Last night they held a small cocktail party, which gave me an opportunity to further connect with the group from New York. I also had some really interesting conversations with other Portland freelancers that I had not managed to cross paths with before. Most of the conversations were some permutation of the joys and challenges that come with being one’s own boss.
This morning I woke up with Missing Person’s “Destination Unknown” running through my head. That combined with yesterday’s numerous conversations reminded me of something else I had been thinking about lately.
A week or so ago, I being interviewed for a gig, and was asked how I felt about working in an environment where there is rapid change and the uncertainty that comes with it. I explained that having been self-employed for as long as I have, I am very comfortable with uncertainty and have a high tolerance for ambiguity.
One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that there is nothing linear about running a business. Sustainability comes from a continuous ability to adjust services to the market. It is a precarious proposition, akin to walking on a tightrope above a pool of hungry alligators. Every time a potential client asks me to do something, I have to both weigh their timeline against my other projects and assess my ability to successfully achieve their goals. And even when my plate is completely full (as gratefully, it has been recently), I need to still build in time for both marketing and ongoing education.
And when the going isn’t as good, I am responsible for buoying my own spirits and finding ways to fill my time. That is a challenge in and of itself, because whatever project I take on needs to be something I can drop at a moment’s notice when work reappears.
It is a crazy way to make a living, but apparently I thrive on it. But it can also be lonely and isolating at times. Most of my close friends have “typical” day jobs. They try to understand the ups and downs, but it is a different experience to have the same conversations with someone who also works for themselves. That is why I so enjoyed the opportunity to converse with a room full of people whose lives look like mine. Where from day to day, you don’t know your destination.
Cartoon credit: http://alligator-sunglasses.com/post/43854514214/the-path-of-success]]>
I would define myself as an upcycler with pack-rattish tendencies. I hate to throw things away that still have some useful life left in them. That means I keep old skirts or dresses that I can no longer wear because of stains or rips. I take the skirts apart and use their fabric for something else. I also have more pens than I will ever use in my lifetime because I hate to throw away something as useful as a pen. I even tried making an art project with our leftover CubeSpace brochures. Emphasis on the word tried. I eventually gave up and recycled them.
In the past few years I have entered a new stage in life. While I may have spent my first 42 years collecting random detritus, I am now all about purging it from my house. I have too much stuff and I want it out of my life. But, I still can’t bear to throw things away. Thankfully, I live in a great place for a person like me.
Perfectly functional clothing that I just don’t wear? That goes to a swap. Stained or ripped clothes go to Art ala Carte. Anything electronic goes to Free Geek. Anything crafty goes to SCRAP. Books go to the library. Yes, I am now beginning to part ways with my beloved books. But only those that are easily accessible from the library. I am not at a point where I am ready to replace a paper book with an e-book.
And then there are the CDs. Call me old-fashioned, but I am not ready to move all of my music to my spare hard drive/the cloud. Right now the digitized music I have is split between my linux laptop, my android phone and iTunes. The last thing I need is all of my music in a format that is incompatible with whatever the future holds. As long as I keep a single CD player, I am good to go. My vinyl on the other hand…well, that’s for another day.
The same thought process goes through my head when someone reaches out to me to get together for coffee or a meal. I almost always say yes because who knows what will come of a single conversation. I certainly don’t. What I do know is that a single conversation can have unexpected ripple effects that appear further down the road.
I also work fairly hard not to get caught up in “what-ifs.” Mostly because that way lies madness. But sometimes I just can’t help it. When I do look back, I find myself focusing more on the route taken than on the road not traveled.
For example, what if I had moved back to New York when my grandfather died in the mid-nineties and I was offered his apartment? I like thinking about this because I find it very confirming of the choice I did make. If I had moved east at that point, I would never have bought my first house. I still love my first house more than either of the two I have owned since. I love that house less because of the structure itself and more because of the wonderful things that happened to me while living there. The biggest being that it was the house I was living in when David and I first connected. But there are plenty of smaller, happy memories that I also associate with that house.
Admittedly, those were good times, but, I am a firm believer of not living in the past. I prefer to live in the present, with an eye towards the future. My present isn’t perfect, but then again, whose is? Overall, I am fairly content with my life right now. I have great friends, both near and far. I have a good relationship with my brother and his adorably wonderful daughters. I am still able to connect well with my father. I have the flexibility to go east on a fairly regular basis and see family and friends. And here at home, David and I just celebrated our 14th year of marriage.]]>
Surprisingly enough, my problem is not a food coma. I ate a proteinful lunch, including a top-off of caffeine. I am wide awake and functional. So what’s the problem? Why am I and several of my fellow classmates, completely checked-out? In my not-so-humble opinion, the teacher is at fault.
What is the teacher doing wrong? First and foremost, he doesn’t seem to believe in breaks. That means hours upon hours of him rattling off code in our general direction. No time to pause and process. Not even time to take a bio break without missing critical content.
I have taught all-day classes and admittedly, it is hard. Attention invariably wanders. Especially after lunch. I have found that the best way to manage a long day’s worth of content is to continually read the audience. Too many glassy eyes? Take a break. It doesn’t even need to be a long break. A two-minute long stretch/stand break is better than nothing.
The teacher did do some things right. He did give us plenty of time for hands-on coding in the class. And at first he was really responsive to calls for help. But, as the day went on, he pretty much just pushed through. At one point he asked the class if anyone was confused. Several of us (myself included) raised our hands. Did he ask us what confused us? Did he back up and go back over the material he had just covered? No and no.
Why did he bother to ask whether we confused? I guess he just meant it rhetorically. Speaking only for myself, that is when I checked out. I was lost and he continued to just power through with new material. Sadly, that means that I only got half of the material I signed up for. The good news? the class was free. But my time isn’t.
It’s true that I could have just gotten up and left. But that felt really rude to me. So I stayed. But, I did take the time to kvetch about it.]]>
If necessary, there is the possibility of inserting a pin in her shoulder so she can regain maximum range of motion. However, her orthopedist said that at 67, he would recommend against surgery and have my mother live with limited functionality. Unlike my father, my mother is a healthy 67 year old who lives an active life. She works out at the gym and swims several times a week. She takes adult ed classes and works as a substitute teacher. I think she is too young to have to live with limited range of motion.
Fortunately for all of us, my sister-in-law (an oncologist) agrees with me. She sees no obvious reason why my mother wouldn’t be a good candidate for surgery. In the past, my SIL has been willing to intervene on behalf of my father and talk doctor-to-doctor to get the real scoop on why procedures were or were not recommended. I strongly suspect that if my mother would indeed benefit from surgery, she would be willing to call my mother’s orthopedist and find out what his concerns are with surgery. And, if my SIL doesn’t agree with the orthopedist’s concerns, my mother can go seek a second opinion.
I find my mother’s current situation to be a worrisome harbinger of the future, both my mother’s and my own. I don’t like the idea of doctors playing it so safe that they don’t factor in quality of life. I understand fully why my father is not a candidate for surgery. He is frail and the risk of complications is significantly greater than the impact of his hernia on his quality of life.
But we aren’t talking about my father. We are talking a healthy woman who is in good physical shape. The cost side of this cost/benefit equation is limiting my mother’s ability to be active. Compromising her ability to retain a high standard of both physical and mental health.
Hopefully this will all be a mute point and my mother’s bone will heal on its own. But if surgery would improve her overall recovery, I have no intention of sitting idly by. I intend to do all I can to help my mother stay active for as long as possible.]]>
Right now my mom is still pretty doped up. Apparently, her latest injury hurts way more than when she broke her collarbone a whole bunch of years ago. When I last spoke to her a couple of days ago, the pain was manageable with pain meds. She tried one night of sleeping with minimal meds and it was a disaster.
Those recent events really only account for the end of the week. What was I doing before that? I have to admit that I have absolutely no idea. It is amazing how certain events can just dwarf all the minutiae of everyday life. Fortunately, I have my calendar to help me remember what I was up to.
And…it all comes back to me. I think I was just blocking (most of) it out. The stuff I was blocking was me running hither and yon for most of the week. The part I feel lame about forgetting was my 14th wedding anniversary. I actually did manage to remember my anniversary on the day, which is what matters most. Early on David and I learned not to place too much import on the actual day of our anniversary. That’s because we have had fairly back luck with the actual day.
Bush II was (sort of) elected on our first anniversary. We spent a romantic evening yelling at the tv screen as election results were posted. I spent our second anniversary visiting a dying friend. With that kind of a start, we decided that 364 days good days a year more than made up for the crappy
things that seem to gravitate towards November 7th.
Once upon a time I used to ride my bike to and from work almost daily, take 30+ mile rides on the weekends and hike on a fairly regular basis. Then I moved to Philadelphia. Although I pretty much stopped riding my bike there (no bike lanes made it a fairly scary prospect at times), I did do yoga regularly. I also started sculling, which I still kind of miss (although I don’t miss having to get up really early to do it). We had a dog for a while, and I was the one who would usually take her for long-ish treks at the local park.
I can’t remember what my exercise routine was when I moved back to Portland. I know I did some yoga and pilates. I also know that I didn’t go back to hiking regularly. In my absence, my primary hiking buddy had developed some pretty serious knee issues and had swapped hiking for kayaking.
Then we opened CubeSpace. Yoga and pilates went out the window. Most of my exercise came from walking across Portland’s bridges to get to and from networking meetings downtown. After we closed CubeSpace in 2009, I pretty much shut down for about 2 years during a period I call the Dark Time. I have a really hard time remembering what went on during those two years. But, I am fairly confident that exercise was not a priority for me.
I am happy to say that I am well and truly passed the Dark Times. I have work that I truly enjoy. My continuing education is going very well. I am reconnecting with Portland’s open source tech scene, which I had actively avoided for years because I found it to be too painful. And now, I am ready to restart some kind of exercise routine. That is, assuming I can break through the inertia of self-employment.
I both love and hate the flexibility of working for myself. I love that I can arrange my schedule so I can go to things like #PDXBreakfast and go east with some regularity. I hate that there are no truly off hours. My morning routine starts with me in my pajamas, sitting in front of my SAD light every morning, checking my email. Usually the laptop makes an appearance and before I know it several hours have gone by. By then, I usually have a sleeping cat ensconced on my lap. As anyone with a cat knows, there is some powerful force that prevents one from moving a dreaming cat. So, I stay where I am until the risk of my bladder bursting breaks the sleeping cat spell and I get up.
If I were a good person, I would use that window of opportunity to change into real clothes and go for a walk around the neighborhood. Instead, I usually use it to grab a bite to eat before going back to work. I know I need to re-prioritize my day so that walking is an integral to my routine as working. But, I am not there yet. It is, however, a goal I am working towards. Fortunately for me, I love walking in Portland rain (the misty drizzle, not the downpours we have been getting lately), so the fact that Autumn is upon us doesn’t faze me. I just need the willpower to breakthrough my own inertia.]]>
For the last couple of days my niecelettes have been extending me invitations to move into their house. While that is very generous of them, it just isn’t going to happen for a whole bunch of reasons. I have countered my niecelettes offer with one of my own. I have suggested that I pack them in my suitcase, sneak them out of the house and bring them home with me. Their response is that my suitcase is too little and that they are too big. All valid points, sadly.
I sometimes fantasize about seeing my niecelettes without the energy drain that comes from cross-country travel and jetlag. Being able to leave without at least one tantrum from a girl who just doesn’t want to say goodbye to me because she knows it will be too long before I return again. I wish I could go to their plays and recitals and not just watch the mediocre video recorded on someone’s phone.
But for now, a fantasy is all it is. I am really not a fan of New York and honestly have no desire to live here again. I love my home, my city and my friends. And there is no way my niecelettes are going to move west until they are out on their own. My brother is a true-blue New Yorker and my heart belongs in Portland (or at the very least on the west coast). I wouldn’t want my brother to change who he is anyway. I think he is a fine man, father and rabbi as he is. But the fact remains that I really love some people who live on the east coast and I just wish I could see them more often.]]>
A friend of mine recently said that her one-year-old daughter is now a real person. I remember saying the same thing about my niecelettes. But now that they are about to turn six, I am amazed at who they are becoming. During my time here I have had the opportunity to have actual conversations with both girls. While my niecelettes still don’t have the words or constructs to tell me everything about their lives, I can see what they can’t say by watching them play. They both use their play time as a way to process their life experiences. Everything from working out conflicts with friends to solidifying the lessons they learn in their classrooms. My favorite example was listening them sing songs and prayers the way they hear them. When my brother or I try to correct them, they very clearly and firmly tell us that we are the ones who have the words wrong.
On one of my first days here, A asked whether I was here to see them or my father. The answer, obviously, is both. But what she was really asking was who is more important to me. I didn’t really know how to answer that question. How can I explain to a child that I adore with my whole being that right now she is not the primary reason I came east? That my time with my father is slipping away and every moment I spend with him is precious? I did my best in trying to explain that Zeyde (grandfather in Yiddish) is sick and it is important that I see him to make him feel better. She seem satisfied with that answer and let the issue drop.
I am not the only one who feels the pressure of time. Yesterday, when I went to see my father (who had remembered that I had told him the night before that I would be coming to see him in the morning, which buoyed my spirits) he told me he had been wondering if this would be our last visit together. I told him that his health was not that precarious and I would be back to see him in about 2 months. He clarified that he wasn’t worried about dying before my next visit. He was more worried about not recognizing me. I reminded him that his most recent cognitive test (which I had been there for) showed a slight improvement in his cognitive abilities. But neither of us were satisfied with my response. We are both acutely aware of the ticking clock. We both know that when it is time for me to go, we may be saying our final goodbyes.]]>
As expected, I was woken up this morning by an adorably shy niecelette. According to all reports, N gets really excited about my arrival, but she still needs about 10 minutes to warm up to me. But after she gets over her initial shyness, she becomes a little chatterbox. After a little bit, her sister came downstairs to join us. Then the two of them both started talking at once, desperate to share every little detail of their lives with me.
Since the girls woke me up, they had a chance to see me in my PJs. This morning I was wearing my Reed sweatshirt and pajama pants with frogs on them. My Reed sweatshirt has a huge, white “REED” across the chest. N, an eager reader, noticed the word on my sweatshirt and asked me what it said. I asked if she could read it, and she said I had just read it for her. Not a bad pun for a not-quite-6 year old.
Punning runs strong in my family, but my father has always been the master. He has retained much of his punning prowess, even as he slips into dementia. Many of his puns remain groan-worthy. However, I have a new appreciation for them as they provide a bridge to my father as I have known him for most of my life.
Yesterday, on the way home from the airport, my brother was telling me that the girls had recently been going through old pictures from when they were little. They were shocked to see pictures of my father kneeling down to play with them on the floor from before they could walk. They were having a difficult time reconciling theses images of their grandfather with the man they know now.
Recently they have been asking about my father and why he is so much “older” than their other grandparents. Chronologically, he has a few years on everyone else, but the real issue is’t his age, it’s his frailty. They see my father shuffle with his walker and the care we all take to protect him from falls. They also see that their other 3 grandparents are healthy and active. I’m glad that there are pictures of my father playing with his granddaughters from a time before they remember. I’m even mostly glad that N takes after her grandfather’s punning habits. Hopefully, punning will create a point of connection between N and her grandfather who loves her dearly.]]>