Quote of the Moment

"It's never wrong to hope, Byx," said my mother. "Unless the truth says otherwise."
- from Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate

Friday, December 31, 2010

So Long, 2010!

Well, technically there's another 20 minutes to go on this coast, but I figure the year's pretty much done what it's going to do by now, and the credits are rolling, so it's safe to say the thing is over... unless there's some sort of stinger at the tail.

Let's just hope not...

After the rare full-moon eclipse that saw us through the Winter Solstice, we find ourselves leaving the year under the light of the barest lingering crescent. (I shot the above photo with my little purse camera before work this morning. Came out better than I'd expected, though not as good as my big camera would've done. Didn't help that I was leaning on an icy rail at the time, either...) Appropriately enough, the new moon arrives with the new year - or close enough for horseshoes.

I won't bother retyping my 2010 resolution list for an itemized run-down of how I did. For one thing, I have a cat convinced that I've resolved to rub more kitty bellies this year. For another, I'm just too lazy to bother. Anyway, by my estimation, I hit about three out of the five main goals I set for myself. I could've done more on all of them, but I checked off significant portions of two and at least one item on the third and fourth. The only one I completely dropped the ball on was my exercise resolution, which I readily admit was entirely due to personal laziness. (I said I was too lazy to bother retyping the list...)

So, up for 2011 is pretty much more of the same. I want to keep working on the stuff I made headway on last year, and pick up the slack on the stuff I didn't.

The abridged 2011 resolution list (leaving out specific sub-goals that mean nothing to anyone but me):

1. Increase monetary income. (Pretty much the same as last year, unfortunately...)
2. Draw and/or paint more. (I kicked up my sketchbook productivity last year, but I want to do more in 2011.)
3. Write more. (Been far too lazy on this front, spending most of my time dinking around instead of finishing stories.)
4. Get back into the exercise habit. (Self-explanatory. Walking's been linked to all sorts of health benefits, and unlike insurance it's affordable.)
5. Continue organizing and cleaning. (I made significant progress on this front, and don't want to lose ground.)
6. Start/Continue other personal improvement projects. (Sort of a catch-all for some things I've been meaning to get to. Mostly, I want to stop taking time for granted so much - stop assuming I'll be able to get to it later, that it'll be easier tomorrow.)

Hopefully, I'll maintain my better-than-half average in 2011, starting in six minutes... make that five...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Another Xmas Come and Gone

This is Grandpa's Christmas tree.

It's been at his house nearly as far back as I can recall. It has little silk-strand ball ornaments, traces of old silver plastic tinsel, and two sets of old-fashioned electric lights that blink out of sequence. At one time it belonged to a late uncle, but since then it's been Grandpa's.

We've had Christmas at Grandpa's every year since I can remember as well. After our family gift exchange, we'd pile in the car to meet the relatives over there for a holiday feast and more gifts, and while away the short hours until evening until the grown-up talk was over and we went home. Pulling out of that driveway meant Christmas was really over. It always seemed a bit surreal, after all the excitement and anticipation, how it seemed a mere blink of the eye before it was all over, the magic gone, the world gone gray again as the year tumbled to a close.

Through all the years, Grandpa's Christmas tree has been there, blinking away every season, not a bulb dimmed, not an ornament shifted, a constant through years of change.

This year, we arrived to find Grandpa shuffling back to his chair, having just been encouraged to clean up for dinner. He stumbled and shuffled and collapsed with a sigh, and gazed about with a vague, watery gaze as though just woken. With some prompting, he put in his hearing aids, but the look didn't change, and his eyes still slid closed as Christmas songs and conversation filled his living room.

At dinner, he shuffled over to the table, and nodded off over his plate, before returning to his recliner to doze off once more.

As gifts were distributed, he napped on. Once in a while, his eyes opened, but more often than not they weren't the eyes of the grandfather I'd grown up with. Vacant, vague, not quite seeing, not quite hearing. Lost in a fog of age and fatigue.

Did he want to open a few gifts? After all, it was Christmas.

No, he'd rather sleep.

Presents were exchanged, conversations waxed and waned. My uncle finally enticed him to open a couple presents. He hardly seemed to know what to do with them. Long moments of looking, of concentrating, of visible effort to wade through the fog before he would slowly work open the wrapping paper. An ornament with his name on it momentarily confused him. The effort sent him to drowsing again, a restless doze.

Some time ago, we got him a game system, in the hopes that the simple controls might get him moving again, get his mind moving, the once-sharp mind of an inventor, an engineer, a builder and solver and doer. Exercise helps, sometimes; moving, walking, can sometimes shake off the dozing fog, the vacant confusion of the years. Tonight, it only drew an occasional glance, a brief moment of open eyes that was not so much waking as a lesser form of sleeping.

Once in a while, he'd notice again. A new camera. A slice of pie for dessert. But the fog would pull him back, and he'd drift away again, never quite waking, never truly resting.

When we left that night, Christmas lights still glowed in the yard, in the windows of neighbors. Garland still hung from Grandpa's ceiling fan. And the immortal blinking lights on the little plastic Christmas tree still blinked, seemingly immune to the passage of time... unlike the old man sleeping in the chair beside it, under a new blanket he hardly seemed to notice, a pile of unopened gifts carefully moved out of his way, remnants of a Christmas he scarcely woke long enough to enjoy.

I wonder if I'll see that little tree again next year.


Sorry... bit of a depressing Xmas, in some respects, so I thought I'd get it off my chest.

In an attempt to end things on a somewhat less downer note, I can say that I had an otherwise decent holiday. People seemed to like what I got them. I liked what I got. (The above photo was shot with one of them - a compact camera I can carry around for on-the-go photographic emergencies.)

Oh, I also have photos of this year's ornament blitz results. The theme this year: glitter. Lots of glitter. And plastic ornaments, some fabric paint and glitter glue, and a few rhinestones for good measure... but mostly glitter. Because one can never have too much glitter in one's life.

Family Ornaments - Back and Front
The center shapes were larger plastic rhinestones. I'd intended them to shine unadorned, but the silvering on the back was so cheap that the glue showed right through. So I just coated them more glue and covered them with glitter, then tried to hide the evidence with decorations and embellishments.

Shipped Ornaments - Front and Back
These are the ones I know reached their destination on time. The others might have been lost in the mail. Or the recipients are just too busy to say if they got them... Another case of Salvage Mode Creation - the decorations on the back were not my original intention, but what happened after the original intentions failed miserably with a shipping deadline breathing down my neck. (Actually, they're more 95% complete, here - I had to add hangers and drumsticks, still. But it was pretty much my only chance to stop and shoot a picture, so I took it.)

And off I go...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

X minus 7 days... well, 6 and 1 hour... and counting

Well, calendars don't lie, and my calendar says that next Saturday is Xmas.  My calendar also says that Tuesday is Winter Solstice. (And Monday is supposed to be a full lunar eclipse, which - clouds pending - we might even be able to see.) All signs are pointing to 2010 being down to the final dregs.

Things I have done:
  • Finished holiday shopping.
  • Wrapped everything.
  • Mailed cards.
  • Avoided sitting through the insipid "Christmas In The Northwest" and the annoyingly pointless and circular "Charlie Brown Christmas" songs once thus far this holiday season. (I did have to sit through "Christmas Shoes" once to do it, though...)
  • Needlessly neglected cats to type up blog posts.

Orion!  Get off the keyboard, dang it!

Sorry about that... where was I?  Oh, yes...

Things I have not done:
  • Finish family ornaments.
  • Publish the December (or November) updates for Brightdreamer Books.
  • Read much of anything to justify an update at Brightdreamer Books.
  • Check off a good chunk of my 2010 Resolution list.
  • Decorate my workbench.
  • Listen to my Trans-Siberian Orchestra holiday CD clear through.
  • Rub enough kitty bellies.

Okay, okay, hint taken...

And people wonder why I never get anything done...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wet and Drying

Winters in the Pacific Northwest tend to be gray and damp... some winters more than others. Usually, though, we don't see actual flooding in December. But this is evidently an unusual year. This weekend, the Pacific Ocean sent its regards via the Pineapple Express. For those outside the region, this is a weather system bringing warmer temperatures and rain up from Hawaii to our doorsteps. The weather people blame various causes, mostly La Nina, for this particular storm. But whatever the cause, the end result is the same: too much water on too much pavement with too few natural wetlands left to cope. (One might think that there was a reason that broad, low river valleys were traditionally farmland rather than houses piled on top of each other... filled with people who seem just as surprised to find a river in their basement as they were last spring... but I digress.)

Anyway, with over six inches of rain in 24 hours, the little seasonal stream in our backyard decided to make a break for the lawn. In the hopes of preventing a catastrophic fence collapse (and a potential for basement flooding), I spent a fair portion of today wading out to poke holes in piled-up debris, trying to relieve the pressure and encourage the stream back into its usual banks. I couldn't actually reach the logjams behind the fence that were the cause of the whole problem, so every few hours I'd have to head back out and poke fresh holes in the accumulating debris. As one might imagine, it was rather a zero-sum effort in my part, but it seemed to help a bit... if temporarily.

Since all this water came from Hawaii, I suppose this counts as that tropical vacation I've always wanted...

Between bouts of battling the runaway stream, I've been hard at work in my new workshop* shed trying to finish the first round of holiday ornaments. Ideally, I should've shipped them last week - with any luck, I'll hit Friday, though the things have decided to fight me after several days of relatively smooth progress.

I'd be making more progress if paint didn't take so long to dry. I'd be even further along if it weren't so danged slippery outside that I can't risk trekking to my workshop after dark; flashlights don't make mud any less slippery...

Fortunately, the rain is supposed to be backing off to mere sprinkles for the week, giving us a chance to dry out. Hopefully, this means I can stop worrying about the stream attacking the fence and spend more time trying to salvage ornaments that seem dead-set on self-destruction.

* - Mom retrofitted one of her old storage sheds into a workspace for me, as a birthday/Xmas gift. I just got moved in about a week ago. Now I can work in my own space without having anyone peering over my shoulder... and without ambient dog hair to settle into drying paint.