A Note From Me to The Guardian Readers

Praise Be! The road is drivable.

Um. Pardon me. For reasons I don’t really understand, I read The Guardian especially when y’all are having freakish weather. This is strange because I live across the pond in West Virginia. I’ve only been to the U.K. once and while I fell wildly in love with London, I don’t have any ties to your fair isles.

However, to-wit, and tut tut, I’m fascinated watching y’all carrying on in and carrying on about the snow. This episode has been extra fun because we too are having an early taste of winter. I’m sitting here gazing out the door looking at our first “significant” snow fall of the season – about 3″ maybe 4″ of the fluffy stuff (8-10 cm). It’s about 22 F (-5 or so C) which is cold, but not freakish.

I haven't even gotten fall's leaves raked yet.

Around here, that’s enough snow to have the school kids hoping school will be cancelled for tomorrow. Actually an inch is enough to have them hoping.

In these parts, we do what I call the “Appalachian Snow Panic” – dubbed such because “here” is located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s an odd little tradition, but at the forecast of anything more than a dusting, folks gather up the kids, grampa and Great Aunt Gertrude to go to the grocery store. It’s kind of required. They usually wait until the snow is actually falling to do the mad scramble for provisions. This adds not only drama, but the likelihood that snow crazed folks will play bumper cars on the roads.

Anyway. By 6:00 last night there wasn’t a gallon of milk or loaf of bread to be found. Even people with glutin and lactose intolerances join in the snow frenzy of procuring bread and milk. It’s evidently a beloved tradition that we will engage in time and time again between now and March.

Cold and sunny. Snow squalls expected later.

My question, yes I do have one, is, ahem, exactly how much snow did London get? I really can’t make heads or tails of it.

And, for the record, tell those folks whining about how Switzerland and other Nordic climes fare so much better to quiet down and take their hypocritical selves out to a pub or something. Snow removal, melting salt, and “grit” cost a heap of money. Y’all just need to munch on some toast, turn the milk into brandy-laced hot chocolate and cruise online newspapers in some other country. It’s a big bunch of fun.

Toodles, Connie

P.S.  Can anyone explain to my Inner Anglophile how it is that I’ve believed, until last year’s Trafalgar Square snowball fight, that London routinely got buried in snow?

My hair’s on fire.

I'm rootin' tootin' mad.
I’m rootin’ tootin’ mad.

OK, mouseketeers, I’m cranky and trying to shake it off.

I am all for eccentricity, personal quirks, individual phobias and neuroses. I’m accommodating of these things in both myself and people I interact with up to the point where such are not good for me.

When they’re my own, I work to change myself – sometimes unsuccessfully. But I try. And I don’t expect others to put up with my nonsense.

When it’s other people, I develop power and control issues which surprise me.

It’s all the rage in business seminars to adminster mini Meyer Briggs personality tests. I don’t believe I’ve ever taken the full Meyer Briggs, but I’ve taken multiple short form tests.

A combination that doesn't exist in nature.

That would be me - a combination that doesn't exist in nature.

I’m a combination that doesn’t exist in nature. Test administrators always try to tell me that I’ve done something wrong – fudged my answers. In one test, where personalities are color coded, I’m equally green and blue – which translates as analytical/emotional. In another test where participants are labeled as creatures, I’m a chameleon meaning I’m still analytical/emotional, but I possess the tendency to always see both sides of a situation. (Those who know me well will tell you this is my greatest strength and my greatest weakness – it explains my inability to make a decision. It also explains why some of my co-workers thing I’m two-faced.)

In tests designed to reveal which side of your brain is dominant, I always come out as using both sides equally. I’m told, yada yada, that only 10% of the population thinks like this.

All of this conspires to make me a nontraditional worker. Things that motivate most folks, don’t work for me at all. Things that irritate most folks don’t bother me. The flip side is that I get my panties knotted and shredded over stuff that most folks regard as downright ridiculous.

There’s nothing worse than getting all enraged knowing that 90% of the world cannot even begin to understand why. And so, I suppress the anger as much as possible and just try to get on with things.

Michael L. Smith's incomparable Mad Bluebird Photo

Michael L. Smith's fabulous and incomparable Mad Bluebird photo

At this moment, I’d like to go all Dexter.

I’m trying to shake it off.

Years ago, my father told me that his overriding management technique was to treat people as if they were going to do the best job possible with the best possible outcome. I suppose this is the management version of The Secret. He went on to say that if you treat people like they’re incompetent, they will be. If you treat them as if they’re dishonest, they will be. If you treat them as if they don’t have a strong work ethic, they won’t. If you deny them the right to self-direction, they’ll foment rebellion.

I adopted Daddy’s modus operandi years ago. It has served me well

I’ve found these things to be true. I believe that most people want to do a good job. I believe that most people want to love their work. I believe that most people want to behave ethically and with good principles. I believe that most people know how to best complete a task based on their own personality type. – the corollary to that is that I believe that the people who actually do the task know best how to do it. And if they don’t, it’s a result of bad management in the past.

But by the elastic in Great Aunt Gertrude’s girdle, I get wound up, infuriated, and my hair bursts into flame when I’m treated as if I don’t know what I’m doing when nothing in my work history supports such a conclusion. This becomes apocalyptical if the treatment is such that it is witnessed by co-workers or consumers. Apparently, one of my peccadilloes is the right to be right. (I’m working on it. Really, I have no idea why it bugs me so much to be “corrected” when it’s my opinion that nothing is in need of correction. I’m quick to admit when I don’t know. And I’m quick to ask for help when I don’t know. I was always that kid in class that asked questions. I don’t have that “fear of looking stupid” gene. And in terms of customer service, I practically coined the “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” response.)

Maybe some chammomile tea will return me to my reasonably cheerful eccentric self.

Maybe some chammomile tea will help return me to my cheerful eccentric self.

The only other thing that rips off my safety-sealed-for-your-protection lid is being treated as if I’m dishonest.

We all have power and control issues, but in keeping with my unusual brain, mine are eccentric. If I’ve been given authority for something, I don’t like having my decisions questioned with a view to changing them. As such, I have an on/off switch. Rather than protest my innocence, explain my rationale, or ask why I’m being interrogated when there is no problem, I’m apt to wash my hands of the whole mess. You don’t like what I did or how I’m going about it? Fine. Do it yourself.

This is not an adult response. I’ve been working on it for years. I’ve got to figure out an appropriately assertive, but nonthreatening way to get across the idea that just because I’m not doing something the way you would do it doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong.

So? What makes you go all purple prose postal?

The Art of Doing Nothing

Nope.  Not gonna do it.

Nope. Not gonna do it.

Just as our bodies need downtime in the form of sleep, our bodies need downtime during our waking hours.

I’ve had a drought of downtime both asleep and awake.

Today, when the alarm went off, I silenced it, rolled over and went back to sleep. I clocked something like 10 hours. It wasn’t enough to eradicate my sleep deficit, but it was enough to provoke a feeling of well-being.

Yesterday, I did just enough housecleaning that I didn’t curl into fetal position when I went downstairs this morning. [It’s still a mystery to me how the house can become a Super Fund site when I’m never here.]

I plopped my ass on the sofa. After a few minutes, I arranged myself in a supine position. A few minutes later, I pulled the blanket over me. The dogs and I reacquainted ourselves there on the sofa.

I announced, firmly, “I have things to do.”

I got up, poured another cup of coffee, and stared out the window at the kitchen garden – looking at the mess I never had time to get to.

I forced myself to take clothes out the dryer, put the clothes in the washer into the dryer, and put the last load of laundry into the washer.  Drudgery, pure drudgery.  The inner adult had wrestled the inner child into submission, but neither were happy.

I poured another cup of coffee and stared out the window some more.

I announced, firmly, “I have got to motivate.”

Deciding that perhaps some sunlight on my pineal gland would help, I toddled out to the garden and plopped my ass in a lawn chair. From that seated position, I willed the calla lilies to bloom. I noticed that the morning glory had wrapped itself around the gate making ingress and egress impossible.

I contemplated getting up and whipping the morning glory into submission.

Stating clearly and audibly, I said, “Fuck It.”

Without getting too technical, the FuckIts are that state wherein no matter how hard your inner grownup spanks the inner child, nothing on the to-do list is going to get done without a change of strategy.


Facing this knowledge, the person with the FuckIts will develop a great sense of peace and sometimes giddiness. I am not going to do a damn thing and you can’t make me. It’s not rebellion, obstinacy, defeat or disobedience.

It’s very nice. It’s a lot like when you have a killer headache and you notice, suddenly and with pleasure, it’s gone.  The to-do list evaporates.

In my Geek Girl persona, I equate it with rebooting the computer. When you’re holding too many tasks in memory, sometimes you just have to reboot. (You Mac people can just shut up now.)

I trundled back into the house and heated up leftover tuna casserole. I settled in with a book – a bite of casserole, turn the page. Bite, turn.

Self permission to do nothing is energizing.

mmmmmm book and a nap

mmmmmm book and a nap

I’ve wandered about the house with the book. With no hurry, no agenda, no sense of looming responsibilities fixin’ to fall on my head and destroy me, I’ve managed to do even more cleaning between chapters. Paid some bills. Found and removed the source of the gnat problem in the kitchen. Readied my clothes for the following week. Put the jewelry back into some order. Cleaned off the desk.

I’ve actually done more than was on the to-do list to begin with.

People who are into meditation talk about this phenomena all the time. Quieting the chatter of your mind, either through counting breaths, repeating a mantra, or giving yourself permission to do nothing allows you to accomplish so much more. The essence is simply doing, or not doing, without thought of the past or the future. Without haste.

I had a fledgling meditation/yoga practice going that I abandoned when the to-do list got daunting. Big mistake. I haven’t been on the exercise bike (white noise and muscle toning all at the same time) in weeks. Another big mistake. I haven’t been reading well-crafted novels or listening to the music that makes my heart soar.

No wonder I’m a cranky bitch.

Doing nothing is both a luxury and a necessity.

I’m going back to my book now. I’m kinda thinking that napping in the guest bed in the afternoon sunlight after reading some of the book would be nice. If I do that, I’ll probably put clean sheets on the bed and vacuum – after watching the dust dance in the air for awhile.

Brain Wave Theory of Machines


The Brain Wave Theory of Machines is really very simple. If the user of a machine is experiencing frustration and/or active stress, any machine in contact with that person will malfunction. It is simple neurophysics – the brain runs on electricity as do most machines. When brain synapses fire signals of frustration and haste, a machine in use will mirror the former and oppose the latter.

The formula looks something like this:

Y=(A/D)(SC) 2


For the mathematically impaired:

You Banging Head Against Wall and Threatening to Move to a Mexican Beach is equal to Abject Dismay Provoked By To-Do List divided by Impending Deadline which is then multiplied by the squared sum of Hours of Sleep Deficit added to the Critical Nature of Task (expressed to two decimal points).


In real life, this is represented by yours truly needing to mail 640 fundraising letters which are already 3 days behind schedule. The printer, usually a sweetheart, is jamming on every envelope and, like a good overachiever, refusing access to the paper tray.

It’s a simple task. I should be able to feed envelopes in the printer, take them out of the hopper, stuff them with the already printed letter, and toodle on down the road to the post office after which I could cross off the most pressing thing on my task list.

During my sojourn in academia, I never quite believed the students when they arrived with increasingly bizarre stories about computers and printers the night before a paper was due or new cars that wouldn’t start the morning of a final exam.  Their obvious sincerity gave me pause, but still. . .the stories were just too over-the-top.

Then one day as I was fighting with the copy machine moments before a midterm, it all clicked and the Brain Wave Theory of Machines was postulated.

Normally, the best way to handle one of these events is to close the door on the machine and go to lunch for 4 hours, returning whistling and cheerful with a sense of having all the time in the world. This strategy will spread the cheer to the machine, but in the inverse relationship, alluded to but not expressed in correct scientific notation, encourage the machine to complete all tasks in record time.

Instead, I spent 4 hours printing 11 envelopes including time spent dismantling and reassembling the machine, two hours in tech support chat, 1 hour cursing, 20 minutes kicking the machine, and 19 minutes eating chocolate. As the day wound to a close, it found me explaining to a live-action-in-my-office-service-tech the nature of the problem.

Contrary to a typical Brain Wave Machine Event, the service tech immediately identified the problem, but, in more typical fashion, is bumfuzzled as to how to fix it.

It was my mistake. I was so stressed, I failed to apply the correct strategy to resolve and reverse the brain waves. My bad (<– an expression I despise).

Tomorrow, I will try again. [Cue Tomorrow from Annie here.]

4 a.m.

My former refuge.

My former refuge.

Menopause is a bitch.

It’s 4 a.m. I woke up because I was thirsty and now I can’t get back to sleep.

I have always been a champion sleeper.

Not these days.


Before it all began.

Menopause is puberty in reverse and upside down. I’m moody. I break-out. I’m hot. I’m cold. I don’t sleep well. My body is changing. I’m neurotic. (OK, I’ve mostly always been neurotic.)

Remember when you were a teenager and stayed up ‘til all hours of the night and slept all day? That wasn’t because you were special, it was a brain thing. The emerging research is all over teenagers and sleep patterns. I figure in a few years they’ll get around to menopausal women – women are always last.

I bitched and carried on for months about what I thought was the fact that no one told me about the sleep thing. Hot flashes, sure. Night sweats, yup. Mood swings, check. Irregular periods, got it. Can’t sleep?

Not a word.

Or so I thought. A friend told me that she had indeed told me, but folks don’t seem to pick up on the sleep disorder part. It could be that we’re too horrified by the hot flash thing.

Note the sullen look.  Puberty is also a bitch.

Note the sullen look. Puberty is also a bitch.

I haven’t really had a hot flash yet. The night sweats just started so, more ’n’ likely, they’re on the horizon, but I can’t imagine that anything is worse than this sleep thing. Or the morning sickness part.

Oh yeah, I’m one of the small percentage of women who are “morning sick” during menopause. I retch and gag, almost as if on cue, every morning that I manage to sleep until a decent hour.

Apparently, my body will inflict suffering one way or the other.

Sleep was my first form of refuge.

Naps. I love naps.

Long, lazy, drool on the pillow naps in afternoon light.

I love crawling into bed with a good book early in the evening and reading myself to sleep. Only now, some times, I’ll finish half the novel before sleep takes me. It didn’t used to be this way.

In one of Stephen King’s novels, I think, there is a line something like “I have become an old woman who doesn’t sleep in the night.”

I have become an old woman. . . 

Who doesn’t sleep in the night.

Menopause is a bitch.

The Well-Appointed Vanity (or Necessities for Feisty Girly Girls) has always

Possibly my favorite piece of furniture.

Possibly my favorite piece of furniture.

I believe it’s a basic truth that everyone over the age of 12 needs their own desk. I also believe it’s a basic truth that every woman over the age of 12 needs a well-appointed dressing table.

I’m a girly girl. Get over it. (I’m also reasonably smart and getting really good at basic home repair.)

One of my early memories is that of my father building me a dressing table/desk. I don’t think it had anything to do with his recognition of these basic truths. I’m pretty sure he was having an attack of need-to-play-with-tools-and-wood manly-man-itis. I was about 6 or 7. In terms of aesthetics, the dressing table/desk left a lot to be desired. In short, it was a piece of plywood on pre-fabricated legs painted white with a border of gold paint along the top edges of the table. I can remember us discussing the “fancy” line of the gold. I loved it, though I don’t remember what happened to the table. More than likely it was discarded during one of our moves.

At the age of 11 or so, my mother went on a tear and “did” my bedroom in Sears French Provincial with hot pink, glue-down carpet squares, jungle green walls and a lime green canopy. It was my first coordinated furniture and, um, stunning. Mom is colorful.

A couple of years later, when I began wearing makeup, I turned the night stand into a dressing table with the help of a bean bag chair. From the beginning, I’ve had issues with standing in a bathroom trying to apply eye-shadow. It’s not comfortable, the lighting is usually horrible, and, well, it’s just wrong. I suppose there is something very amusing about a young, wannabe hippy sitting amidst faux French Provincial furniture on a faux fur beanbag chair in front of daisy-shaped, lighted makeup mirror and experimenting with tres chic lip gloss as well as green mascara. And reeking of Wind Song. With a well-thumbed copy of Siddhartha on the night stand.

After the death of the French provincial, in the midst of the Disco Era, I resorted to sitting on the bed with a basket and a mirror. The room was decorated in Early Attic with touches of brass and a fair amount of wicker. The makeup had expanded to include glitter eyeliner, concealer, and vivid lipstick.

In the late 80s, my antique phase, I acquired a late 40’s table. It was designed to be covered completely in lots of gaudy fabric with a 3-panel mirror, but mine had no fabric or mirror. I stripped it, stained it, hung a mirror on the wall and added an ice-cream chair. It was quirky. It was functional. It was cheap. It was a lot of flippin’ work.

Sitting at the table, my thoughts on the necessity of a dressing table began to coalesce. It was nice having a place dedicated to the morning ritual of coffee, makeup, and staring out the window. It had a drawer, far-too-small, into which went the understated and ridiculously expensive makeup of a young woman on the move. The top of it, far too small, was littered with baskets to hold the stuff that wouldn’t fit in the drawer.

In what was probably Not A Good Idea Financially, but never regretted, I cashed out a little more of the house equity to decorate the master bedroom when buying out the ex . In all our years of barn remodeling drama, the master bedroom kept getting pushed to the end of the list (and it was a very long list). It was a horror story (the décor, that is). Delighted to be sleeping alone, I wanted the room to be comfortable and decadent. I started looking at bedroom furniture.

Inexplicably, I did not want antiques or quirky. While I love those things, as my home will attest, I wanted something different for the master bedroom. I kept returning to what the designers refer to as traditional. And I wanted it all to match. And I wanted a dressing table.

The dressing table proved to be a problem. In the past couple of years, dressing tables have begun making a come-back and more and more manufacturers are including them with bedroom suites, but at the time I was on the forefront of an emerging trend. The only ones I could find, precious few, were in high-end lines of furniture. I may be a hedonist and financially imprudent, but I am not stupid. Twenty-five thousand dollars for bedroom furniture is not just stupid, but possibly criminal. However, I had found exactly what I wanted and the dressing table was breath-taking.

I knew the markup on furniture was insane and after months of searching, online and off, I found a discount distributer who could get it to me for less than 25% of retail. Woo Hoo! It was all perfectly legal and proof that the markup on furniture borders on criminal.

The delivery of the furniture was high drama due only in part to having to hoist it up to the second floor and angle it through the silly French doors that lead to nowhere. A good deal of the drama was centered on the fact that I had never seen the furniture up close and personal. I found it online and, after much dithering and hand-wringing, special ordered it. No refund, no return.

It was (is) magnificent and perfect. The dressing table is beyond wonderful. Even after a few years, I marvel at it. It is freakin’ awesome.

Lacquer Box (Memento).

Lacquer Box (Memento).

Being in possession of the best dressing table on the planet, I feel qualified to list the absolute necessities of the proper dressing table.

It must have drawers.

It must have surface space.

It must have comfortable seating.

It must be well-appointed.

The well-appointed thing probably varies, but I think there are basics.

Mirror – one large and one smaller magnified one. The large one is required so you can double check that no one is sneaking up on you when you’re pretending to be a chanteuse of remarkable talent and singing into your deodorant/microphone. It’s best if it’s mounted on the wall. A magnifying mirror helps keep eyeliner on the eyes and lipstick on the mouth and is really helpful in eradicating unibrows and menopausal mustaches.

Hairbrush – a good hairbrush is critical. You can’t sit at a dressing table and not brush your hair. It would be bad form and get you thrown out of the Diva Hall of Fame. If you insist on keeping the deodorant in the bathroom, the hairbrush can serve as microphone.

Clock – ornamental and battery-powered. If you’re like me, you may lose time sitting at the dressing table first thing in the morning. It’s good to have a reality check that isn’t too disconcerting. Digital is out. So are cords.

Lighting – flattering, but realistic. This is the trickiest one, but crucial. While you don’t need reality (especially first thing in the morning), you do need enough representativeness that you don’t end up looking like Heath Ledger’s Joker portrayal. You also need morning light – it’s cheerful, refreshing, and inspiring.

Geegaws – not too many. I am on a de-cluttering, anti-junk binge, but that doesn’t mean that ornamental mementos and somewhat useless crap are completely verboten. A dressing table practically begs for it. The rule is that you must absolutely love it and that it be tied to some memory that makes you smile.

Perfume – in a pleasing bottle.. I rarely wear perfume as I work with many folks with allergies and/or asthma. However, I do have a signature perfume that I’ve been wearing exclusively since the Wind Song ran out. (Lord! How I hate that term signature fill-in-the-blank.) Nonetheless, perfume that’s been chosen for its personal appeal and not because it’s been heavily marketed or has a nice bottle is required. I wear perfume for special occasions, so just simply smelling it brings back good times. I don’t particularly like the bottle that my perfume comes in, so I’m on the lookout for an antique or reproduction spray bottle – you know, the kind with the little rubber squishy sprayer thingie.

Makeup – using the term loosely. I don’t always wear makeup. But I do always sit at the dressing table. Whether it’s just moisturizer or body lotion, applying something is a good way to re-link the inner and the outer after a night where body and mind go their separate ways.

Tranquility – No bills. No junk. No clutter. Don’t use the dressing table as a desk except, possibly, journaling.

Black Silk Pajamas – While not absolutely necessary for the dressing table, every woman should own a pair. Just because. (A Beloved Robe goes without saying.)

And there you have it – the well-appointed dressing table.