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The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Books, a Love Affair


There’s lots of ways to divide people into groups. There’s people who love the country and those who love the city; there’s people who love poetry and those who don’t; there’s people who love George R R Martin and those who don’t; there’s people who understand binary and those who don’t; there’s people who think Carrot Top is funny and everyone else; and there’s people who buy and own books– lots of books!– and those who don’t.

My friends are pretty evenly split between book owners and book renters (library users). Both groups love books and love reading, but one group invests money, time, and physical space on acquiring and housing books and one group invests their money, time, and physical space on other things. One group has stacked bookshelves, stacks of books, piles of books, mounds of books, and one group doesn’t. One group has to schlepp tens of (heavy) boxes of (heavy) books up and down stairs when they move, and one group doesn’t.

I’m in the first group, and I’m kind of getting tired of it.

When Nesko and I had a kid, and that kid started becoming mobile, we had to move all of our books to much higher shelves. We got rid of all our tall free-standing bookcases so Niko wouldn’t pull them down on himself. Then, about a year ago, it looked very seriously like we would be moving very soon, and to much smaller quarters. I proceeded by acquiring large numbers of boxes and putting things into those boxes, preparing to move. I packed up 14 large boxes of books (as well as three really big boxes of board games and 3 huge boxes of kitchen stuff). Then all those things stayed boxed up for months and months and we didn’t miss most of it. I did miss some things. I wanted to play a few of the board games we had packed away, I missed my extra mixing bowls and glass pyrex measuring cups, for instance. As part of spring cleaning we opened up our boxed up kitchen things and got rid of most of them. We unpacked our games and weeded through them, stripping some down for parts (tokens, money, dice, etc) and setting a few aside to give away. Those we’re keeping are on shelves in two categories: 1) Keep 2) play and see if we enjoy them, if not get rid of them.

Meanwhile our books are still packed up and I haven’t NEEDED to get into any of those books and we’ve permanently acquired very few new books. I’ve checked out and read almost 70 new-to-me books from the library this year, and after reading them I’ve returned them. There’s a very small handful of those books that I would have liked to keep forever. And more and more I like an apartment that isn’t cluttered with STUFF, especially as we have an apartment that’s crammed full of toys and kid books and games.

When I packed up the books, I noted what books where in what boxes. I have an entire inventory. (I did the same for the games and kitchen stuff.) I’d been meaning to type that list up and I finished doing so the other day. Every book that was packed away for storage is now entered in a spreadsheet. It was emotional. I thought of all those books and how much I love books, and how hard it was to find some of those books, and how other books were gifts from people who know me really well and love me. I have a bunch of books on Celtic history that Nesko brought back from a layover in England, from when his trip to Montenegro was cut short because of the bombing. I have a bunch of books I spent a long period of time tracking down and spent serious money on purchasing and shipping. I have books I’ve read and re-read time and time again, and I have books I’ve read once or twice only. And I started thinking of winnowing down our book holdings.

And I had a mini panic attack.

Seriously, I felt anxiety! There were surges of emotions! I felt like I was betraying my books! Isn’t that weird? I have synesthesia and apparently part of that is sometimes people who are synesthetes anthropomorphize inanimate objects and ascribe emotions to that. Books are inanimate! They don’t care what happens to them! But I felt like I was abandoning them, like they wouldn’t be loved if I got rid of them.

I also panicked because OMG what if I NEEEEEEEEED THESE BOOKS down the line? OMG what if all libraries and the internet cease to exist and I no longer have access to this information? Panic panic panic panic. But that’s silly, too.

I went through and I highlighted about half the books, marking them to be gotten rid of. I calmed down a bit. I might go through and mark more to get rid of. Of the books I’m keeping, a bunch are books I think Niko will like to read when he’s in middle school which isn’t that far off any more. I don’t want to get rid of books just to re-purchase them or whatever.

I remember, as a kid, always having something to read at home. My dad’s a book collector, not in a serious OMG HUNTING DOWN FIRST EDITIONS kind of way (although I think he would be if he had more disposable income) but in a bibliophile way. I grew up with shelves and stacks and mounds of books: books in the living room and in the bedroom and in the kitchen and on the couch and in the bathroom and on top of the tv. There were so many books there was always something new. History books, poetry, literature, fiction, memoir, science. That feels so normal to me. It’s honestly weird to have, right now, a single shelf only for our owned books. I feel almost naked!

And, weirdly, I feel defensive. Like I can’t prove I read books. No, really, I read a lot! I’ve read hundreds of books! Don’t judge me by the scanty offerings on my shelf! I’ve read everything Roger Zelazny has published, you just can’t tell because his books aren’t on display! I’m a Tolkein fan, an Ellen Kushner fan, A Cherie Priest fan, a Lois McMaster Bujold fan! I have a first edition hard cover of Scott Lynch’s “Lies Of Locke Lamora”! I LIKED HIM BEFORE HE WAS COOL OK. I have most of the run of “Blade Of The Immortal,” I have the Johannes Cabal books published in the USA! I’m cool! I’m a legit nerd/geek! REALLY I AM. I’M SO COOL YOU GUYS. LOOK AT THIS SNAPSHOT OF HOW COOL I AM, HOW WORTHY, HOW GREAT AND QUIRKY MY TASTE IS. JUDGE ME. JUDGE MEEEEEEEEE.

We will be moving again at some point.

I’m tired of hauling books around.

I’m tired of not having enough space, not having enough shelves, not having enough flat surfaces.

I’m becoming one of THOSE people, a book renter instead of a book owner.

From now on, I’m only going to keep books that are really and honestly meaningful, books that I love, books that resonate, books that I return to again and again.

Eventually, I think, I’m going to get a Reader or Tablet and start buying electronic versions of books I enjoy. But that’s out of my price range at the moment, and I do resent the DRM included on most traditionally published books.

If you live in Chicago, let me know if you’d be interested in a big book swap party at my place. We can all bring the books we don’t want/need any more and trade for other books, and anything left over I’ll donate to our community center to sell at a book fair fundraiser (or use in their classroom).

Having made the decision to get rid of books, to literally cut my book collection in half, I’m already feeling lighter. It was a struggle to get to this place, but it feels good. I still experience moments of BUT WAIT–! freakout but they’re coming less and less. Letting go is hard, but it’s something I can do.

Hoarding and Purging


For those of you who don’t know me very well, I have some Hoarding tendencies.

I put “hoarding” with a capital H because it’s not just that I like getting stuff and keeping it near me. I feel safer and more complete when I’m surrounded by crap. This is an issue, I know. It’s especially an issue because we don’t have a huge amount of space, and all this crap collects dust and takes up real estate both physical and mental. Over the past few years, I’ve been paring down on a lot of our crap, which is often a challenge, because Nesko and I are both collectors and are both also completionists.

We also have smart phones that we can read electronic versions of books on, and a hard drive that can hold a lot of electronic books.

So I’ve been purging lately. I currently have 5 cloth grocery sacks full of books that I’m taking to the community center to donate for their next book drive. I sorted through my unmentionables and tossed out a bag full of underpants and pyjamas and socks that are unpleasant. I’m going to rifle through our closet again and toss things. I’m ordering CD/DVD wallets into which all of our CDs, DVDs, and game discs and booklets will be inserted, and all our jewel cases are going OUT THE DOOR.

And then there’s the garbage. Do I really need a giant teetering stack of small cardboard boxes? No. A garbage fall full of plastic grocery sacks? No. Stacks of grocery receipts from ten years ago? No. Homework from when I was in high school? No. So that’s going out the door, too. I managed to harvest a big bag of paper recycling just from my desk top. There are only so many used envelopes I need for note taking, you know?

It’s hard, physically and emotionally, but it’s also liberating.


posted under books, crazybrain, home, life, moving, packing, stuff | Comments Off on Hoarding and Purging

In which I make a joke, then get all gross on you.


Nesko watched “Captain America” the other day while I read a book, looking up only to comment on how crappy tiny-Steve-Rogers looked when standing/sitting next to a non-digitally altered person (because I am a jerk like that, but seriously, when they were in the taxi? He looked like a freakish child with a faintly blurred outline. WHAT. HOW. WHY. Fucking Darby O’Gill And The Little People did this better!) Anyway, at the end there’s an ad for the Avengers movie that’s coming out and Thor and Tony Stark were chillin’ and I’m all… you know, they probably have a special Avengers staff person whose entire job is to follow those two around and clean up their drunken messes. Stark’s a fun times alcoholic who could TOTALLY stop ANY TIME HE WANTED TO whoop just gonna go pee in this plant HA HA HA HA HA! FUN! BOOZE IS SO GREAT! And Thor is… a viking God. While we haven’t SEEN him wrestle pigs (yet) you know he’s gonna go there. Shining beacons of humanity, both of them! Actually, my very first thought was “Wow, what a sausage fest!”

Anyway, I’m putting the rest of this behind a cut because I’m going to talk about bugs and anxiety dreams now and I know that’s going to bother some of you.


Read the rest of this entry »

posted under crazybrain, home, life | Comments Off on In which I make a joke, then get all gross on you.

In my defense, I was running a fever.


I spent most of yesterday running a 100.4* fever, which is enough to make me really stupid and tired and out of it. Over the course of the day– which, let me remind you, was spent ENTIRELY ON MY OWN WITH A TODDLER because Nesko wound up spending over 30 hours at work, finally getting home after we were asleep– I managed to cut myself, burn myself, tear the knee of a nearly new pair of pyjama pants, drop a whole lot of food on the floor at different times, close my hand in a door, and hit my head on the fridge. I was in rare form.

I also became obsessed with the snow caked on our window screens, and opened a window to try and knock the snow off the screen. Only the snow had gotten between the screen and the window, so when I opened the window, dirty snow fell all over the window sill and the wood floor. Did you know that squirrels sit on our window ledges and poop? They do. I got squirrel poop in our house. :C

I should be less of a hot mess today, although we are running out of food and food-like substances. None of the side streets or alleys have been cleared out yet so they are all choked with snow… 2-4 feet of snow, depending on where they are. Nesko got home to our general vicinity in good time last night, but then was driving around for about an hour looking for a place to put his car. He couldn’t get down or street OR down our alley (which had a 5 foot drift of snow along one end of it). He wound up parking 2-3 blocks away and walking home. I think he’s going to have to do the same tonight. Hopefully he can stop for groceries on the way home.

posted under Chicago, health, home, life, midwest | Comments Off on In my defense, I was running a fever.

Thunder Snow!


Well, I’ve spent half an hour dicking about with this blog entry, and apparently wordpress’s “insert image” functionality is fucked, so I can’t “easily” (y’know, one image uploaded and labeled at a time, slowly) add images to this post… like the photos I took of our snowbound neighborhood. And I don’t have time to FTP them to my web host or host them on photobucket because I have a toddler doing his best impression of a zombie, scratching and clawing at the office door while wailing for brains cookies.

So please just take my word for it, until I can properly post some pictures, that we have a lot of snow. Including some 4-5 foot drifts in the back of the building, which I didn’t take photos of anyway. We also had thunder and lightning last night. Yeah. Last night. When it was snowing so heavily that it was impossible to see outside, and there were 70 mile an hour winds. Folks down the street from us lost power, but we are OK.

Here’s hoping everyone’s riding out the weather safely.

posted under Chicago, home, life, midwest | Comments Off on Thunder Snow!

Anxiety and the way it toys with one.


The weather’s dropping and it’s getting cooler and even cold outside, which means that once again we have mice in the apartment. Which means once again we have mouse shit everywhere, especially on our counters and, you know, the places where we prepare food. Also, for some reason, on the part of the floor near our bed where pillows slip off the bed and land. Which is totally awesome. Lose a pillow at night and it’s gone forever, tainted by mouse poop. Yes, we sweep the mouse poop up. The mice keep shitting. We’ve put out poison, but there’s a limit to where we can put it and any traps because we have a verrrry inquisitive toddler who picks up everything, examines it, and puts it in his mouth. Can you see why we want to limit the use of poison and snap traps both? I’m pretty pissed at mice right now, and can’t even comprehend people keeping rodents as pets. Seriously. Shit. Everywhere. Every place. We’ve been working for months on accumulating vermin proof containers and putting our dry goods in them, but we still have some stuff that the mice can get into and ruin and let me just say that we really can’t afford to lose food to rodent damage.

I was helping Niko draw with crayons and paper, in his highchair, when I looked out the window. I thought I saw a very fat and mottled squirrel, but it turned out to be a calico cat who was chasing squirrels around. As I watched, it pounced on something small and dark. I squinted a bit and saw that it was a mouse, and instantly I was cheering the cat on. Because seriously. There is shit everywhere. All over the counters. All over the stove top. We clean it up and the next morning it’s back. And now it’s weird green shit because they’re eating the poison and shitting it out before going off someplace to, hopefully, die. Green poison shit all over my cook top. Disgusting.

This cat was apparently not very hungry because it played with the mouse for a really, really long time. It’d pounce on the mouse, carry it around in its mouth, drop it, sit back, watch it, turn its back on the mouse, the mouse would run, and the cat would flip around and go after it again… or would watch it run off and then, at the last minute, right before the mouse reached a chink in the fence that wouldn’t admit the cat, pounce on it and drag it back. And then drop it. And the mouse would fall on the ground and go limp and pretend to be dead and the cat would watch it and then feign disinterest and the mouse would think it was safe and go scampering off only to find the cat hot on its ass again.

Which is pretty much what living with Anxiety is like. I go about my daily routine, my life, trying to escape this massive THING, this fate or hand of god or bad luck or whatever, and if I relax it comes bashing down and Gets Me. And I’m aware of it, constantly, that there’s something hanging over my head Out To Get Me. So I try to hide, try to go limp, try to play dead, and sometimes I can fool it but I’m constantly tensed and waiting for something bad to happen, something to go wrong, something to strike me down. Every good thing is spent in tense Anxiety waiting for the bad, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I started really identifying with that mouse.

But I still wish they’d all get the hell out of my house and stop shitting everywhere.

(Yes, we’re in the process of caulking and great-stuffing and putting steel wool around places. It’s an old building and we’re finding new mouse holes that weren’t there last autumn when we did the last caulking go-round.)

posted under home, life, midwest, stuff | Comments Off on Anxiety and the way it toys with one.



My mother in law came over yesterday to pick Niko up to watch him for a few hours so I could get my stuff together and go tutor. I also took the time to pick up the living room a bit and tidy the kitchen a bit. And, you know, all the fun stuff it’s hard to do while wrangling a toddler, like “eat food.” Anyway! I walked into the kitchen and I heard a radio. “Oh,” I thought, “I must have left the radio on.”

I had not left the radio on.

Also, the sound wasn’t coming from the radio.




It actually sounded like it was coming from our utility room/enclosed back porch, which has no radio; or possibly from out of some kitchen cabinets where, I assure you, we do not keep a radio.

I figured it was the people upstairs, but when they listen to the radio it’s usually music and not soft talking and when they do listen to talk radio it’s in Spanish and this radio was not playing Spanish. Or English.




Also: they were not home and it had been quiet and they hadn’t come home in the mean time. Like, they hadn’t left a radio on and gone out. Rather, they’d gone out for the day and it was quiet upstairs and now? NOISES.




Ghosts obviously, right? Ghosts playing a spectral radio, listening to haunted talk radio! Right? Right?


It was my father in law who was moving stuff around in the basement and listening to the radio. There is no ceiling down there, just pipes and then rafters and the subflooring for our apartment so sound travels pretty well.


posted under home, life | Comments Off on OH NO MY APARTMENT IS HAUNTED (no. it isn’t.)

I have…. THE FEAR.


I am currently in the grips of THE FEAR once more. And no, this isn’t a Hunter S. Thompson thing.

The last place we lived in had A Problem in the bathroom. Namely, the toilet upstairs leaked and ruined the ceiling in the bathroom we were looking at. Nesko and I pointed out the damage and the building manager assured us that it had been fixed. I assumed he meant the leak and pointed out the water damage to the ceiling and walls and what looked a bit like mold. It took a bit of pointing to get him to see what I was talking about, and then he blithely assured us that it would be fixed before we moved in, and that in fact the entire apartment would be repainted.

It wasn’t, it wasn’t, and it hadn’t been.

By which I mean, the apartment wasn’t repainted, the water damaged/moldy patches weren’t fixed, and the toilet upstairs still leaked.

The toilet upstairs was directly above the toilet downstairs. Which meant that every time I used the toilet, I had to worry about somebody else’s toilet water leaking on me. Nesko only had to worry about it when he pooped because, being a guy, he can pee standing up. The only place I can pee standing up is the shower, and I was not about to start clambering in there every time Nature played her golden horn, calling me to service.

I soon started living in Anxious Fear. That water was cold! And disgusting! And carried rotting bits of ceiling! And was fucking TOILET WATER I mean SERIOUSLY.

We complained about it multiple times, switched building managers, complained to the new guy who even came out and looked at it and said that yeah it was a serious problem… and it never got fixed. I’d given birth (by which I mean had my child surgically removed from my body, no man of woman born) in that time, and if you haven’t gone through the whole child birth thing, your plumbing doesn’t work very reliably just afterward. And I was in serious pain and in NO MOOD to deal with leaky toilet ceiling shenanigans. We wound up moving out a month early, using our security deposit as last month’s rent, something we’ve never done before. The situation was just intolerable.

So we moved into a very charming 2-flat in a neighborhood we used to live in some ten years ago, managed (and owned) by my in-laws. Which meant, among other things, that we’ve been able to paint this place and oh my GOSH it feels so much like home already and we’re nowhere close to done yet. But when we moved in, half the ceiling in the bathroom was missing.

You see, there’d been a toilet leak, and nobody (upstairs tenants or downstairs) had mentioned it until part of the ceiling came crashing down. Nesko and his dad had fixed the upstairs toilet, it wasn’t leaking any more, but the ceiling in the bathroom was ten kinds of spooky. As part of our moving in, my dad ripped the whole ceiling out, which possibly wasn’t the best choice of jobs for a guy with asthma. A short while later, my father in law installed green board, but it still hasn’t been taped up or plastered, the first step to getting our bathroom finished (we want to paint, possibly replace the bathroom cabinet, and put up some shelves and towel bars).

It turns out it’s kind of a good thing nobody has finished the bathroom ceiling yet, because I was using the toilet the other day when water started cascading down upon me.

Once again, we’re living with a leaky toilet over head, shunting cold filthwater down upon whoever’s on the toilet.

And, once again, I have The Fear about using the potty. I really don’t need this extra shot of anxiety when faced with nothing more nerve wracking than pooping.

(My father in law already came by to check the situation out once, and is aware now that it wasn’t just a one-off thing but ongoing so he’s going to investigate further. I have every confidence that this will be resolved soon, but in the mean time, I might start making special bathroom trips to Somewhere Else. Or not. I do have a toddler with me all the time.)

posted under home, life | 1 Comment »

It’s a cruel, cruel summer


When Nesko and I had a baby, it solved a very grave problem that we didn’t know existed. Apparently, the one thing the world needed to be a perfect place was for Nesko’s father to have a grandson. And now we have solved this issue, and Nesko’s father is free to dote upon Nikola and adjust the world to Nikola’s preferences.

Part of “making the world an ideal place for Nikola” was an offer to provide us with central air if Nesko would get some quotes for material and labor. See, we live in Chicago. It gets hot and humid in Chicago. So Nesko and I have been talking about the pros and cons of air conditioning.


      Air Conditioning! My God! You need a list of pros for this?


      We had central air once before, and have a bad habit of turning it on at the very first almost-warm day and leaving it on until it snows. OH AIR CONDITIONING I LOVE YOU SO.
      This leads to a huge energy bill which we can’t really afford.
      AC is really bad for the environment.
      AC is sometimes helpful because it aids in filtering out tree pollen, which causes allergies, but then the filters and shit clog and my dust allergies are all “FUCK YOU” and my head is all “I WANT TO DIIIIIEEEEEEEE.”
      Sooner or later it breaks down and we have no idea how to cope. It’s hot! With no AC! What do we dooooooo?
      Did I mention the enormous energy bill? Because seriously.
      We’d already been talking about getting rid of the heater and removing the weird, intrusive duct work in the apartment and using the radiators for heat. Installing AC would force our hand, and we’d have no pantry (it currently contains the heater) and intrusive ductwork FOREVER.

We’ve decided to forgo the central air. Apparently the universe heard us and cackled with glee, rubbing its hands together. The abominable heat we’ve had recently? Our fault. Sorry, Midwest.

If you are not from the midwest, let me describe the recent heat to you:

It’s so hot mercury thermometers have exploded, sending sprays of mercury out the shattered glass top of the thermometer tube thing. What’s that you say? Those kind of thermometers don’t really exist? Ok, uh, it’s so hot that electric thermometer displays have ceased working, instead showing comical illustrations of exploded old-fashioned thermometers.

It’s so hot that several people have spontaneously combusted while walking down the street.

It’s so hot that people can’t walk barefoot on pavement without getting literally burned feet.

It’s so hot that part of Lake Shore Drive buckled. Twice.

It’s so hot that we bought ice cube trays after a good five years or so of not having them (we’d been using those plastic things that have fluid in them, and you freeze them and drop them in your glass, and your beverage gets cold but doesn’t get diluted, only they don’t really work that well).

It’s so hot that we’ve been dithering about the central air question after we’d thought we’d made up our minds.

Also, we installed window units in Niko’s bedroom and our bedroom. But we only turn them on when someone’s asleep in the room, or when it’s just too hot to be alive and then I take Niko into his room and I sit on the floor and read a book while he throws blocks into his dirty clothing hamper.

We’re going to install some ceiling fans and see if that helps cool us down. (probably it will.)

posted under Chicago, health, home, life, midwest | Comments Off on It’s a cruel, cruel summer

Well, this is… odd.


Nesko went out to get the mail and shoved into our mailbox was a shrink wrapped (with Starbucks price tag still attached) CD of San Patricio.

I have NO EFFING CLUE why this CD is in our mailbox or who put it there. I’ve been listening to The Chieftains since I was a little kid, though, and have done street team work for other Irish and Irish American bands, so is it someone who knows me? Is it completely random? I DO NOT KNOW.

Is it some weird marketing thing?

There is no address label or anything on it. Just a brand new CD nestled in our mailbox among flyers for an End Times Church (five days! five lectures! ancient prophecies tell the future! Last lecture all about the Book of Revelation! Jesus is coming, so look busy!).

I haven’t listened to it yet. It’s got Ry Cooder and Linda Ronstadt, among others, so it should be good I hope.

I will keep you updated.

posted under Chicago, home, stuff, wtf | Comments Off on Well, this is… odd.
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