

It really made me think. About the way I am, how, why, how it affects my relationship with others, how it affects the way I live my life.

And, much of the rest of the cd is the same way. Songs with lyrics that are calling me out right now, making me think. I almost wish these are things people or friends would say to me when they see it in me. But really I think it's better when we realize these things ourselves and find the courage to recognize and admit it. And hopefully do something about it.

I'm not in the business of reviewing music or endorsing things with The Tyrant's seal of approval for my readers. I really think this cd just came along at an interesting time for me. It may be complete annoying fluffy nonsense to the rest of you. I may hate it myself in a week or sooner.

I feel like I'll write more about other songs on the cd sometime. Especially the last song, "Everything", coupled with the first song. Briefly excerpted from "Everything":

I blame everyone else not my own partaking
My passive aggressive-ness can be devastating
I'm terrified and mistrusting and you've never met anyone
Who is as closed down as I am sometimes

You see everything you see every part
You see all my light and you love my dark
You dig everything of which I am ashamed
There's not anything to which you can't relate
And you're still here

Um, wow again.

But for right now, it's making me think.


Things I've learned while on vacation.
I've been on vacation for the past week. An 'at home' vacation, meaning I didn't go anywhere, but I also didn't work. And by 'no work', I mean I relieved myself of all responsibility having to do with anyone other than myself. It's been great.

I haven't specifically taken much time in the way of reflection this week, and that was somewhat intentional. I had great plans at the start of the week to gather my thoughts, make a clean purging of all things bitter and oppressive in regards to my old job, perhaps journal about it, with the goal of refocusing on better things, improving my work attitude in time to start my new job, and hopefully also being more at peace in general. I've been a tightly wound ball of stress lately, I'm sure not the most pleasant to be around.

Plus, I have some bad habits and attitudes built up about working, developed during two years of going to a job I hate everyday. I need to start a new job with a better attitude and better habits.

But, instead of taking intentional amounts of time to sit and work through this, I decided (or rather opted by accidentally not doing it) to not make my week a grand, official, transition week of regrouping through any sort of formal system or whatever. I instead didn't think about much of anything. I took a break. And I think that was best. I tend to over-think things and stress myself out even more. So I opted to entertain myself in other ways. Not to avoid the issue. But instead to let a real, honest to goodness break work it's magic. It's been great.

It's amazing what taking a momentary lapse from most responsibility can do for you. If I wasn't such a responsible person, I could really get used to this. And that would be bad.

So, the 'break' was one major part of my week. I really needed it. It's been good.

In addition to the 'break', I have done some things and learned some things. I caught up on some projects. I watched a lot of tv. I spent some time with friends and family. And here is some of what I learned:

- Dawson's Creek is the most prolific and brilliant show ever on television. Sure, it's over as far as new episodes. But it comes on TBS not once, but TWICE every weekday morning. I cannot express how excited I've been to stumble upon this hidden treasure. This alone is enough to make me want to not work ever again. Or at least not work until the afternoon. I've found that the Creek gang and their teen angst is not so unlike adult angst that I see mirrored in many of my own relationships and situations. These kids are very wise. I implore you to rediscover The Creek. All of the answers are there.

- No matter how many home design shows I can watch during any given day, it's not enough. And no matter how alike they all seem, I find them all extremely fascinating. Even if I hate what they did to the room. I can't get enough.

- Children's television shows make absolutely no sense whatsoever, yet I can't seem to change the channel when I click by one of these shows. PBS is the best example of this. I found a show the other day that was nothing more than a lady wandering through a field following a strand of yellow yarn that was wrapped around trees. At the end of the yarn she had knitted herself a sweater. She put the sweater on, then the announcer said 'a yellow sweater'. And that was it. Today the same show had these five different colored, people-sized, furry blobs dancing around. Then there was a five minute 'skit' involving three people trying to make it over a brick wall that was too tall. No talking. Just wall and people. The announcer said 'a brick wall, it's too tall.' Then the blobby-guys came back and danced more. What is this?? Yet obviously I watched enough of it to give a recap. I hope kids get it. Because as a genius adult-sized person, I was completely lost.

- Being on vacation is the universal sign to the weather that it's time to rain a lot. The first five days of my vacation were completely soaked. I intended to gradually work on my tan this week, as the sole purpose of having a backyard is to have a place to layout without having to pay for sun, or have people see me lay out. But all I could do for most of the week was sit inside and watch it rain. Now that the sun has been out for a few days, I've tried 'crash tanning'. This has only resulted in yet another oddly shaped sunburn, which will then turn into an oddly shaped tan, then peel.

- Being home during the week provides a unique insight into neighborhood activity. Most people are working this week, which is strange to me since I am not working. Typical neighborhood things continue to take place as usual. Such as, the debris picking-up truck. This is the truck with a giant crane arm that comes down the street and picks up the large tree limbs and other debris that people leave out on the sidewalk to be taken away by the city. I had no idea how this was done. But now I do. Because I watched this truck through the window for a good thirty minutes one day. It was at this point in time, as I sat in my pjs, in my chair, by the window, with my coffee, that I realized I'd become the 'old lady who watches out the window' in my neighborhood. I blame the rain.

- Accomplishing at least some projects during time off is good. I managed to spray paint my patio table, transforming the look of my patio into ..... a patio with a different colored table. I learned through this adventure that if you stand down wind from paint that is being sprayed, the paint does, in fact, get on you. I'm pretty sure I wore as much of the paint as the table did.

- Feeding myself three times a day is hard. My previous job at the homeless shelter supplied free lunch everyday. This was a 'perk' of working there. I had free lunch for 2.5 years. Suddenly this week, lunch does not magically appear for me. I've not known what to do with that. I was reminded of a 'game' my sister and I used to play in highschool. She would come find me in the house somewhere and ask me what she wanted for lunch. Naturally I didn't know what she was in the mood to eat. So I'd throw out a few options (pb&j sandwich, macaroni and cheese, apple, lard) until I hit on something we had in the house, something she thought sounded good enough to eat, and that was also simple enough to be made by a teenager that was hungry NOW. I acted annoyed with it, but I miss it. It was one of our 'things'. I found myself this week wondering what I wanted to eat for lunch, but had no one around to tell me. Lunch is hard.

- When my friends take actual vacations where travelling away from me is involved during the same week when I am not working and I have a ridiculous amount of free time with which I could be playing with them, I miss them. It takes some of the fun out of not working when others are working for my friends to also not be working, but not here to play with, and in places more fun and exotic than where I am in my house.

- The only thing better than soon being allowed to wear jeans on Fridays at my new job is to wear t-shirts and shorts Monday through Friday. I plan to make this happen eventually at my new place of employment. It's only a matter of time.

I start my new job tomorrow. I'm completely freaked out. I'll be freaking out for at least a month or so. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about the new job. But new things and changes always take me awhile to get used to.

I'm glad I took this week off. I needed the break. And these valuable lessons.


Friday, July 02, 2004

The Beauty of Nothing
I'm a big fan of nothing. Doing nothing, that is.

This week has been vacation for me. My last day at the old job was Friday a week ago. My new job starts next week. To transition, I really needed this week free from pretty much all responsibility. Some people have a hard time letting go of things and relaxing. But I am the complete opposite. I crave nothing.

It's not lazy. It's just an intense desire and talent for being content with nothing to do. I need it to be good for doing anything any other time. I'm a master at nothing for the benefit of something.

Many, many people do not understand this. I can explain it away as being an intense introvert. But that doesn't always make sense to people, or even truly sum up the whole of it. I just love alone time. I love being around people. I love my friends. But sometimes, I just need to not be around people. And I love every minute of not being around people.

I'm not bored. I'm just doing nothing. And it's great.

Sure, I get lonely sometimes. Often I realize I've gotten myself into this by removing myself too far from people for awhile. But sometimes, it's just what I need to do. I'm getting better at juggling this, at knowing when I'm still good for people or when I need to go away for awhile.

I'm also very, very reluctant to change. I don't handle it well. Now that I've left my old job and will be starting a new job, even on vacation my stress level is fairly high. The past few weeks have been a mess for me, emotionally, internally. My stomach has decided to freak out again, making it hard to eat or feel well. I've had headaches. I've been nervous. I've been, um, difficult to be around at times with friends. When I freak out about myself, I sometimes tend to freak out about other things that don't necessarily need to be freaked out about. Even though I left a job I hated and I'm hopefully going to something better, I'm still going through the freaking out I do so well when I have to adapt to change.

So, I knew I needed a week to detox in between jobs. I needed time to shake off the old, refocus on better things and find some peace, and then have time to begin freaking out about the new job. This is what I've tried to do this week.

I've spent some time with friends. Turns out, it's really fun to play during the week with no regard to needing to get to bed in order to get up early for work. I have no rules this week. But most importantly, I've spent time doing a lot of nothing, with no one but myself. It's been great. It's a wonderful vacation for me. I can find things to do around my house, things that have needed doing for quite awhile. Or, I am perfectly happy sitting in my chair, drinking coffee, watching out the window. Or watching TV. Or reading. It doesn't take much to entertain me. I think that really confuses people sometimes.

I'll even admit, there may have been a day this week that I didn't shower. I'm totally okay with that. It's not lazy. It's just nothing.

The week has been nice. Although I could have done with a little less rain and a little more playing outside. But now that my vacation is mostly over, and I'll have to start my new job in just a few days, I'm beginning to really freak out about it. It's a new place, a new routine, new responsibilities, and worst of all, new people.

I still have three days left before the job and the newness begins. But there's just not enough time. I'm not sure I'm properly prepared, and I only have a few days left to get prepared. My freedom ends in just a few short days. Are we sure I can't do nothing for a living? I'm really good at nothing. I'm perfectly comfortable with nothing.

I fear change. But I do not fear nothing.

Sorry for the light posting this week. I've had plenty of time to write, and plenty of things to write about. But as writing would interfere with the nothing, I just haven't gotten around to it.

Nothing rules.