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Rules and Consequences

I know I said previously that I was kind of over traveling and wanted to stay in Portland for at least a month. I can say with confidence that I am very likely to achieve that goal (not willing to say anything more definitive than that lest I disturb the Imps of Complacency, p’tui, p’tui). Granted it will be the shortest month, but it still counts.

I guess I always knew I wasn’t going to make it through March without a trip east. David has a conference in Toronto in March that he still hasn’t decided whether he is going to attend or not. I was sort of hoping to tag along on that trip so I could hang out at the AgileBits office with some of my favorite people. Then recently I was tipped off about a possible trip to see my niecelettes in March. And while I love my AG cohort, I love my niecelettes more. So as soon as that possible trip became a reality, I jumped on that opportunity like nobody’s business.

I found out that my possible trip was confirmed because N called to tell me. That may not seem like such a big deal, but I am so loving these little people who can now call me and have half hour conversations with me about their lives. In the past our conversations have happened almost entirely on video chats and usually entailed them showing me things that they had made or reading to me or some other primarily non-conversational exchange. But last night I spoke with both girls individually and had good conversations with both of them.

Part of my conversation with N was about the rules (and rituals) of bedtime. Part of her nightly ritual involves putting all of her friends (aka stuffed animals) to bed by name. And I was instructed that blowing a friend’s name results in a “consequence”. These consequences may entail ticking, having to carry N from point A to point B or getting my face licked (there were some others, but these are the ones that stood out). Obviously, N gets to choose which consequence the person putting her to bed receives. Thankfully, N sent me a list of all of her friend’s names today so that I may study up before I am tasked with putting the girls to bed.

A was in a very different headspace from her sister last night. She had learned that her parents had decided to go somewhere without her and she had simply decided that she was going with them. There was no tantrum (at least not that I heard about), just a very matter-of-fact statement that she would be accompanying her parents. I gotta say, I love this girl’s style.

Time for a reality check

When last we checked in on our intrepid (Not) blogger, she had made some radical commitments to start rebuilding her mojo. Now for an update on her progress…

Writing daily: Fail
Crafting: Partial Pass
Walking: Pass

Turns out that after a day of staring at my screen and typing, the last thing I want to do is stare at the screen and type some more. I do have more half-filled and then abandoned paper journals then I know what to do with so my screen fatigue is not actually a good enough excuse for my complete failure on this goal. A friend of mine did point out that expecting a non-writer like myself to write every day may have been a bit over-ambitious. So instead of scratching this one off the list completely, I am going to reduce it to doing some writing at least 3 days a week. That one feels less overwhelming and doable.

I was on a real role with crafting after my last blog post. I made a serious dent in a project that I have been working on for way too long. But the reason that this is only a partial pass is because it does suffer from an out of sight/out of mind situation. I brought my project with me on a day I spent some quality time on public transportation and it still hasn’t made it out of that bag. So after I am done typing this post, I am going to move it from my bag over to by the couch so it will be waiting for me the next time I sit down and my lap is immediately occupied by my beloved feline.

David did ask an important question about what defined crafting for the purposes of this goal. Did it need to be fiber related? The question came up because I had declared baking as fulfilling my crafting requirement for the day. I decided (off the cuff) that any kind of creative cooking or baking counted. So the blondies I made counted. Mixing up some leftovers to make a newish meal does not count. But the spaghetti squash “lasagne” that I am planning on making for dinner tonight most definitely counts.

Thanks to the weather, my walking goal has been a bang-up success with a couple of 5 mile days alternating with mostly 3 mile days. There have been a couple of “slacker” days where I have counted just running out for errands, but since part of this goal was just for me to put on real clothes and leave the house every day, I am willing to take those as having met my goal.

Today is likely to be a shorter walk day because I have a meeting at 3, after which I need to squeeze in a walk before making dinner. But since this post fulfills my writing requirement, only walking a couple of miles would still make me feel very accomplished at the end of the day.

Not Much Going On

I recently took a long hard look at my life and realized that while most of it is great–I love the work I do, I have a wonderful husband, great friends and an increasingly cuddly cat–I am very disappointed with the creative-side of things. I have way too many WIPs (Works In Progress) and I am not working on any of them.

I kinda lost my crafty mojo last year, which is understandable. It has not disappeared completely, it has just been dormant for too long. I know this because when I recently made a golden snitch for a friend, it brought home for me how long it has been since I did any serious knitting because I seem to have have lost all of my knitting callouses.

The obvious answer is to just pick up a project, new or in progress and get to work. I wish it were that easy. I have been wandering into our craft room about once a day for the past week or so and I look at all of the yarn and get overwhelmed. I have recently returned to Ravelry to find a pattern I want to work on and the same thing happens. And yet when I decide I want to start small and just make a washcloth, I turn my nose up at the simplicity and decide that it is too boring.

I have since decided that in part winter is to blame. I haven’t been walking because it is still dark too late in the mornings. However, that is noticeably changing which I am very excited about. In fact, yesterday I took my bike out for the first time in many months. I didn’t cover much distance, but I did tackle some hills (kind of inevitable when heading in any direction from my house) and they weren’t too bad.

And the narcissus are beginning to poke up out of the soil, so Spring can’t be too far away. That being said, I still have to spend an hour every morning sitting in front of my SAD light so I don’t just crawl into my hole until winter is fully passed.

So in the spirit of both my physical and mental health I am going to try the following regimen for the next 30 days.

  1. Writing every day. This does not necessarily mean that you will be seeing more blog posts. I am just committing to myself to write something every day. Some of it may be blog-post worthy. I suspect more of it will be private musings that I keep to myself.
  2. Working on a crafty project for at least 15 minutes every day. This may be no more than a few stitches and I may very well rip it all back the following day. The intention here is not to complete anything. Instead, the intention is to slowly rebuild my crafty muscle-memory.
  3. Go outside every sunny day. The goal here is to get me back in the habit of getting dressed first thing in the morning (as opposed to staying in my pajamas until the afternoon) and committing to at least going around the block once. It also gives me permission to stay inside on those really crappy rainy, cold and windy days that we have been having.

Thus far today I have succeeded in 2 of my 3 goals and it is only a bit after 10 in the morning. Guess I know what I will be doing this afternoon.

Thoughts from my Theater Extravaganza

I know it has been too long since my last post and please accept my apologies for that. Life has been hectic and although there has truly been much in my life that has been blogworthy (e.g. a trip to the Galapagos Islands, a cruise to Belize and Conzumel with my AgileBits peeps followed immediately by a trip to New York to see my niecelettes and a full day of theater), I just haven’t been inspired to write. But after not being able to sleep after the aforementioned day of theater, a blog post finally came to me, so I figure that is where I will start.

Yesterday was all about the revivals. I saw both Cabaret with Alan Cumming, who was once again playing the role of the emcee as he did in the 1998 revival, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch with John Cameron Mitchell, the man who both wrote the book and originated the role. I mention those details because I do think there was something additional that both of these men brought to the roles that another equally talented actor may not have. The TL;DR version of both shows was that they both exceeded my (high) expectations. For those who want more, please read on.

When I first planned my Day of Theater (DoT) I had purchased tickets to see Idina Menzel in If/Then and Hedwig. But a few days before the scheduled show I received a notice that all performances of If/Then were cancelled for the week I was in town. After some pouting (everyone who knows me even a little knows that I can listen to Idina sing for hours on end–and I have), I looked at the available matinees for that day and discovered that there were still tickets available to see Cabaret. And as much as I love Idina (I am seriously contemplating a drive up to Seattle to see her this summer since she is skipping Portland on her upcoming tour), I am very glad that I saw Cabaret. Because it was a truly spectacular performance that left me stunned at the end even though I knew exactly what was coming.

I don’t mean to give short shrift to Cabaret, which was mind blowing and deserves a review of its own. But it was Hedwig that kept me up most of last night which is why it gets the bulk of the blog post. Perhaps once I get all of the following thoughts out I will be able to come back and give Cabaret its due.

Back to my tale of  my DoT. By early evening I was actually feeling a little anxious about seeing Hedwig. While both productions I saw were tales of Germans, Jews, and gender fluidity, they are also about as different as night and day. I had been wanting to see John Cameron Mitchell perform Hedwig live since I missed him in the original Off-Broadway production (especially since I was living in Philly and could easily have made the trip in) and I was truly thrilled when my trip coincided with him revising his role. I have been someone obsessively listening to the new Hedwig soundtrack since it was released this past Fall so my expectations were high, but Cabaret had been just so good I was afraid that my luck wouldn’t hold and I would end up disappointed. Suffice it to say it was worth the wait.

Mitchell very wisely decided that this revival could not simply be the same production as the previous run. Instead, this Hedwig was both older and wiser, but still very much the same character as before. Hedwig is now married to her Jewish bandmate, Yitzhak, but is still dealing with the emotional fallout from the fiasco with Tommy Gnosis that the original production (and the movie) describe.

While I was waiting in line for the doors to open, I was stunned by how young most of the audience was. I knew the movie had become somewhat of a cult favorite which explained why there were folks waiting who had never known a time when the Berlin wall still stood and most of the cultural references (Farrah Fawcet, 8-track tapes, etc.) were experienced first-hand. But once again, it had me a bit concerned that the show would be a disappointment.

I don’t know how the youngins experienced the show, but when viewed through my own lens, I could absolutely relate to the present-day Hedwig in a way I couldn’t to the movie version. Although the show was ostensibly all about Hedwig (a point she kept coming back to when she went off on one of her many tangents), there was also a whole other layer about being middle-aged (ack! did I just use that term to describe myself?!?) and married and the give and take that comes with having had a life partner for an extended period of time. A time when the burning anger and passionate positions of youth have simmered to a dull roar and one realizes that compromise does not inherently mean giving in. Compromise can also be a precious gift given to the person who knows you perhaps even better than you know yourself and loves you despite or even because of all of your flaws.

I have already listened to the most recent Hedwig soundtrack twice this morning and I suspect it will not be rotating off my Recently Played playlist any time soon. And even though the music is essentially the same between the first and second productions, I think it is likely that the original CD (yes, I still have CDs–I told you I am old). will continue to gather dust on its shelf. Because as much as I like the idea of clinging to the version of me I was 15 years ago, the present is in many ways better than the past. Or at the very least, more relevant.

 

Farewell Rosie

Our beloved Rosie was only 6 years old when we unexpectedly lost her yesterday. She was our sweetest, best tempered cat and we are all feeling her loss.

Rosie Rosie joined our household about 5 years ago, along with her littermate Dancer and her adopted brother, Nom Nom. She and her brothers were all born feral and taken in by a friend of ours who had them fixed and micro-chipped before putting them up for adoption.

Dancer and Nom Nom were extremely skittish when we first brought them home, and we didn’t actually see them for the first few weeks they lived with us. Not Rosie. Rosie was sociable with us from the beginning. And her friendliness extended far beyond us. She was always the first cat to come out and greet friends and visitors to our home.

She was the last to say goodnight to us at bedtime, often bringing us a toy to show her affection. She would come upstairs meowing at us with her squeaky meow (which always cracked me up) and then deposit our gift on the floor.

She also loved to flop on the floor in front of us while we were getting dressed or brushing our teeth. We would then need to pause whatever we were doing to give her some scratchies. She also loved to cuddle up in a pile with her brothers and spent many mornings on my lap wrapped around Dancer.

She had a knack for telling time and always let David know when it was time to soak the food bowl, and more importantly when it was time to give them wet food. And by “them” I mean her, since she was the only one of our cats who preferred wet to dry food.

When we came home from being away for almost 2 weeks, there was obviously something wrong with her. She was not her usual perky self. But, she was also known to hold our absences against us, so we decided to give her a day to bounce back. Thursday morning she failed to greet me upstairs and I started to feel some concern. When I came downstairs she was laying listlessly by the washing machine. At 8:01 I called the vet and made her an appointment for later in the morning. While I was on the phone she crawled under the couch and I mistakenly took that as a sign that she was feeling a little better.

We then went out for a #PDXBreakfast planning to come home and take her right to the vet. When we went to find her, she was still under the couch, but she was already lifeless.

We rushed her to the vet to see if there was any chance to revive her, but she was well and truly gone. The vet doesn’t know what took our young and seemingly healthy cat, but there was no trauma and no evidence of obvious pain (although cats are known to be stoics and will hide pain for as long as possible). The vet assured us that it seemed incredibly unlikely that she had anything contagious that would put our other cats at risk.

Now the remaining four of us just need to get used to life without our lovely Rosie around. Dancer is being extremely clingy and even Nom Nom is coming to David for attention more often than usual. This loss may even be what turns him from being a scaredy cat to a vaguely normal cat. But, we aren’t holding our breath on that one.

 

 

What a long, strange trip it has been

One should never start a post with an apology, but I am going to anyway. This post is likely to be much more stream-of-consciousness than my usual posts. Hopefully the why will become clear as you read the post.

2014 was an odd, amazing and painful year for me. The year started with us in Hawaii and ended with us on Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos. That alone makes it noteworthy. But, the elation of being in Hawaii was quickly quashed when David developed an incredibly painful inner ear infection on January 2nd. That extended our trip by a couple of weeks, and even David admitted that if he had to be sick, being sick on the Big Island made everything a little better.

Shortly after returning from Hawaii, I left for AGconf, AgileBits annual gathering which happened to be on a cruise to Haiti and Jamaica last year. I will admit I was skeptical of the cruise (solely because I had never been on one before), but I was eager to meet the people I was working with.  And skepticism aside, I had a total blast. I love my colleagues at AgileBits. They are a fun, caring, incredibly bright and interesting group of people. And a year later, I continue to feel privileged to get to work with them.

Shortly after returning from the cruise I got a call that my father was in the ICU. I was planning on going east in February anyway, but this moved up my trip by a week or so. Long story short (for more details read my blog archives), my father passed away and I sat shiva* in New York with my mother, brother and uncle. I am not sure I gave adequate appreciation to my brother’s various communities for their support during that incredibly challenging time. People from all aspects of my brothers life, from school, current and previous congregations, summer camp and his daughters’ school came to make a minyan* and offer condolences. That kind of support was a perfect reflection of the wonderful and caring adult, rabbi, father and friend my brother is and continues to make me proud to be his sister.

That is not meant to shortchange my friends who were and continue to be incredibly supportive to me. But I know how awesome they are and how lucky I am to have them in my life. But seeing the depth of the love other people feel for my brother just filled me with awe.

Fast forward to December 2015 when embarked on the 30 hour trip from Portland to Guayaquil, Ecuador, our launch point to the Galapagos Islands. Although the trip was long and exhausting, it was worth every minute. The Galapagos are amazing islands and deserving of their very own blog posts, which I hope to get written soon.

But all of this background was meant solely to bring you to this moment in time, where once again we had the privilege of launching the new year in someplace, warm, tropical and beautiful. And once again, that awesome experience was quickly quashed by a painful loss. This time the loss was our beloved cat Rosie. Who is worthy of her own blog post. So please stay tuned for that.

 

* Shiva – the seven days after the burial, during which family members traditionally gather in one home and receive visitors.
* Minyan – a group of at least 10 Jewish adults, the minimum number needed to say certain Jewish prayers, such as the kaddish.
* Kaddish – specifically the mourner’s kaddish, is a prayer said for eleven months from the day of the burial and also on the yahrzeit (anniversary of a death). A minyan is needed in order to recite the kaddish.

 

Squirrel!!

In general, I am not easily distractable. I have been known to get so focused on a project that I lose track of all time. On more than one occasion, David has told me he is going off to do something for an hour or so. Without him around, to distract me I put my head down, get to work and wonder why he is still around the next time I look up. That is when he laughingly informs me that he has been gone and back and some number of hours have passed while I have been obliviously working.

Then there are days like today when I am too easily overwhelmed by my to-do list. I am still working on catch-up from putting almost everything on hold for my 6-week program and I feel like I am drowning. So far this morning, I have gone through my to-do list twice (in the process discovering two small projects that I totally forgot about) and decided to play on Facebook and Hay Day rather than deal with the scarily overwhelming stuff.

For those sane enough to have avoided it, Hay Day is a truly silly farming game that my niecelettes are completely in to. It is their fault that I have gotten hooked. No seriously, they made me do it. N, A and I were videochatting (by the way, the best part of the internet is the ability for me to be able to see my beautiful niecelettes when I chat with them) and N made me hold up my tablet and show her that I both had the game installed and what my farm looked like. And she proudly showed me her farm when she leveled up while chatting to me.

This morning I am just using Hay Day as an avoidance mechanism. I know I have things to do and my problem is simply one of prioritization. Where do I start? This is when I usually turn to Anne Lamott and her Bird by Bird approach. In simple terms, all that means is when overwhelmed, take things one at a time. But this morning, the simplicity of her advice is failing me. I am struggling to get the full list out of my mind so I can take things one at a time.  So every time I start to focus on something, my mind panics and I find myself planting crops or chatting with friends on Facebook.

I need to get myself working, which is why I decided to try writing a blog post. I was hoping getting my anxieties down on (virtual) paper would help me choose somewhere to start. But that doesn’t seem to be helping this morning. And the very nature of the work I do means I can’t just turn off the internet and focus, because I need the internet to do the work I am supposed to be doing. Instead of removing the distractions, I am trying a second cup of coffee (because caffeine always helps calm anxieties, right?) and we will see if that works. If not, maybe today will end up being a 2 blog post day. :-)

 

Here Comes the Rain Again

I originally had grand plans for picking my life right back up where I left it after my six week program, but my body had plans of its own. Instead of getting a little more work in before taking 2 full days off, I spent a week being sick. I don’t get sick very often, but I think my body was pretty damn pissed at the 6 weeks without a break deal and it was going to get some rest, come hell or high water. That week was also the first full week without walking or biking since late April. This matters because it totally threw off my exercise routine snd I am having a very hard time getting back into it.

There are actually several factors at play here. The most significant one is light. I suffer from pretty severe Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I need to sit in front of a crazy-bright light for an hour every morning. This means that my cat, Dancer, has a full hour to comfortably settle on me before I can even contemplate going for a walk. That makes him pretty darn unthrilled when I try to kick him off my lap after he has put up with an hour of the bright light, which he absolutely hates. And then there is the fact that it is still dark at 7am these days. While I don’t mind walking in the dark, I do worry about not being adequately visible to drivers who are still waking up. I have a couple of lights on my rain jacket, but I intend to get something that makes me a little more visible in the dark so that I can still get my morning walks in. I just haven’t gotten around to getting anything yet.

Then there is the rain. I am a good Portlander and don’t mind walking in the rain. But I do mind walking in downpours. Back in the olden days when I first moved to Portland (and before we were really seeing the effects of climate change), Fall/Winter rain was almost always a drizzly mist. Call me crazy, but I like walking in the drizzly, misty rain. I just take off my glasses and enjoy. But getting drenched does nothing for me. So in addition to coordinating my walks around light and cats, I now need to factor in the amount of rain we are getting. I have this lovely app (forecast.io) that does a great job of telling me when it is going to rain, how heavy it will be raining and how long it will last.

Now my walks are as likely to be mid-day as they are to be early-ish in the morning, which does horrible things for maintaining routines. I end up with days like Monday where I truly had the best of intentions for walking in the afternoon. All I needed to do was spend some time with a client on the west side and then I could walk in Hoyt Arboretum (which would honestly have been a nice change of pace from my regular neighborhood walk). But I got so focussed on solving her issues that I let too much time go by and suddenly I was pushing against sunset.

But, I am not giving up. I have decided that I am going to aim for a minimum of 4 walks a week until Spring. My intention to walk daily remains intact. But now I have a realistic goal that factors in the challenges I face with lack of light and too much rain.

When “safe space” isn’t

A couple of you readers commented to me that you felt cheated because the promised rant was toned down. Today I am not feeling quite as generous and I am going no holds barred.

At the beginning of our program we spent a significant amount of time creating rules that would make the program space a safe space. We then revisited those rules halfway through the program. And, I (foolishly, it seems) let my guard down and believed the organizers when they said that the space we had created was safe. But yesterday it was demonstrated to me that those rules that we had literally spent hours devising were complete fiction.

Yesterday afternoon I expressed frustration at specs that were changed late in the afternoon for our presentations that half of us gave today and that the other half (myself included) are giving tomorrow. This was a fairly significant change that obviated hours of work on my part. I first raised the issue on our internal chat channel but the only response I received were crickets. So, in my checkout I expressed my frustration by saying roughly,  “I am frustrated because…” I deliberately chose to go the direct route on the theory that I could express my true feelings in a safe space that we had spent so long creating. Turns out I was wrong.

This morning I was called on to the carpet for my “childish” behavior in expressing my frustration. I was asked “how I could have handled that better” including using the internal chat channel. When I explained that I did do that I was told it was my responsibility to ensure that the organizer saw my post. I started to mention that it seemed unreasonable to chastise me when I expressed my feelings in a safe space, but I cut myself off. I chose to end the conversation there because any illusion of safe space was gone and I had no desire to get into a disagreement in a situation where I was not respected.

As far as I am concerned, the worst outcome of this morning’s exchange is that I am now deliberately isolating myself from my fellow program members. Members that I truly enjoy being with and who bear no responsibility whatsoever for what has gone down. Despite my general frustration with this program, I was truly hoping that it would go out on a high note. Now, instead of celebrating my last few hours with friends, I am sitting in the corner, typing this blog post and dreading this afternoon’s checkout.

 

 

Caution, Rant Ahead

I know I have been particularly quiet these past 6 weeks. I have been in an all day tech program during which I expected to have more time to blog. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Between the weekly 9-5 schedule of the program and having to do my best to stay on top of my work the rest of the time, I have been, at least I hope, noticeably silent. But my time once again becomes my own this Friday at 5pm and that is none too soon for me.

To be completely frank, I am torn between going on an all out rant and swallowing this one down like a bitter pill. As much as I would like to rant away, the internet is forever, so I will (mostly) hold my tongue and go for some middle ground. I have worked extremely hard to make participating in this program possible, including taking a 6-week almost-hiatus from work, turning down gigs and working days that I prefer not to. I did this because the program sounded full of promise. Unfortunately, said program was unable to deliver. Instead of the 6 wonderful weeks I anticipated, I ended up with 6 weeks of mediocre, often frustrating and usually unsatisfying days.

So why did I stick it out? A couple of reasons. The first being that I have met some amazing people with whom I intend to stay in touch with long after this experience is a distant memory. The second is purely mercenary. There is a good likelihood that despite the mediocrity of the program itself, it may serve my future professional goals. Depending on what the future looks like, it may turn out that I never tap into the potential benefit that my participation may provide. However, it seemed like dropping out was not the right answer for me.

And did I mention that it was not entirely a waste of my time? I did get to do a daily bike commute in which I racked up over 250 miles. And the bike commute reminded me of just how much I enjoy riding my bike, despite having left it sitting neglected in our shed for way too many years. Which reminds me of a strange anecdote that I would like to share.

My bike has an integrated biker-powered set of front and rear lights. During the course of my time in the program (how ominous does that sound?) someone cracked open my front light casing and stole my light bulb.  That was all he/she took. Just the light bulb. In the process, the light bulb thief irreparably broke the housing leaving me with a $70 repair bill. However, I am choosing to focus on all the money I have saved and will continue to save on batteries by powering my lights myself.

Ok, so I didn’t quite deliver the rant I promised in the title, but the process of writing out the full rant and then editing it down for public consumption was cathartic,  and I am feeling better than I did when I started this post. Just don’t be surprised if little bits of snark make it into future posts while I do my best to keep my best face forward.