Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Projects, Progress, Promise and FOOD

So, I turned in that very stressful project.

I have not a guess as to what grade I'm going to get, only that it'll only be worth half the points, since it was so late. And there's another project coming for me already. Hopefully I'll get this one done in a reasonable amount of time.

I'm not sure if I should register for next quarter. It's $50 this time, and I can't really afford it without dipping into the food budget. I'm also somewhat disillusioned about my current school's support services, so I've looked around the internets a little for self-paced online courses at accredited colleges with decent financial aid and disability support services, but I haven't found anything yet. Yes, the bar is high. Classes fill up fast, though, so I need to decide. Should I stay or should I go?

My physical stamina is growing, and I saw my first evidence of it on Thanksgiving. We traveled back to the city to spend the holiday with my family. After dinner, I rallied a few people into getting out for a walk, and I made it much further, much faster than I would have even a month ago. I still pooped out after about a quarter-mile, but it felt good to be moving that quickly, even if for only a short time. It gives me hope for the future.

Turkey day was pleasant. It was just us and my immediate family, so there were no cologne barricades to dodge or awkward small talk to be made. It was nice and relaxing and very, very filling.

But what, you may ask, does a mostly-vegetarian eat at thanksgiving? Oh, I eat well, my friends! Mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, herbed roasted veggies, citrus sweet potatoes with an amazing oats/sugar/butter crust, cranberry jelly and crescent rolls, and The Hippie Stuffing. My step-dad is the cook in our family, and he makes me a special stuffing every year, sans animals. This year's was brown rice and wheat bread cubes with dried apricots, mushrooms, pine nuts and cranberries. Divine. Being a mostly-veg certainly hasn't cramped my thanksgiving style. However, in case you have concern for the meat-eaters in my family, they just wouldn't shut up about the the turkey (which was grilled on the Weber this year) and the ham (which had a lovely curry to it) and the gravy (with the mesquite flavor from the barbie, it was apparently amazing), so we were all pretty spoiled this thanksgiving.

We got some laundry machines from a guy up the hill. They're... rustic. The dryer dries, but while making terrible noises. And the washer washes, but only if someone resets it every five minutes. And there seems to be a water inflow issue, so I've been filling it manually with a pitcher. But it's better than nothing, which is exactly what we had unless we came up with $30 for the laundromat or I started washing clothes in the tub. I'm not sure which of those is more likely, they're both so outrageously impossible right now.

And speaking of laundry, it felt like a firecracker went off in my lower back yesterday while I was bent over the dryer. Good thing I'm seeing a spine specialist today. That post is coming.

Taking long walks in the forest with my dog is about the greatest thing there is. Finding new trails, taking pictures of moss and branches and relics of the old mill, I still can't believe I live out here.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Failing Myself, and Maybe School

That project is due tonight. And there's no way I'm going to make it.

I emailed my teacher a few days ago, explained my situation and asked for an extension. I understand that she has no obligation to help me out, but when I saw her reply, that she "couldn't have a different set of rules for me and another for the rest of the class", I broke down. And I continue to break down.

I feel like giving up. Just walking away with my quitter's badge and never, ever trying again. Maybe I'm just not cut out for school anymore, not like this. I asked for a week extension, but honestly, I could use a month. My brain doesn't work like it used to. I've made some progress on this project, I've been working my ass off on it, but it's just not good. I can't organize my thoughts, and finding parallels between my work and others' for the required citations is confusing. I've been doing really well with the quizzes and shorter assignments, but this project is just too complicated for my addled brain.

I'd requested a tutor, when I was first registering for classes. My counselor glossed over it, said that we'd see how it went and to just keep her informed as to how I was doing. But when I emailed her over a week ago to tell her that this project was kicking my ass, she suggested I just take it one step at a time. VERY HELPFUL, THANKS.

I feel really defeated right now. If I can't handle school, I don't know what to do to improve my life. I thought I had a better support system here. I thought they would help me if I started to drown.

And then, my teacher ended the extension-rejecting email on this note: "I want to remind you to work ahead on the [other, even huger project we have due at the end of the quarter] which will require more time and effort than [this project that you totally suck at]. In addition you will be unable to get an extension on that."

Fantastic. Panic attacks all around.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eye-Crossing, Irritations, Being Content Anyway

I still haven't really gotten anywhere with my school project. It's due in only a week, so I finally caved and emailed my counselor.

I've been trying, is the thing. For the past few weeks, almost every day I've sat down at the computer to look for resources and I'll make it through maybe one possibility before my eyes start crossing from my total inability to make pdfs migraine friendly (I don't know why, but no matter how I change the color scheme, they still hurt). The academic databases we have to work with are really confusing to me, and I'm having trouble finding resources that are current and relevant. Also, I'm having a lot of trouble organizing my thoughts, I was hoping that I'd find some scholarly resources that would help me define what it is I'm trying to say, but with all the confusion and eye-crossing, I'm not really getting anywhere.

All this struggle is triggering some serious emotions, and I think I'm going through more of that grieving they say we all go through when we get ill because for the past several days, every time I sit down to try and work on this project, I end up crying. I'm frustrated, I'm tired of not making any progress on something I'm working at every day, and I'm scared that I can't handle school, that this is how every class I attempt will go. It wouldn't have been this hard before migraines, of that I'm acutely aware.

I have no idea what my counselor's going to say. I don't know what would help. An extension, a tutor? I just hope she has some amazing words of advice because I really don't want to fail. It was the fear of failure that kept me from school so long, if that fear comes true, I'm not sure how I'd handle it.

But, I'm going to keep trying, because I might just pull it out. And if I do fail, I want to have failed while trying my hardest. There's no shame in that.


Otherwise, things are good! The cabin is still progressing, though I think we need one of those time-lapse cameras to see the changes. There's so much to do, and new things pop up every week. Right now, it's the stovepipe to our wood-burning stove. Yeah, it's pretty cold until that gets fixed.

My head's been pretty steady. I still have symptoms every day, from mild to severe (which has been rare since we moved), which last from seconds to hours, but I'm not totally debilitated every day, which is incredible. I can get so much more done here; take a good walk/hike with the dog, do the dishes, some homework, some cleaning or unpacking, and I'm still standing, ready for what's next. There's much less daytime resting here, and when it does happen, it takes much less time and/or drugs to get me back to moving. Though, every time we go back to the city, it's just like old times. I get about an hour before the constant noises, pollution and glare make me irritable, nauseous, overwhelmed, in pain, and totally useless.

The obvious difference in my health since moving up here has made the transition a lot easier. So what if we see our breath in the kitchen every morning? I can wear gloves in the house. And all the mud? Irritating and everywhere and sometimes scary, but dealable with preparation. This place is small, and the neighbors who've seen the inside are baffled by our willingness to live in such a confined, unfinished space. I smile broadly at that; it'd be nice to have a home that required no painting, no roof climbing, and no brush-clearing, one that came with doors in the doorways and unrusted laundry machines, but I'm so grateful for what I have, being able to leave the house every day and be active is by far worth these inconveniences.


How is it November?? I remember looking forward to Halloween, but I seemed to forget this year that it's the only thing holding back the flood of the holidays and now the waters are rising and I haven't even started making my gifts. I wish I could get an extension on Christmas.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Anxiety Balls

Oh, school. Why do you have to be so amazing and so intimidating at the same time?

So far, it's been so good. I've completed our weekly assignments on time and with good feedback, I've gotten A's and B's on all my quizzes, and I've felt pretty confident about the material and my grasp of it.

But now, there's a bigger assignment. It's worth more points and requires more time and effort, not to mention some creative thinking. And I'm stumped and flailing. The assignment is to create a project that explains an aspect of media. I could make a short video or powerpoint presentation, or write an article and submit it for publication, I could take a survey of people and present some findings... I have no idea what to do. I had to pick a topic by the 31st, so I went with Feminism in Media because it's something I've been fairly obsessed with lately and it's a nice, broad topic, so I'd have plenty of room to find my niche.

But I'm having trouble focusing. I thought about making a video that touches on the stereotypes of women and minorities in the media, but I have no experience with any video editing software of the last 15 years, and am worried about the learning curve. Besides, where do I begin? Television? Movies? Advertising? I've chosen too broad a topic, maybe.

I've been feeling like I'm only keeping up by the skin of my teeth, and have only been doing so well by luck, even though as I write it, I know it's not true. I've made my schoolwork a priority and have pushed through and have worked hard and I can continue to do well if I just keep moving. This insecurity is coming from the larger scope of this new project, plus the research paper that was just introduced yesterday (so I've a whole new ball of anxieties to play with until the final week), and I've recently had a few inconvenient migraine days that left me less than my intellectual best for a week or so.

I'm starting to feel a little pressure.

I wish we hadn't made this major move in my first millisecond back at school. I wish migraines didn't make it so hard to think. I wish I could get a handle on this project. I've got two and a half weeks to pull it out.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fill 'er Up

My life has changed, and it seems to be for the better. As long as we don't get smashed.

We're improving the driveway as we speak. There's a guy in an awesome little tractor-type machine digging and moving and filling and spreading rocks outside my house and I am wearing an earplug for the first time since being up here, but it's fine by me. It's supposed to rain later this week, so it's great timing to get that Dirt Pit (nee Mud Bog) filled in and safe for the inevitable winter sog.

Another tree fell, this one at 3:30 in the morning, but our power lines weren't taken down, thankfully. I'm not a fan of the falling trees. (Good name for a band.) It's been said that we aren't in the direct line of any trees that are in danger of succumbing to gravity, but still. Whenever I express my worry to my ever-patient boyfriend, I inevitably use the word "smashed", as in: "I'm afraid that tree will smash us in our sleep", or "These trees are falling down all around us and we'll all be smashed!!!" It's odd that I'm using that word, I think. Crushed would be more accurate, killed would be less graphic. Smashed, in this context is almost childlike, and that's the heart of it, I'm sure. The things I'm afraid of up here, I've never been afraid of before (unless in a past life, of course, heh) and they make me feel like a confused and scared little kid. Hopefully as I become used to the dangers and better prepared, I'll start talking like a grown-up again.

We went back to the city for Halloween festivities, went to a party and scored some candy. We went as the 99%, silly-style. We wore our regular clothes and I made some cardboard signs for us from slogans I'd found while googling, one read "Occupy Halloween", the other, "The top 1% shouldn't get all the candy." Then, I attached a sign to the dog that said "Tax the Big Dogs". We got a few hearty laughs, a few tight-lipped smiles, and quite a few confused looks. Don't people consume news anymore?

My head is stabbing me in the left eye and temple today, and my back has been off and on pissed off and my hips have been steadily aching since we moved. We're sleeping on our foam mattress on the floor, which my boyfriend thinks may have something to do with those last two and I'm really hoping he's right, but I won't know for sure until we get the box-spring up here, which, maybe this week? Bleh, I'm trying not to dwell on the stuff I can't control and just focus on what I can take care of.

For example, I've been going for hikes very consistently. I have to take a lot of breaks, but my head is dealing with the exercise very well. It's the lack of noise, of pollution and other people being creepy that's making it so much easier for me to move. In the city, leaving the house for a walk was much more stressful. I can relax out here. The dog and I pant our way up a hill, stop at the top and sniff the air triumphantly. It really does smell better up here.