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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.



This was not the post I planned to write

It has been a whirlwind summer and all of my attempts to get a blog post written have come to naught. Despite my best efforts to get work done today, my mood has been off and I finally gave up and decided to direct my energies blog-ward to see if that would help refocus me.

There are plenty of things I could blame my mood on, but to be frank, I woke up feeling this way and everything else just exacerbated an already off-kilter state. I can’t remember the details now, but when I woke up this morning I was coming out of a somewhat stressful and upsetting dream. Basically, I woke up feeling very excluded from a core group of friends. I used to feel that way a lot until I figured out that for the most part I was projecting and excluding myself. But that is a whole different therapy session.

This morning, I went for a 13 mile bike ride along a route I used to bike somewhat regularly with friends.(yes, I am still walking and I am at ~430 miles but I am starting a 5 day a week class on Monday that lasts for 6 weeks and I had to get on my bike to make sure that I was in shape for my daily commute).  It made me nostalgic for the days when I used to ride 35 miles every weekend. That thought process led me down a rabbit hole that led me to remember that my mother and brother were planning on going to the cemetery today to see my father’s grave. Just to make me that much more melancholy, my iPod shuffled over to the Superman theme music (and by Superman I mean Christopher Reeve and the John Williams theme). That made me think of all the movies that remain significant in my life that my father took me to as a kid (Star Wars and the Muppet Movie are two key ones).

Fast forward a couple of hours when I was on the phone with a client in New York. Our phone call was cut short because he received a call from his wife who was struggling with her mother, who has dementia. The conversation was mostly about his concern that his mother-in-law might fall and get seriously hurt. I could almost hear, in my mind, all of the conversations that my family had with my father and with each other expressing some of the very same concerns.

With stellar timing, my brother texted me from the cemetery shortly after I got off the phone. He asked if I wanted a photo of my father’s grave and I surprised myself by saying yes. In the abstract, there is no reason why I would want one. All it is right now is a mound of dirt that probably has grass growing on it. Whether it was the emotionally laden day or me just missing my father, I don’t know. I just know that even if it is just a photo of a mound of dirt, it is my father’s mound and I wanted some token of it.


And the Beat Goes On

My walking is continuing apace. This weekend I walked myself into 300+ miles territory. In theory, that means I get to choose some kind of reward purchased from someplace 300 miles away from Portl1and. That puts me somewhere in northern California to the south and in British Columbia to the north. The problem is that I am not much of a shopper. I have no desire to locate a store 300 miles from Portland to buy some thing that will just clutter up my house. That is also the reason that I still haven’t gotten myself my 200 mile reward.

However, I have a plan. David and I are heading to Boise, ID for a wedding in mid-August. That is 343 miles (as the crow flies, its closer to 429 miles by car) from Portland. So my new mini-goal is to hit 343 before we leave Boise. That means I get to wander the local shops and purchase my 300 mile reward there. And, if I find something a little extra nice, I can always wrap my 200 mile reward into that purchase.

I took my longest walk to-date this weekend when I walked to the Eastbank Esplanade, crossed the river on the Steele Bridge, back to the Hawthorne Bridge through Waterfront Park and then home. That came to just a hair under 7 miles. Seven miles is not that extraordinary, since I did a couple of 10 mile days in Lake Placid (although they were split into two 5 mile walks).  However, it is worth noting that I did it the day after a fall that did quite a number on my back. Unfortunately, that turned out to be the last walk that my back was ok with. I walked 4 and a quarter miles both yesterday and today, but my back ached through both of them. I did make a chiropractor’s appointment for this afternoon because that has shortened my recovery time from a couple of weeks to a couple of days in the past.

And while walking is important and all, it’s not as important to me as that fact that I am heading to my niecelettes and Camp Eva on Thursday. Although we have all been trying to discourage my niecelettes from using me as a jungle gym (although to be fair my brother and David both tend to enforce that more than I do), I think this time I am going to have to really mean it. Even assuming that I can get my back where it should be by Thursday, it will still be pretty fragile. Especially once you throw a couple of flights cross country into the mix.

So here’s hoping today’s appointment gets me back in ship shape and I manage not to re-injure myself any time in the near future.


Achievement Unlocked: Mt. Tabor

Today I finally the opportunity to test out the leg muscles I had built with all of the uphill walking in Lake Placid. My goal had been to just go to the upper reservoir in Mt. Tabor Park, but I was fedownloadeling inspired, so I found myself continuing up to the peak where the Harvey Scott statue stands. Roundtrip, it was a 6.2 mile walk, which is a nice increase from my theoretical 3.5-5 miles a day. In reality, I have been hitting 5 miles almost every day this week, so I may need to re-evaluate my daily “average.”

I seem to have accidentally fallen into a habit of spending my walks exploring the parks within about a 2 mile radius from my house. In addition to today’s journey up Mt. Tabor, I also explored Kenilworth and Sewallcrest parks when I walked to Reed yesterday. I even surprised myself by remembering a “secret” back entrance to Kenilworth that I learned about when my friends Beth and Mary were living right off it back in the day (as in, when I was a froshling at Reed). Laurelhurst, Oregon Colonel Sumner parks are already touchpoints in my daily walks. And I hit Creston park in a walk a few weeks, ago. I am also thinking of expanding my list to include the Eastbank Esplanade/Waterfront Park loop and maybe even exploring a bit of the Springwater Corridor.

This morning I even found myself musing about the possibility of doing some of the hilly waterfall trails in the gorge this summer. While they are well worth the walk, they would require that I drive there which would throw off my walking routine. Not to mention the time the drive would add to the whole endeavor. So, while I am not willing to take them off the table, they are not likely to happen in my immediate future. My laziness is most definitely fed by the fact that I have such an amazing park system to explore within a reasonable walk from my house.

In other news, I have been blazing through CodeAcademy‘s Javascript course so I can complete it by the end of today. The deadline was set by a program I applied for that supports women in tech. Their “you have qualified to move on to the next step” email got stuck in my spam filter, so I didn’t get it until this week. I don’t get to move on in the process unless I can prove that I am committed enough to work through an online course in a reasonable amount of time. I am 80% of the way done so I don’t think it will be a problem to finish it on time. The problem is that I am moving through it so quickly that I am retaining very little of it. Oh well, I can always go back to it at a more leisurely pace once I complete the process.

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to get back to work.

p.s. I added Piccolo Park in my Monday walk.

What a Long Strange Trip Its Been

I am waiting to board the final flight (of a 3-leg trip) home after a week in Lake Placid with family. We were up at 3:45am Eastern and land at 4:30pm Pacific. This means my sense of time is totally discombobulated. I managed to get a little sleep on the first two legs of my flight and have been mainlining caffeine in between at both the Philly and Phoenix airports. The net effect has been semi-functionality on the ground and brain-mush in the air. I actually have managed to get some work done in the Phoenix airport, which may make my recovery day tomorrow a little more manageable. Of course, I somehow scheduled 3 things (including a board meeting in the evening) on my recovery day, but that is kind of par for the course for me.

Speaking of par, one of the things I did on my week off was play golf for the very first time in my life (excluding mini golf, of course). I think I managed to do ok for my first time around. I did lose a couple of balls to water hazards (although the second time around it was somewhat deliberate to satisfy my sister-in-law’s request for a splash), but I mostly managed to keep my balls on the fairway. I am not sure golf is my game, but I would be willing to give it another try some time in the future.

I also walked. A lot. 41.7 miles to be exact. And the last .63 miles of the walk always included a steep hill back to the house. I am happy to say that the hill did get easier as the week went on and has inspired me to try the hill up to the second reservoir in Mt. Tabor park. I have a pretty daunting set of hills to get myself to the lower reservoir, so the upper one always seems too out of reach for me to try. However, I am thinking that I will give it a try at least once before I lose the hill muscles I worked so hard to achieve.

In other news I had a great time with my nieces. The younger one is an early bird like me and is usually the first up in her house. That made for some great early morning conversations when she and I were the only ones awake. There were a few days, however, where I left for my walk before she emerged from her bedroom. Those days we generally tried to sneak some time alone out on the porch while everyone else was doing their own thing.

The older one is at that fascinating stage where she vacillates between being a challenging teenager and a sweet and cuddly little girl. This is one of those times when I get to really appreciate being an aunt. I don’t have to deal with the difficulties of having a teenager day in and day out, but I do get to appreciate watching the process as she slowly turns into a young woman.

As nice as it was to spend a week in the Adirondacks, I am looking forward to getting home and seeing our cats. And sleeping in my own bed.

Morning Reflections

This morning, I was sitting on my couch listening to music while drinking my coffee. This in itself is unusual, as I generally prefer silence before putting on my music and headphones for my daily walk. But something compelled me to break the silence this morning.

I was listening to a station that plays a great mix of the music I listened to as a teen. This is the music that most triggers emotional responses in me. A single song can make me cry or laugh in a way no other music can.

The station was playing a song that I had grown to dislike because it had been overplayed in its heydey. But having not heard it in over a decade I was able to listen to it with fresh ears. And it brought me to tears. Not because the song is sad. It really isn’t. But I cried because it reminded me of my teenage years when, frankly, I took my father for granted.

Suddenly, I wanted more than anything to go back in time and hang out with my father. I wanted to go bike riding or to a museum or even just ride the subway with him. It didn’t matter, I was just really missing his presence. And not in the weakened state of his last few years. I wanted the young, healthy and active version of him that I grew up with. When he was close to the age I am now.  Before life and time took their toll on him.

Usually sadness drains me. But not this time. This time it pushed me out the door to walk off my grief. Which made me wonder if it is my grief that is fueling my daily walks. Because I have no other explanation for how I have gotten myself out of the door every day in June. Or for how I have walked almost 200 miles since April.

No Power in the ‘Verse Can Stop Me

I have turned in a walking fiend. Last week I walked 31 miles and this week to date I have walked 22.5 miles. This week’s total may end up a little lower than last week’d because this morning’s walk was cut short by a downpour. I literally (and I mean this word as it it meant to be used) had to wring out my clothes when I got home.

I am still waiting for that magical energy boost that I am supposed to get from exercising. According to my walking app, I have walked 162 miles since I started this endeavor, and while I am sure it is doing good things for me, it is not leaving me energized at the end of my work day. The irony of all this is that I come up with all sorts of blog posts while walking. But, after a long day of work, there is just nothing left in the tank for writing. And to be completely frank, by the end of a long day, the last thing I want to do is spend another minute in front of my laptop screen.

I suppose if I were a good techie, I would want nothing more than to spend my days and nights glued to a screen. But this is where I start to feel really old because I just can’t. My eyes start to cross and my brain starts to dim and I become absolutely useless. Oftentimes, I don’t even have the patience to do anything on my tablet, which is sad because that is where I read most of my news. I am just a paper-oriented girl in an electronic world. I know I am not alone. It is just a part of being a Gen-Xer. Caught between the generations of technology.

This morning, I started contemplating the need for good raingear for walking. I am hesitant to invest in anything right now because I don’t know if this walking habit of mine will last through the fall. I honestly don’t know what it is that is getting me out of bed and driving me out of bed for my daily walk. I assure you that this is not my normal approach to exercise. The hardest part of the walk remains the 6 feet from my couch. I almost always have to displace an adorable, sleeping cat to get myself out the door. But somehow, every day, I manage to pull it off.

My commitment is about to get tested. Next week we head east for a week with my in-laws in Lake Placid. I have already mapped out mental walking routes from the house there, so I am fairly sure I will continue my daily routine while I am there. It is the 2 travel days that are worrying me. Friday we fly to Albany and Saturday morning we drive up to Lake Placid. That’s two days where I am unlikely to get any walking in. Will those two off days be enough to break this habit of mine? Only time will tell.


Things had been going so well…that is…until the powers that be started pushing back.

Last week, I walked everyday and logged over twenty miles. However, my Friday walk was thwarted by a downpour. I didn’t think I was just a fair weather walked because I have walked in drizzles before. But, when the rain started really coming down yesterday, I turned around and went home after only a half mile. I thought about taking a walk in the afternoon, but the sky still looked threatening and my sweatshirt hadn’t fully dried yet. So, I didn’t.

This morning’s walk was thwarted by a toothache. I slept very poorly last night because of that damn tooth and just didn’t have it in me to get up at 6am and get my walk in. I wouldn’t even be up now if it wasn’t for my very insistent alarm clock cat. When he decides it is time for me to get up and give him a lap, he is kind of unrelenting.

But, I am not quite willing to end my 12 day walking streak. I am hoping that I will be up for at least a short walk after a nap. There is a new Saturday evening farmers market a very short distance from my house. What I may do is incentivize a longish walk by letting myself take the long route there. Nothing like a 3 mile detour to a destination that is about a quarter mile from my house. :-). But if it gets me out of the house, I see that as a total win.

Tomorrow I am also thinking of taking a later-than usual walk because it is the annual Laurelhurst garage sale. I figure that is a great excuse to wander through as much of Laurelhurst as I want. It will also keep me from buying too much because anything I purchase I will have to carry home with me on foot. Now that is a win/win.

We are heading to Lake Placid for a week’s vacation with David’s family in early July. I take it as a very good sign that I am already mentally planning my walk routes for while we are there. I am looking forward to a week of not having to displace a cat to get myself out of the door in the morning. However, that is pretty much the only week of the year when I get to see our nieces (David’s brother’s daughters, as opposed to my brother’s daughters, the niecelettes) and one of them is an early riser. I enjoy our early morning talks/games/random activities before her sister wakes up. Maybe I can lure her to join me on one of my walks so I don’t need to choose one over the other.



This and That

Father’s Day was never a particularly big deal in my family, so I didn’t think the first Father’s Day after my father’s passing would be problematic for me. Well, it turns out I was at least partially wrong. I still don’t anticipate the day itself being especially difficult for me. I’m sure I will think about him, but I find myself doing that on a fairly regular basis and mostly it is in ways that make me smile. No, it is the lead up that is making me kind of nuts.

My email box has been deluged with emails reminding me to think of my father this month and to express my appreciation of him by purchasing whatever product they are selling. No, none of these messages are new. They have been filling up my email box for years. I am just finding them newly annoying. I wish there was some sort of registry for those of us who have recently lost a father and don’t need any reminders, thank you very much.

I think the most ridiculous part for me is that it is rare indeed that any of the products being sold would have been a good match for my father anyway. He was not a golfer, nor did he spend his weekend in his garage doing whatever it is men are supposed to do with tools and toolboxes. He was not a big fan of ties and wore them only when absolutely necessary. I think he stopped using aftershave in the early 80’s.

Being a geek myself, I also get the reminders from sellers of geeky products (why yes, I am talking about you ThinkGeek), but somehow these bother me less. My father was somewhat of a geek and never met a pun he didn’t like.  At least some of these emails make me smile when I think about whether he would find the product in question funny or not.  Nevertheless, I could still live without the reminder right now.

Moving away from the ranty part of the show, I thought I would also share an update on my walking adventures. It seems I have been aiming too low with my goals. Last week I walked almost 21 miles and in the last 3 days, I have walked 10 miles. The hardest part of the walk is always the steps to get myself out the door. Once I close the door behind me, I am fine.

This week I have had both my walking buddy and a cat to feed to force me out the door. Next week my walking buddy is going to San Francisco and my cat sitting responsibilities will be over so I will need to serve as my own motivation to take those first few steps. Hopefully, my will will be strong enough to displace my cat and get me to cross my threshold.