Monday, January 24, 2011

Male Cats Pee in Ovens

For the longest time I never even considered the idea of getting a male cat because male cats pee in ovens.
Wait, what?
I was in my early 20's before I fully considered the implications of this and thought, “Wait a minute, where the f*ck did that come from?”
I asked my parents, and they had no idea where I had gotten this idea. What male cat peed in whose oven, I will probably never know. What I do know, however, is that I am 90% sure that when I get a cat it will be a female. I would like to deny it, but I am sure that a large part of my preference for female cats has to do with some unconscious reasoning regarding the nuisance of having to clean male cat pee out of your oven.
This isn’t the only such ridiculous discovery of my own unconscious logic that I have made. I was in my early 20’s (quite the time for self-discovery, apparently) before I discovered that the spines – well, hairs, really – between the artichoke heart and the leaves are not actually fatal to children, contrary to what my parents led my brother and I to believe. We would watch them anxiously as they selflessly doused our artichoke hearts in butter and chewed them with their eyes rolled into the backs of their heads. We were too young to recognize the ecstasy brought about by artichoke heart consumption and instead thought we were witnessing a battle between artichoke heart spines and adult survival techniques.
Oh, and by the way, your eyes cannot actually get stuck in the cross-eyed position, unlike what my mother told me because she hated it when I tried to make my eyes go cross-eyed.
I was talking to a friend of mine and it occurred to me that he had probably never heard these types of things. If he had, he certainly hadn’t taken them to heart the way I did. He told me that a couple winters ago, he tried to make sure he was up snowboarding in the backcountry on the nights when the moon was full – alone. A million ideas shot through my head when he told me this: did anyone know where he was? What if there was an avalanche, a tree that fell in the woods that crushed him (would it make a sound if he was too unconscious or dead to hear it?), what if his cat peed in his oven while he was gone?
Yes, invisible audience, this is what we call paranoia. And yes, you’re right: there are many things that I do that probably trigger an equally paranoid or justified list of questions in YOUR mind.
But if there are many things I have no fear of, there are infinitely more cat pee/oven paranoia stories in my head that stop me without me even realizing it. Not all of them are traceable to a concrete legitimate reason, although some of them are. Regardless of where the root of the fear lies, it doesn’t mean I should be using it to make decisions.
So I guess it’s time to stop rationalizing away my fears and just face them. I started thinking about other things that I’m afraid of or ideas that I have that I’ve never challenged, and came up with quite a list:

• My fear of motorbiking that comes from the one time I rode a bike through our orchard in high school and it fell over on my ankle when I went around a corner because I was going TOO SLOW.
• My unwillingness to get tighter ski boots because I was convinced that all ski boots are painful if buckled correctly. (NOTE: this idea actually caused me to pull a tendon in my ankle the last time I was skiing because my boots weren’t tight enough).
• My unwillingness to hike/bike/run/exercise with other people because I will slow them down. I will slow them down, but maybe I should believe that they’re telling me the truth when they say it’s okay if we go slow.
• Buying anything but medicated chap stick will cause my lips to turn to prunes.
• Generally deciding not to do something because of the slightest chance that something will go wrong, i.e. not running at night in a full moon because you’re afraid a cougar might attack you.
• Not getting a male cat because it will pee in your oven.

So maybe it’s time for me to start confronting the root of my fears instead of living by them. Maybe it’s time I took a couple scary leaps just to see where I’ll land. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to give the male cat another chance.

Love and pee-free oven kisses

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top 10 Winter Driving Tips Ala Morgana

It occurred to me as I was driving over Snoqualmie Pass with a white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel that I was probably surrounded by a lot of people a lot more terrified than I was. The thought terrified me even more, because there is nothing scarier than being unable to trust the people driving around you. Since the normally one-hour trek took me almost three hours, I had more than enough examples and experiences to help prove my point. I decided that I could perhaps help the average driver with their trek in an oversized metal cage drifting sideways on rubber over compact frozen water. I’ve been driving through snowy passes for a long time, and I still learned some things this trip. If I help one person avoid a winter driving tragedy like wetting their pants while driving this year, I will have succeeded.

So, my completely unofficial top 10 winter driving tips:

10) Stay home. No, really. I don’t care if you promised your Aunt Edna a visit. If the pass report tells you that chains are required and you only have a vague idea of what chains are and how they work, that means that you should call Aunt Edna and tell her there was a huge avalanche and the pass has been buried until spring. Promise you’ll send her a care package via airmail.

09) Don’t listen to the TV reporters. Even if they’re getting the same information you are off the Department of Transportation website, they’re going to make it sound like the biggest blizzard ON RECORD has swept in and carried away cars whole like some sort of hungry abominable snowman. If you tend to believe TV reporters, see #10 and stay home.

08) Don’t skimp and get the cheap windshield wipers. Buy winter wipers at the beginning of winter, and windshield wiper fluid good to below zero, even if you live somewhere like Seattle where their entire winter plowing budget was eaten up by an afternoon snowstorm. I have learned through personal experience that you can drive approximately 15 miles per hour faster if you can see through your windshield, and that means less people like me honking from behind you. (Unless I’m in front of you cursing my windshield wipers…sorry.)

07) Just because you have an SUV or all-wheel drive does NOT mean you get to weave in and out of traffic like there isn’t an ice-skating rink below your tires. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but most of the vehicles on passes in the middle of a blizzard are truck-drivers, and they can’t stop as fast as you can anyway, so what makes you think cutting them off is going to make you friends, or any less likely to end up a squished metal pancake?

06) Stop and pee often. While you’re there, get gas and extra windshield wiper fluid. There is nothing worse than white-knuckle driving over a snowy pass surrounded by semis being unable to completely concentrate because you think you might wet your pants.

05) There are more ways to slow down than stomping on your brakes, like 1) lightly tapping your brakes repeatedly (NOTE: most useful when you can at least somewhat see the road under the snow, when there are not a bunch of people behind you, and when you’re not going over 30 miles an hour) 2) DOWNSHIFT. But Morgan, you say, I have an automatic. You can still switch out of drive into third, second or first gear (NOTE: not recommended for high speeds, but VERY useful when wanting to move slowly down a hill, or to slow down without stomping on the brakes. 3) Take your foot off the gas (Most useful for going uphill).

04) If you do start to slide, turn into the slide, but don’t jerk into the slide. Screaming does not actually get your tires back where you want them. Be ok with your tires not always being exactly where you want them. If you’re not okay with that, see # 10.

03) I know you want to, but it’s really not a good idea to reach out your window and grab your windshield wiper off the windshield and slam it back down while you’re driving through a sea of freezing rain in a tunnel of semi-trucks in 50-mile-an-hour blowing snow. Yes, I realize that it helps get the ice chunks off, but trust me when I tell you from personal experience that it could strip the threads on the windshield wiper so it consequently flops around like a broken bird wing on your windshield instead of actually working. This particularly sucks when you’re in the afore-mentioned sea of chaos and can no longer see through the window to get off the road, and what are you going to do when you get there anyway? See # 8 for prevention tips.

02) You should be more comfortable going faster uphill than you are going downhill, simply because it’s easier to slow down going uphill if you start to slip. This means that you should have a handle on downhill driving in a lower gear – see # 5. If you’re unable to keep your speed in check going downhill (and especially if you have problems with this going uphill), see #10.

01) Even if you’ve never driven on the road before, it should be a clue to you if there are two cars side by side right behind you that YOU’RE TAKING UP TWO F*CKNG LANES, JACKASS. I know it’s really scary to be close to the side of the road, but for the love of all that’s frozen, MOVE OVER.

Love and snowy pass kisses


Friday, January 7, 2011

My word of the year: FORGIVE

I subscribe to a blog by Christine Kane, and all her posts recently have been by women who, instead of creating a list of resolutions for the year, came up with one word that they would use to steer their intentions: one word that helped them achieve what they wanted to and become more aware of what was leading them to make the decisions that got in the way of achieving their goals and finding happiness, whatever that meant to them.
As I read through her blog post on the subject, I found myself becoming inspired – that was it! Instead of making a list of resolutions, I would choose one word that would help me. In fact, I had already thought of that word – er, actually a phrase – SLOW DOWN. Kane had made a list of potential words to use, however, and I scanned it, looking for a succinct and single term to describe what I was looking for. It immediately jumped out of the screen and whacked me across the face: FORGIVE.

No, I am not mad at you. Really. I’m not mad at anyone anymore but myself. But believe me, the anger I feel is all-consuming, and every day it starts burning away at me and it takes everything I have to try to put it out.

But I think I’ve been going about it the wrong way. Trying to bury the anger that I feel toward myself or just let it go (great advice that means jack sh#@ when you’re trying to calm down) does nothing for me. What does mean something to me, however, is acknowledging the anger, sitting with it, perhaps stoking the fire a bit, then forgiving myself for feeling that way.

My problem is that I expect a lot from myself. My problem is that I try to accomplish much more than is necessary. My problem is that I think other people care more how much I get done than they actually do. My problem is that I get so caught up in all the things that I think I can do that I completely ignore the truth. When I work too hard for too long, my body starts to give out, and my optimism wanes with my energy level. All of a sudden I am dragging myself through the days instead of enjoying them; I’m pushing myself not because I want to, but because I think I have to, and I have only myself to blame for it.

I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone, and I told her that my very least favorite social interaction is a first date. I can travel the world alone, speak in front of thousands of people, teach children to ski, and sell a cookbook idea to people who have no idea whether I will follow through with it. I can do all that, but my stomach turns to knots and I chatter away uncontrollably on a first date because I feel so uncomfortable.
“Wow,” my friend said, “You actually are human.”

Of course I’m human, I thought. I am more than human. I make mistakes, fall down, get back up, fall down, lie listlessly in the fetal position, and whine for someone to pick me up and carry me. I fear I will never accomplish anything, fear I am wasting my life, fear that I will always be a wayward wanderer and someday wake up to regret the choices I have made. I am incredibly human, I thought to myself incredulously, but only in my head.

I am too caught up in portraying my own perfection. Please don’t misunderstand me: I do not think I’m perfect, but for years I have tried to give an impression that I have all my shit together. For years I have forsaken friendships, relationships or jobs if they meant that people would see a less-than-perfect side of me. I have hidden my pain and sorrow, my sensitivity and my real feelings in favor of showing a brave face to the world when I didn’t feel so brave. I have pushed myself because I thought I had to, but ultimately I was the only one who expected these things from me; just like I just want my friends to be happy in their own skin, I know the people who really care about me want nothing more than for me to be happy with me.

So I need to forgive myself. I need to admit it when I can’t handle anymore, and instead of pushing through it, take a day off. I need to let go of what others may think of me (if they’re even thinking of me at all) and simply do what makes me happy, not out of defiance, but because I want to. I need to forgive myself the need to get other peoples’ approval, the need to be everything to everyone, and I need to let go of the idea that the world would crumble if I were not shoring it up with my own shoulders. I need to forgive myself for being human, not just to me, but to everyone else; I need to stop trying to prove my super-humanness to others, because any impression people have of me is one that I gave them through my own actions. I need to forgive myself for giving people that opinion, and start showing the true, real, very human, me.

I need to forgive myself for not being able to accomplish it all: writing another cookbook, finishing my novels, making enough money to support myself off my writing, buying property, exercising daily, eating healthy, teaching Spanish classes, marketing my book and my name, keeping my house clean, doing my dishes, putting away my laundry, keeping my car clean, watering my plants, learning Quickbooks, writing poetry, meditating, not being patient enough, regretting past decisions, agonizing over future decisions, and cooking delicious meals every time I try. I need to forgive myself for not being able to write funny blogs anymore, and for never quite managing to post my blogs on a regular basis. I need to let myself feel whatever I’m going to feel without trying to change it, and I need to remember that all these things make me part of the human race and don’t set me apart from it. I need to let go of the idea that people care how much I can accomplish, and if they do care that much, maybe it’s time for me to care less about them.

I need to forgive myself for writing epically long blog posts, and only hope that the people who make it to the end think it was worth it. Even if they don’t, however, I’m going to work on forgiving myself for that, too.

Love and forgiving kisses