Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm not waving, I'm drowning

When I check the health insurance bills from my psychiatrist, down at the bottom, under where all the money stuff is spelled out, there's a diagnosis code: Major Depressive Disorder.

And it's never been so major as it is right now.  It's all I can do to keep my head above water.  I'm deep in the throes of mourning--and for what isn't really important. The important part is the process of letting go--something for which we have very few play books in this country.

My therapist has encouraged me to learn to "live in sadness."

And so that is what I do.  I cuddle my dogs and my husband, I make soup and try to give myself a break about the dog hair balls in every corner, the pile of dirty laundry that's now so big that the foster dog thinks it's his bed, and the dusty dusty shelves.  And I cry. A lot. Every day. For about six weeks now.

I'm a believer in feelings as energy.  They must be released. They must be moved. I've experienced first-hand how stuck energy can become illness and physical pain.

Want to live in sadness with me?  First things first. You'll need to start clearing your schedule. Try not to do anything that forces you to pretend that you're okay unless it pays your mortgages [read: go to work. try to work. take sick time if you have it when the work is too much].  Otherwise, plan to hang out at home.

Here's my living in sadness soundtrack:

  • Joshua Radin (not his new stuff. only old)
  • Sufjan Stevens
  • Joanna Newsome
  • Iron & Wine
  • The Weepies
  • Alexi Murdoch
  • The Decemberists

Living in sadness foods:

  • Chewy red wine
  • Wild rice soup
  • Hot spiced apple cider
  • Golden Grahams
  • Bread pudding

Living in sadness itinerary:

  • Cry
  • Knit
  • Spoon with a greyhound
  • Spoon with a spouse (until one of two greyhounds forces himself between the two of you)
  • Stare at ceiling, wall, or floor 
  • Cry more
  • Walk the dogs [even in the rain; even though the sun sets an hour before you get home from work]
  • Contemplate doing some laundry
  • Get out the crayons
  • Talk about the sadness, the grief, the fear
  • Watch mindless television
  • Go to sleep 
  • Repeat

One of the crappy things about depression is that it makes everything un-fun. There is absolutely no pleasure left in my life.

My favorite things in the world--sitting amongst my friends eating really great food, having really great conversation over really great wine, and I'm floating above it all thinking, Is this fun?

Nope. Not un-fun. But not fun.  There is no such thing as fun.

For now.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The party starts here.

Take out your old magazines (or the catalogs you got in the mail today. Pick a color or two (or don't). Cut out triangles of said color(s).  Attach to string (or the yarn your foster dog unraveled and dragged all over the house).  Hang on mantle, over doorway, or across bookcases.  Instant party.

P.S. This is from the non-book by Keri Smith, who, by the way, has a new book out too, beautifully titled Mess.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Number 29: or how I got blisters on the tip of my middle finger

the croquembouche still life

The croquembouche.  (Croak-em-BOOSH.)  A French dessert made in honor of our (better late than never) Octoberfest-themed dinner party.

Ten people in our tiny kitchen.

A pile of caramel cream-stuffed cream puffs coated in crunchy caramel and stacked with care.

A cascade of spun sugar sloping down the side.

One word: yum.

It's work though, I gotta tell you. This is no one-bowl cake recipe.

There's the pate au choux, which makes your arm ache from stirring in egg after egg after egg.  Then there's the piping of the choux paste, into tiny cream puffs, which are baked for twenty minutes, during which you must lower the oven temperature and keep believing that they're going to rise and be amazing.

the puffs, fresh from the oven

The puffs cool while you make the caramel cream--which starts as carmel (candy thermometer anyone?) to which you add heavy cream and then more heat. Off the heat you add sour cream and vanilla and then cool the contraption for at least two hours (which is just long enough to clean up your dirty kitchen before making it sticky again.)

After the cooling, you whip more heavy cream until it's stiff, and then you fold the chilled carmel into it.  Again comes out the pastry bag, and you are piping cream into the puffs using an improvised decorational tip since you can't find your filling tip. (boo.)  The cream is separating in the pastry bag because your hand is too hot.  You panic. You whip the cream some more; you think you have saved the day.  You haven't. You must continually hand-whip the cream. You feel your arm may never recover.

You pull out an ice water bath for the cream and think that you are brilliant--until the whole thing goes to hell.  And then you're whipping cream to add a bit of the failed, runny caramel cream to, hoping that it will be thick enough to stay in the tiny tiny puffs. It is. You are triumphant, momentarily.

And then you are making more caramel, on the stove, which you are swirling and watching but not stirring, because you have already learned today that stirring is no way to make sugar caramelize.  And then you are dipping the filled puffs in the caramel (their top sides first) and even though EVERY recipe you looked at online warned you not to burn yourself, there you go--burning. Blistering. On the top of your middle finger.

Luckily, you just happen to have an ice bath prepared to stop the caramel from cooking, so you dunk your finger into the bath and feel a bit of relief. You use the tongs for the rest of the dipping.

the spun sugar waterfall, or the result of the attempt thereof.
You dip the 50 puffs head-first.  You let the caramel set on parchment paper. You have to keep running back to the stove to warm up the caramel lest it leave whispery-fine spiderwebs of sugar behind itself as you move across your workspace--and then you, and everything around you, is wrapped in sugar strands.

When the caramel hats on the puffs are set, you dip them bum-side into the caramel, and this is when--finally--you begin to construct the cone of puffs that is the final dessert.

And this is where your ingenuity from earlier (whipped cream with a bit of failed caramel cream added) begins to fail--the heat from the caramel is making the puffs that house the lesser cream melt and puddle unto themselves.

Don't worry, just dab up the drips and proceed. This dessert is gonna rock your guests' socks.

Crunchy, creamy, and such fun to eat, we at first pretended to be civilized and use forks, but eventually abandoned them in favor of our fingers.  This is a tactile dessert--get your hands on a puff and yank it free, then crunch down the hardened caramel and let the cream fill your mouth.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Roody's sweater

Just chillin in my new sweater. NBD.
Finally!  After two huge frogging sessions, the greyhound coat (that is hereby an XXXL and an XX-long--is finished!  And, most importantly, it fits!

Stupid flash, but adorable dawg.
Here you can see the six buttons I added to the side panel. His side is long...and it requires a lot of buttons!

Also, I feel that I should note here that Roody is a very difficult subject to photograph. He rarely holds still, thus the roll of film (okay, it's digital, but you get the idea) showcasing three blurry dogs and one blurry sweater.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

ugh. and also dogs.

Depression sucks. Can I get an amen?

I'm deep in the throes of it again.  And this time, instead of giving up, I'm trying to push through.  Find a tiny speck of joy in each day.

It's not always easy, but I've got this to say: it's a whole lot easier with dogs around.  (It's hard to sit and wallow with such a hilarious tongue around the house.)

I think I forgot to mention that we got a new dawg, who we've come to call Roody.  I did start knitting him a sweater, but I never properly introduced him. 

Meet Roody

At six years old, he's just about middle-aged. He's a retired racing greyhound, and probably the softest dog ever.  (He also radiates heat, and loves to spoon, so he's an ideal winter bedmate.)

He loves to cuddle, play tug-of-war, and pull like hell on the leash (life is very exciting).  Originally named Bella Knight by his breeder, his racing nickname was Rogue, but when he came to us in late June he didn't know his name.  Fearing that Rogue sounded a lot like "no," and running on the theory that dog names should have two syllables (commands have one), we changed his name to Roody.

Greyhounds aren't really barkers, but they do howl when the fire trucks race by with their sirens on.  Greyhound enthusiasts call this howling "rooing," thus the spelling.  Roody, however, is not much of a roo-er.  (Oh well.)

He sleeps about 20 hours a day, and spends the rest of the time allowing you to scratch him, eating, and going on long walks.  He loves a tennis ball and a stuffed toy. He loves bones. He loves people. He loves other dogs. He would really really love to chase a squirrel or rabbit.

Joe and I adopted Roody after doing a considerable amount of research into greyhounds. If you remember, we used to be home to a saluki/husky mix, and while we loved the fur out of Roxy, she was a challenging dog.  The things that made her lovable--the cuddling, the rooing, the fierce loyalty--these are all qualities of sight hounds (her saluki side).  And, knowing that we were never going to pay for a pure-bred dog, adopting a greyhound sounded like the next best option.

For a donation fee, we can give a home to a dog in need. We also get the pure-bred guarantee of personality traits (greyhounds are bred to be friendly, social, pack animals), health traits (they're the only breed with no evidence of hip dysplasia), the zany puppy-spirit that lasts into old age, and the two best traits of greyhounds: the side tongue (see top picture) and the cockroach (see most recent picture).

It's those things that help me keep my perspective. Love from things that are soft and furry, and time spent sticking my tongue out at the world.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Number 4: Toy Society Drop Number 3

In the shadow of Calder's eagle at the Olympic Sculpture Park, in Seattle, I left this tiny amigurumi owl, wearing his lovely scalloped breast feathers and hoping for a fun home.
Here he is all dressed up and ready to go, tied to a comfortable and coordinating chair. Below, you'll see an artsy shot depicting Mr. Owlette's view of the fantastical sculpture.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Number 7: Take one

Big ups to my mother who bought the book for me.  And big ups to Keri Smith, who created the book and gave me some fun things to do with my time.

Thing number one. Cut the page out, affix it to some cardboard, and mail to a friend.  I'm out of double-sided tape, so I used embroidery floss. *swoon*