Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Maggie's Place

I finally cleared up enough of the moving piles to be able to take a not-so-awful picture of the current scene. I'm sortof camping in one of the front rooms for now.  It's 20+ feet downhill to the road and there's a pond on the other side.  The view at night is beautiful, with glimpses through the trees of lights reflecting off water

Maggie has calmed down a bit since there's something soft for her to lay on that's close to me, and I've calmed down a bit since Desmond isn't acting like he's being tortured by being kept in the basement.  He doesn't love it, but he's not whining or barking or anything that would really break my heart. It helps that we have together time and he gets sensory stimulation on our walks around the yard.  I'm not taking them down the driveway for a real walk down the road, because I don't want to confuse them when the invisible fence gets put in and the driveway and road will be off limits. We walk around and around the yard.

One thing Desmond's good at that I never taught Maggie is pooping on cue.  He must've been leash walked in a prior life, because he's fallen right back into the poop rhythm.  I think Maggie used to do her business in the rough areas at the other house, and since we aren't walking in the rough, she doesn't poop outside.  Her system hasn't yet caught up to the fact that she's got several short windows of opportunity to poop.  Good thing the basement floor is concrete!  Unfortunately, even though I've blocked off half the basement, it's still large enough for her to find a place away from the "living area" to leave me little poopy presents.

What this all means is that Maggie's place right now while I'm at work, is in a crate.  She never grew to like that thing, so she thinks she's being tortured.  I'm hoping that a few days will be enough for her to start leaving the poopy presents outside, where they belong.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Country Bumpkins

I went to the old house earlier today to get some things I had forgotten (paper towels, sponges, a trash can, pet odor eliminator, some sneakers, dish soap, hand soap, the TV remote, a duvet, some bath towels, a bathroom rug).  You know, just a thing or two.

I passed my normal gas station on the way back, thinking that it'd be easier to get gas tomorrow when there aren't two dogs in the car.  But then I realized that it's going to get mighty cold tonight and the car likes having more gas in it when it tries to start on a cold winter morning.  So I drove a block past my new house and got gas on a main thoroughfare.

There I was, standing by the car putting gas into it when I noticed a commotion in the car.  Both dogs were excited by all the "ruckus" outside (ie, cars driving by).  That's when I realized that my dogs are country bumpkins.  On my country road, every single car is cause for barking and guarding.  So here, closer to the city, they're doing familiar behaviors.  Something tells me they'll get tired of this rather soon.

I hope.

Domestic Bliss

This seems like the first opportunity I've had in a long time to choose the time option over the money option when given the eternal choice of whether to spend time or spend money to get something done.  The long Thanksgiving weekend, combined with me not going anywhere special has meant that I've had time to run load after load back and forth to the new house.

I put it off as long as reasonably possible, but finally brought the dogs to the new house and we all spent the night here last night. I suspected it would be stressful for the dogs (and probably me, too).  Desmond, who avoided the "final"vet visit when he perked up immensely after I started feeding him more treats is now living in the basement, because I can't carry him up the stairs into the living quarters.  And Maggie has never really lived anywhere but in the country where it's quiet and there are no cars.

So Maggie has this constant walking around and whining thing going on.  When a car goes by.  When geese honk, when sirens and other normal city noises happen.  We've all gone out umpteen times (it's back on the leash for everyone) because I've thought she had to, you know, poop.  Of course I missed the actual time she had to poop (because it was about 10 minutes after we'd all come inside), so she did her business in the basement.  So did Desmond.  Frabjous.  Just frabjous. My dogs have both forgotten that they're house trained.  Surprisingly, Desmond doesn't seem too bothered by being in the basement, which I was feeling incredibly worried and guilty about. 

I gave up on the refrigerator and unplugged it.  You don't really appreciate those things until you don't have one!  I'm only heating part of the house, so I've got the essentials (eggs, bacon, half and half) sitting in a bag in a cold part of the house.  It's only for today, thank goodness!  Someone is going to help me move a real bed and my fridge from the other house sometime later today, and I'll feel less and less like I'm camping in my house as time goes on.

I hope the dogs feel that way, too!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Closing and Opening

The house closed on Wednesday after all, two days too late for my overwhelmed immune system.  I took a truckload full of stuff to the closing and started moving in immediately afterward, coughing and sneezing and wheezing.

Yesterday at noon, I arrived for the walkthrough to find deer in the yard. It's a much smaller yard than I have now, but it's got a swingset!  I love swings!

I took the tape off the vintage refrigerator, turned it on and opened it up.  I think it's the same age as the house.  The fridge still works, sort of.  The freezer gave up the ghost years ago, which is ironic, considering how much frozen blueberries, peaches, pesto and other garden bounty I have in the freezer at my place in the country. (Yeah, it sounds way weird to say, "my place in the country.")

Looking inside, the shelves are metal and they rotate out!  I was hoping I could use this for a while, but it's obvious that I'll have to buy a new refrigerator really soon, as in if I want anything cold, I'll have to have a new fridge.  It's a shame to let Sears take this one away, so I'm thinking about putting it on ebay just to see if anyone's interested in a vintage fridge. I doubt it, since there are other vintage refrigerators on ebay that are un-bidded-upon, but I should give it a chance.  It'll be a good excuse to take a break from packing and moving and curl up with the hotpad and the laptop.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The stress of the past few months has finally caught up with me and I feel like crap.  Achy sore, tired, worn out, scratchy, hurty throat.  I went to bed crazy early last night and wrapped myself in the blanket cocoon and read for a bit before going to sleep early.  Looking forward to doing that tonight, too.

You see - on top of all the other stress and stuff, I was hoping that the new house would close tomorrow and I'd have the long weekend to start moving in. 

It wasn't so far-fetched.  The close date was scheduled to be Monday, just one business day later.  However, for underwriting purposes, the funding bank has to treat everyone like they're a potential liar and make us document everything.  Perfectly.  Perfectly perfectly.  Something wasn't perfect enough and I had to produce a statement on one of my 401(k) accounts after I'd already closed the account and moved the money.  (It gets better.  They had pages 1-3 with all the balances, but want and don't have pages 4-7 with all the junk on it.)  Unfortunately, Vanguard will NOT email statements to people who don't have open accounts.  I tried multiple times.  They will only mail paper, and it will take 7-10 days for me to receive it.  This means that not only will we miss my want-to-move-in day, we will also miss the scheduled closing day.  This house could close in December because the bank wants pages 4-7 of a statement where they already have the pages with the good stuff.  I've sent them two other complete statements that include the junk pages, but it's not good enough for them.

Up until yesterday afternoon I was trying very hard to make the closing happen this week, but when the bank called me yesterday afternoon requesting something more, I gave up.  They're saying stuff doesn't show ownership when the account numbers are right there!  I surrender.  Immediately after I gave up, I started sneezing.

I completely believe that my cold and flu load depends on a large extent on my mental, emotional and stress level.  Even though it's been a stressful few months, I never felt so overwhelmed as I felt yesterday afternoon (except for one, lousy, loud night spent listening to my neighbor's noise and worrying for my safety).

Anyway - I had the refrigerator mostly empty (because I don't know if the 40-year old fridge in the new place even works!).  But yesterday after I gave up, I stopped at the grocery store and bought enough food to get through the weekend.  I've packed enough to get me started at the new place and left unpacked enough for me to stay here a while longer.  I'm in limbo.

I brought the truck into the shop this morning.  Again.  According to them, it's a water pump and a few other pricey things.  I've been worried about this old thing and the best way to make sure it'll help me move is to get it fixed at the shop.  Again.  In the 2 years I've had it, this truck has seemingly spent more time at the shop than taking me places.  I made the decision this morning to sell it.  I got this huge truck to haul goats, and if I'm not going to do that, this truck is about 10 times too big for me. Not to mention the constant, "is it going to get me all the way to where I'm going?" stress that I don't want.

To end on a good note, my new roof is about halfway on.  Yes, roof, truck, and house (multiple houses!) are putting a big strain on the bank accounts.  But I think they'll be OK.  Believe it or not, money is the one thing I'm not worried about! (probably just too low on the list!)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Something Bigger

Last night was pizza night at the fire department and I pulled my weight as the topping lady.  It was exhausting but exhilarating in a way.  This group of folks isn't a tribe in the same way that my friends were in 1983, but I really enjoy being around them and my contribution is much appreciated. We're all working for something bigger than ourselves, and I love that. 

I had put off telling the department that I'm leaving because I felt bad about abandoning them so soon after they'd invested in my gear and training.  I had said something general a few weeks ago, but told them the specifics on Thursday, firefighter graduation night (great timing, huh?).  After they got used to the idea, they were very supportive (short of offering to help me move!), and they asked me to stay involved with them as a social member.  Something I will enjoy doing, too.  It sounds a bit strange, but even after I leave, I think I'll come back and help with pizza nights - it makes me feel that good.

Friday, November 19, 2010

At the Beach - 1983

I love this picture.  It reminds me of those grainy shots you see of the 1950s family, where the greens and the peaches and the oranges are all a little too bright and there's an old Buick or Pontiac somewhere in a driveway.  I look at those old photos and think, "I may be stressed and worried and not calm right now," but there's a world that's perfect.  I always feel calm when I look at those old pictures.

So here we are.  That's me in the center, in 1983.  (At least we think it's me.  I don't remember this day, but others do, and I'll believe them when they say I was there.)  That's the year I graduated from high school and this picture captures us all being together.  Friends.  Part of a tribe.  I've written before about being new in this area and looking for friends.  Now that I've got some I realize that I want more.  Not necessarily more friends, but friends in a different way.  I want to be part of a tribe, like I was in 1983. The kind of tribe where some group thing is going on most weekends, where you don't need an invite to attend, just know where people are and show up.

I was in a few tribes back then, and one of them is still together, almost 30 years later, raising their children in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  I see them on Facebook, still a tribe.  It felt so enveloping.  So safe to be part of something bigger.  It's an easier push, that pushing, when you're not alone. 

There's a quote I latched onto many years ago that feels relevant now.  A band was being interviewed and the interviewer asked a band member what they were after.  "I want what we all want," he said, "Connection.  Clarity.  Bendiction."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Drivin' and Cryin'

So I went to pick up a refill on Desmond's painkiller prescription today and spoke to them about his final appointment.  For the last six weeks Desmond's been getting high twice a day on some opiate -  and it's made a huge difference in his demeanor. There's no pain anymore in him and he notices things now that he used to ignore in his focus on the basics.  Get up.  Walk.  Pee.  Poop.  Lie down.  Now his ears perk up, and sometime he trots.  He trots!

But the last week or so has found him unable to get up without a boost and I've realized that it's time for him.  I've known for a while that it was coming and am secretly thankful that it comes before we move to the new house.  The basement is the only place where a dog could live without walking up steps, and he'd have to live down there by himself or be carried up and down.  The one would make him very unhappy and the other, he's made clear hurts him.

It's been a year full of loss and tears over various things and here I am, eyes melting in the car on the way home.  But I come around the final bend and see Desmond and Maggie both upright and running (or trotting) to meet me as I stop the car and I think that maybe it's not time after all.  Then later he accidentally leaves another poop bomb in the house as he's been doing almost daily for a year and I remember that it really is time for him.  I'm sorry Desmond.  I'm glad that you're happy and you feel no pain and I'm sorry that it's only because of the drugs.  This week you'll eat like a king!  Cheeseburgers, ice cream, whatever you want!  Too bad you can't tell me to make you a hamburger pie with lamb gravy.  Maybe I'll make one anyway.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Urban Sharecropping

Saturday's Wall Street Journal had an article entitled, "The Rise of the Lazy Locavore," about the juncture between folks that have land but don't grow food and other folks that grow food but don't have land.

Link to the article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703882304575465720930763784.html?KEYWORDS=locavore#articleTabs%3Darticle

The last three paragraphs of the article discuss how landowners and gardeners can connect, mentioning an organization called Sharing Backyards, and some great examples of connections made.  I would love to post parts of the article, but it looks like my subscriber agreement prohibits me from doing that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Day of Rest

Last week was a busy one, and now that some things are done, today stretches out like a wide open expanse of nothingness.  Relax time.

Yesterday was the last firefighter class.  We divided into our crews and  practiced putting out several fires in the training tower.  As usual, it was pretty tough getting up at 5:30 on a Saturday, climbing up the ladder in full gear plus SCBA, hauling the full hose, going in the window, etc, etc.  But now it's over and there'll be no more Saturdays or Sundays lost to training. I'm glad to have that time back.  It seems like the time since Labor Day has gone by in a whirlwind.  I raised my head yesterday afternoon to notice that fall's gone. 

One of the instructors introduced me to the chief of a department I could transfer to.  They want me, which is heartening.  But there's another department quite close to my new house (as in virtually around the corner), and I think I'll approach them first.  I'm happy that this training won't go to waste.  These new departments get more calls than my current department's one per month.

My house was listed for sale yesterday, after a horrendous week of rushing to make it presentable for picture-taking.  I won't post the listing here, since I don't want to publicize where I live (even though it wouldn't be difficult for someone to suss it out).  I'll post the listing after I move, or will send the link to anyone that's interested and sends an email.

The neighbor's dogs came over to visit twice, so far.  Court order be damned.  Last Sunday morning and this morning.  I'm terrifically tense, expecting the neighbor herself to drive up and threaten me again.  Unreasonable fear, yes.  I know that.  But it's like waking from a nightmare - knowing that the feeling is not real isn't enough to make the fear go away.  Last week the dogs didn't have any collars on, indicating to me that she wasn't even trying to keep them contained.  Today at least, I see collars. (Yes, I got pictures both times.)  I've decided not to call the dogcatcher.  If there was something I could do to guarantee that I'd never see the neighbor again, I'd do it gladly and watch as this fear slides from my shoulders.

So today, in honor of finishing firefighter training.  In honor of getting the house listed, I'm going to relax.  I really should clean the house more, to make it ready for actual showings, but I think I'm going to relax instead.  I'm burnt out and tired of running.  I think I'm going to go see a movie (a first since I moved out here!), and then I think I'm going to get a pedicure. Ha!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hard Things

This picture from firefighter training last night.  Only one more class to go and firefighter training will be over! Complete! Fin! 

It was hard.  This 86 hours of training over 9 weeks was the hardest thing I've done in years.  I'll remember it as harder than getting my college degrees because it was SO far outside of where I'm comfortable (is this a theme with me?  I'm beginning to think so. I have this idea that I should be able to do anything I put my mind to, and off I go, comfort zone be damned.)

Here are some examples of why I thought this training was hard.

- Class started at 7 (be there 10 minutes early please!), so it was drive 45 minutes home, feed the dogs, stuff a few things down my throat and drive 30 minutes back into class.  Every time I had a big dinner, it seemed, we'd get suited up in our turnout gear, SCBA mask on, and do something REALLY exerting and scary, like a claustrophobic obstacle course in the dark, or crawl at full speed dragging a charged hose, or run up 3 flights of stairs dragging a hose.  I always felt like I was going to throw up after stuff like that.  So it got to where I was wary of eating much before class.

- standing for 3 hours with full gear on, plus SCBA, in dinky rubber boots that provided NO support added about 50 pounds to my weight and aggravated my plantar fasciitis.  Anyone that's had this will know that it's an inflammation of stuff in the foot making it painful to walk.  It takes several days for it to un-inflame, but since we were doing this standing for 3 hours thing several times a week, I've been walking like an old lady for a month now.

- class goes to 10 pm, which would normally be my bedtime.  Then it's drive home, have the rest of dinner and try to come down enough to go to sleep so I could get 5-1/2 hours of sleep.  I *lurve* my sleep (!), so this one hurt.

- The ONE time I came to class without the requisite 2 full air tanks (I brought my 2 partially full tanks from the prior class) was the day we did vehicle fires.  First I used up one tank and then I used up the other one.  The sound the air tank system makes when it's approaching empty is a scary sound. I've got a better feel for how much on-air time I really have after it starts making that sound.  But it's still scary in an elemental way.  Breathing is elemental. I appreciate that now.

- I am the oldest person in the class by 5 years, and out of shape to boot.  I struggled with some basic things like climbing up the ladder in full gear plus SCBA.  Things that the 16-19-year-old rest of the class had no (overt) problem with.  My team compensated, but I was a drag on team performance.

Anyway - it's almost over, and I've been thinking about comfort zones.  I think the last time I was in one (comfort zone, that is) was when I lived in Washington DC, before I went overseas for a nonstop year of out-of-the-comfort-zone living all over the world.  That was three years ago and I'm ready to go back there (to my comfort zone).  They say that you need to push yourself out of your zone, but I think that's for people who don't leave it.  For me - I want in!

I FB-status-ed about firefighter training last night and got a chorus of "awesome," "admirable," etc, from my FB friends to whom I hadn't previously mentioned firefighter training.  That's what people think about people who do hard things, like firefighter training or solo homesteading in the wilderness.  That's the land I'm leaving, at least for a while.  The land of hard things.  The land of out-of-my-comfort zone.  I may come back to these hard things, but next time I'm going to have more backing me up than optimism and hard work.  More planning.  More practice.  More support.

I've decided what I'm going to do with the extra hour every day that I'll have because my commute will be so much shorter than now.  I'm going to take care of myself better.  Spend time on better food, on moving my body, on feeling better.  I'm looking forward to it in a way that feels like coming home.  I think it's my comfort zone calling.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I spent the weekend in hazmat training.  The ENTIRE weekend, both days.  Doing my duty to finish up firefighter training.

It's amazing how when you need time, time is the last thing you've got.  The real estate agent is coming over Friday to take pictures of the house so it can be listed for sale, and there are some visible, ugly things going on here that are fixable with a little time.  I want to get the house listed before Thanksgiving so that (hopefully) a few folks will want to come see it that weekend and maybe it will sell a little quicker.

What's wrong?  First, earlier refrigerators have leaked and prior owners pulled up tile and put down plywood (which was then leaked on and rotted).  I'm planning on taking this fridge with me (it's a nice one and I've grown attached to it!), so this rotted plywood area will be visible.  Also, I had to remove cabinets over the old fridge when I replaced it, because nobody makes refrigerators that small anymore so now there is a dark, sunken area on the wall where the cabinets were.  Also, the first floor bathroom has some severe water damage on the walls that needs to be covered, and the porch has some rot that I want to minimize.  None of these things need to be perfect (heck, nothing in this 200-year old house is perfect), but they do need to pass the first, "is it ugly" inspection by a potential future owner.

Plus, there's this whole thing about "staging" a house that I've got to get ready for. As in making the floors gleam, the rooms and counters clean and inviting so that the pictures in the listing will make someone want to live here.

So there I was in hazmat class, counting the minutes that I was losing and being a little resentful about the whole thing.

I was driving to work Monday when I realized that there's no chance for success unless I take some time off work.  So, here I am blogging from home.  I just put a raft of leveling compound down and need to let it dry before I put a second layer on.  A little lunch, a little more cleaning (gleam-ifying, if you will), and it'll be time for layer two of leveling compound.

Strange what grabs the attention.  I was hoping there was a way to NOT have to use this old, ugly noncombustible piece in front of the wood stove.  I priced replacement pieces online (all in the $180-$300 range), and realized that I can *make* a replacement easily enough for a fraction of the price.  A little plywood and glass tile later, and there it is in front of the stove.  I put the tiles on one night while watching TV and grouted it last night.  It will be shinier when I clean off the grout haze, and look better when I find a border to put on it.  It's probably borderline in its noncombustible-ness, but I enjoyed making it and it felt like I was accomplishing something useful at the same time.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Just finished the inspection for the new house, and am glad to say there are NO major findings.  That's right, none.  The worst thing this highly respected inspector could find was that the railings on the porch would allow a child to get through.  This is the 6th house I've bought in my life, and the one in the best shape, by far.  There's a reason for that.  This house is not even 50 years old, less than half the age of all the other houses I've bought.  Compared to the struggles I've had trying to learn how to live alone out here in the woods, buying houses is a breeze and something I'm totally comfortable doing (too bad I'm not rich!). 

The kitchen is bright, clean, in good shape, plenty of cupboard space ... sigh.  All the bedrooms have closets, some closets even have lights!
Yeah, maybe the oven and the refrigerator are the same age as the house, but I have a 2-year old fridge ready to move.  No problem. Looks like I'm going back to no-oven-land though! At least for a while.

You could roller skate in this huge, clean, dry basement!  This picture shows only HALF of the basement.  It's SO far away from the rock and dirt floor with the 5 foot ceiling that is the basement in my current house.  I think about living in this house and a feeling of peace comes over me. 

The thoughts that I might not want to live alone in the country any more began to creep into my mind in July after I briefly dated a writer.  Time I spent talking to him and other city folks made me remember how much I had enjoyed city stuff.  That's when I re-subscribed to that girl magazine I used to like and when I got a pedicure - and red toenails.  Sometimes it's the small things that start the ball rolling!

It's like the washing machine.  After I moved in with my husband-to-be, I did our laundry at a laundromat for years.  We lived on the 2nd floor of an up-and-down and every few weeks I'd take 10 loads of laundry out, wash it, dry it, fold it and then haul it back home and up the stairs.  I hated it, but you really can't hate something you have to do like that and besides, we were poor and didn't have any options. (Don't even ask why, if we both had full-time jobs and I was also taking a full course load, why it was my responsibility to do the laundry.  It was a few years before I even asked myself that question.) Then a friend sold us a washing machine cheap, and I began to do laundry at home.  I can't overstate how much it changed my life by taking away some of that time-consuming drudgery I had refused to think about because I felt we didn't have any options.  (Eventually I made my unsupportive husband-at-the-time do his own laundry, but was then and that's another story.)

I don't revisit decisions after I've made them, so here I am in the woods, struggling through first after first after first.  Desperately wishing it wasn't so hard and such a struggle and that I didn't have to do it alone.  And then it was July and I dated the writer, and then August and the goats died, and then September, or maybe it was October and my neighbor was a complete scary jerk, and then I realized that it doesn't have to be like this and I made a different decision and here we are.

This house has a distinctive midcentury modern style.  It's like the architect was copying the Jetsons in places.  Yes, this house was "architected," also a first for me.  Everything is solid.  Everything works, everything is straight and no floors are soft and everything is square and I don't have to replace the roof or snake any drains that fall apart if you run too much water.  Like I said, peace.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How Much Wood ...

After a few weeks of starting a fire in the woodstove and letting it go out, I started a fire Friday that is still going, using up wood like a bandit, but keeping the place toasty warm.  Two years ago when I was doing this for the first time, I had NO idea how to start a fire and keep it going and the fire went out constantly.  I would restart it every evening (several times!) and just shiver through the cold mornings.  I feel like an old timer now, but really I am/was just beginning to learn the ins and outs of when to use different types of wood.

My new house doesn't have a woodstove.  It's got a few fireplaces (2, plus a double-sided one in the basement!), but they're not intended to be used for heat.  Earlier this week I brought a load of wood in from the woodshed and realized that soon I won't have to haul wood any more.  Managing wood and the stove was a really time-consuming aspect of learning to homestead, on top of all the other time-consuming and hard aspects (don't get me started).  I enjoy(ed) having a fire going, but I'm really going to enjoy not having to do that any more.  The new house closes at the end of the month, so this is my last month here.  Ideally, the 'stead will sell quickly, but realistically, it may be spring before someone else calls it home.  I can't have it both ways (buy low AND sell high), so I'm settling in for a long haul on selling this house (and contemplating not making any money on it, despite all the work I did).

There's one more looong night of firefighter training this week, all weekend and one night next week before this class is *finally* over.  I'll find out tonight if my new neighborhood has a volunteer fire department, and if they need people.

On another note - I don't know how long I'm going to continue this blog after I move (sorry Melanie from MN!).  The aspects of discovery and learning about homesteading that were so constant here won't be relevant there, and I have lost interest in posting any more details about my personal life or living my life as publicly as I have been.  I considered starting another blog, but I'm currently thinking that I don't want to do that.  I'll leave this blog open, since there's likely some homestead-y things left in my creaky bones (and several totes of raw fiber to be spun and knitted!), but I've noticed that the desire to post frequently has left the building.  We'll just have to see how it goes!

[Edit:  Hm.  I didn't intend to convey that I'm going to stop blogging immediately, although several commenters got that impression.  I haven't decided anything, but I don't have an urge like I did before is all I meant to say. I want to leave it open in case I have a burning need to tell you all about some really important thing like an article in WSJ, or my dog doing a cute thing, etc, etc. 

It bothers me when people misread or misinterpret my stuff because I feel that the error was mine in not clearly expressing myself.  This highlights what I'm struggling with - how difficult it is to accurately get across thoughts and feelings to people I don't know.  There are two ways to fix that (actually three): 1) try harder to be clear, 2) don't care if I'm misread, and 3) don't write things that can be misread.  I'm currently leaning toward the third option.  It may be a phase, ... or it may not.]