28 Oct 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: EveryDayStuff, gratitude, grief, LouReed, Mom
Last Thursday Mom told me she didn’t want to try to change or address her emotions. It hurts a lot. I’m trying to not let it feel like a personal rejection, but it is hard. When it counted all of my parents, Father, Step-dad, and now Mom, have always chose to not fight, to not do the work needed to stay in the world. I’m trying to remember that the depth of Mom’s mental illness makes trying seem like a task not worth doing and it isn’t that she doesn’t care enough about me to try.
Saturday was filled with the wonderful gift of a cooking lesson from a woman who has gone from “vendor” to “friend” in the years we’ve worked together to provide a tasty lunch at Open Source Bridge. She met me, and a few friends, for “coached shopping” at a new Asian supermarket. Then on to freshly made tofu. Back to our home for a flurry of cooking. It wore me out, but it was good to have that energy in the house.
Yesterday I woke up feeling like I needed a do-over. I had slept alright and got up early enough to have a soak after feeding our companion animals. I then got Mom up and got her started on her day, but was finding my morning tea was leaving me feeling a nauseous. I decided the answer was to just go back to bed for a while.
I did. I slept another 90 minutes or so and felt better for it. Then I went online and discovered the news that Lou Reed had died.
I nearly just gave up and went back to bed, but the necessity of errands drove me forth. The misty, gray day suited my lousy mood. I bemoaned my iPod, which had died recently taking my library with it. Much of it is backed up, but getting our music server going is a project we need to take on together soon. I couldn’t immediately gratify my desire to put on Lou Reed’s music, loud. I was angry at yet another loss, regardless of the inevitability of loss that is part of living.
I decided the day, with all the tiredness and sadness brought on by Mom’s declaration, combined with a moody-funk brought on by the news about Lou Reed, needed flowers. I set out with the intention of glaring down the errands, buying my damn flowers, and defying the misty grey weather by potting them on the front porch.
Then the sun came out. I got home, bought a copy of “Magic and Loss”, transferred it to the shiny new iPod CK bought for me while she was flying off on another business trip, and set to planting my flowers. I ended by sweeping down the bricks. In my bones when I sweep down a walk in chilly weather I am drawn back to sesshin. The music ended. I softly chanted some of the Diamond Sutra. I went back inside feeling more grounded.
Today I saw my acupuncturist. I shared with him that I have been feeling foolish for getting my hopes up around Mom. I so deeply hoped that our alleviating the burden of her health management, of stabilizing her health, would create a space for her to want to have a relationship with me based around something other than appointments or shopping. The reality that she doesn’t want that and no amount of my hoping and wanting it for us makes any difference is tough.
My very wise practitioner quickly responded, “Oh don’t do that. Never feel foolish for hoping. It is wonderful to have hope.”
I blinked in surprise at this swift re-framing of my feeling dumb for getting my hopes up. He then added, “You tested the bounds of that hope for your Mom. You’ve done what you could. It is alright to have had hope then found it wasn’t a possible path. It is time to move on.”
It still hurts, a lot. I’m trying to reset to new hopes for Mom. That she’ll be safe and secure. That she’ll find new friends who have more in common with her. I am not going to push it and hope for contentment or ease for her, I feel these will elude her entirely. She will always stumble on joy.
I was introduced to the song, “What’s Good”, by the late Lou Reed when it appeared on the soundtrack for one of my favorite movies, Until the End of the World. It is actually from “Magic and Loss”. I have always been really struck by the lyrics toward the end that remind us that “Life’s good (but not fair at all)”.
If things were “fair” then Mom would want a relationship with me as much as I want one with her, she’d respond to all the work I put in to try and make that happen. Sunday ended up being sunny and beautiful. The flowers I planted graced our home. Life is good, even when it feels distinctly unfair.
Autumn Planting – Portland, Oregon – October 27, 2013
by Lou Reed
Life’s like a mayonnaise soda
And life’s like space without room
And life’s like bacon and ice cream
That’s what life’s like without you
Life’s like forever becoming
But life’s forever dealing in hurt
Now life’s like death without living
That’s what life’s like without you
Life’s like Sanskrit read to a pony
I see you in my mind’s eye strangling on your tongue
What’s good is knowing such devotion
I’ve been around, I know what makes things run
What good is seeing eye chocolate
What good’s a computerized nose
And what good was cancer in April
Why no good, no good at all
What good’s a war without killing
What good is rain that falls up
What good’s a disease that won’t hurt you
Why no good, I guess, no good at all
What good are these thoughts that I’m thinking
It must be better not to be thinking at all
A Styrofoam lover with emotions of concrete
No not much, not much at all
What good is life without living
What good’s this lion that barks
You loved a life others throw away nightly
It’s not fair, not fair at all
Oh, baby, what’s good?
Not much at all
Hey, baby, what’s good?
Not much at all
But not fair at all
29 Aug 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: EveryDayStuff, gratitude, Mom
Birthday Bouquet from my lovely in-laws – August 28, 2013 – Portland, Oregon
I turned 44 yesterday. Which makes today the first day of my 45th year.
It rather boggles the mind. Well, at least my mind.
It has been a really tough year, and then some. All the upheavals with Mom, buying a house with CK (wonderful, but wow was it stressful), moving Mom in with us. All that and continuing to work on events in the Portland tech community and try and keep on top what has becoming an increasingly demanding job. Honestly, I’m starting this new year off feeling depleted in many ways.
Work is hard. It isn’t that it was easy to begin with, but the demands have more than doubled and find I find myself having to give up or being taken off of things that would be both hard and rewarding because I need to expend ever more energy on a primary application upgrade project. Trust me, this isn’t like upgrading the OS. It is a project involving over 2300 users, mostly hostile. The vendor’s support has been appalling. I’ve found bugs, requirements gaps, and what can only be called seriously bad decisions for over a year solid. I’m worn out of having to fight my way though the next problem that shows up just as we’re supposed to “turn the corner” on the horribleness.
All that and this year it hit me that, aside from stressful periods of unemployment, I’ve been in “on call” mode since 1998. The stress of that alone is affecting my health. I also feel like what I’ve been doing at work, while building my reputation in one area, really distracts from the career change I had wanted to make 3 years ago. I’ve let my boss know this, and we’ve brainstormed some ideas, but the part I don’t feel confident about is the allocation of another headcount for our team so that I can move into a very strategic role instead of a hands-on, “tactical” role. Enterprise Reporting Architect is the title we’ve been kicking around.
Living with Mom is hard. Not a surprise, but yet still surprising in the ways it is hard. Gaining insight into the benefit of it, despite the fact that it has me living with someone who can be constantly triggering to me, is something I find myself being asked to revisit with my therapists. I still feel like there is benefit. I also feel I’m not fully ready to give up on the hope that maybe she can experience a little happiness and contentment in her life, and that I might get to enjoy seeing that.
This might explain the down-turn in posts. It has been kind of unrelenting.
There there is loss. In the past handful of years 5 people we’ve cared about have taken their lives. I still have a lot of sorrow at Jen’s death and a lingering, aching awkwardness over seeing folks from college at her memorial. Some days it feels like I remain frozen at the edge of real grief. It is just so big, and when you combine it with the layers of grief for my Mom, my childhood, all of it… well, it feels overwhelming.
So that’s the hard. Starting this year I also bring so many positives.
Despite a continuing struggle with chronic pain, including lingering neck pain from the car accident in June 2012, I am in good health. At 44 I am in better health than a few generations of women in my family before me have enjoyed. While not as active as I wish, I still am able to go for hikes, swim, and do yoga (even if the neck injury has limited me).
I have a good job, despite the fact it is really exhausting me it affords me a lot of benefits and privileges. I recognize this year that my position and work needs to change in this coming year, even if it means the anxious prospect of moving on to a new company. It has afforded me a lot of growth and I’ve been able to make time to care for Mom, which many people aren’t lucky enough to find in a company.
Buying our new home last year was so enormously stressful that it made the first home-buying experience I had seem like a big party, one where I got a house at the end. The purchase was stressful. The move was stressful, in so many ways. We’re still unpacking. All that aside, I am so fortunate to be living in our beautiful house in the trees. Birds fill our yard. We have a pond. We share a huge space for CK’s office and my studio/office space. Really, it is just such a blessing that I’m so grateful for.
CK remains a thoughtful, loving partner in our life together. Yes, it is hard sometimes, but I’m so grateful to go through those hard times together with her. We’re planning an anniversary adventure, currently with very little actually planned aside from the necessary travel arrangements, some dinner reservations, and an art exhibit to see. We really need a restful holiday together with very few plans, I’m thankful we’re able to have adventures together.
All those blessings and my house is filled with flowers. I’m pretty tickled that I’ve reached a place where buying flowers isn’t an infrequent “indulgence”. Now my regular purchases of flowers to put in vases throughout the house is just part of our grocery budget. I love seeing the bursts of color all over the house, in some ways it makes me feel more at home and settled.
I look forward to more hikes, more art-making, more laughter, more soaks in our hot tub, a healthier & happier job change, moments of small joy with Mom, and all adventures of life, both large and small, with my wife.
05 Aug 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: EveryDayStuff, gratitude, relationship dynamics
Today CK left on a business trip to Hong Kong. She’ll be attending Wikimania. She’ll be gone a week, home for 6 days, and gone for another week. September may see another week-long trip as well, although we’re planning a week together in Toronto to celebrate our third anniversary and she’ll be all mine!
Work was busy, but free from any meetings so I just focused on catching up. I was out early for acupuncture. It felt like not much during and immediately after the session, but about an hour later I was hit with a wave of anxious energy. Mom was in a funk too, understandably since it is the year anniversary since her last husband died. Regardless, it left me feeling unable to cope with dinner. I suggested we go out to get a bite to eat and I could pick up fresh basil to make a pasta dish for us tomorrow.
Mom wasn’t too disappointed when I hurried her through the market to get only the basil and some sesame stick snacks she likes on her salads. I was briefly distracted long enough to grab some fresh figs, but I reminded her we wanted to get back home so I could take the dogs for their walk.
CK has been walking the dogs up to a nearby park. It is a good walk and we’re relieved to have found a walk we enjoy. It takes about 40 minutes at a good walk. We go down to the park, up and around it, and back home.
Dickinson Park at Sunset
I’d promised CK that I’d make the effort to walk the dogs. For their sake and mine. I also promised to try to cut back on working 12-14 hour days, especially when she isn’t here to frown at me and suggest that it is bed time. I’m trying. I only worked a couple of extra hours this evening.
Mom and I got home from dinner and the market. I put on light-colored clothing, walking shoes, put the dogs into their harnesses and we set out. I was in a rush-walk mode, certain make CK cough, because I didn’t want to be walking home after dark.
We got the park and I nearly turned back before the big climb up the hill. The park really is just a big, grassy hill with a small play structure at the top, and a fantastic view. The dogs were antsy to complete the walk they know so up the hill we went despite the falling dusk.
I’m glad we did. We got to the top and got to meet a neighbor from the area. She told us that if we’re coming to the park we’ll eventually meet most of the neighbors since everyone brings their dogs there. She laughed and laughed at Dora, she’d grown up with dachshunds and the site of Dora really made her smile.
It turned out her 16-year old dog came from the same amazing shelter where we’d adopted Dora from. She’d had her for 11 years and they’ve been coming to the same park for that long. Her dog has cancer she told me, so she’s trying to come to the park as often as possible since it is such a happy place for her dog.
I offered my sympathies, my wish that they all may be at ease during this difficult time. I wished her peace and offered my name. She told me hers in return; this might be the one time a human’s name sticks when I usually just manage to remember the dog’s name.
It made us late starting back. I could see CK’s worried face. It was worth it though. The talk with the new neighbor was just the reason we went any way, just the reason the dogs convinced me to climb the hill (I nearly always need convincing).
I also got the pleasure of getting to watch bats swooping and diving around the park. In the evening, when we often are there, we watch swallows doing it, but being late meant the bats were coming out. I love bats and laughed with delight several times as one would flutter past.
We walked back home so briskly the dogs gave me wondering looks. Dora’s sleeping on the sofa beside me. I’ve been working a little and listening to music.
06 Jun 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: EveryDayStuff, garden, gratitude
Yesterday kind of sucked. CK left for the Bay Area for a few days. We’re doing this full-court press at work trying to tune up the application stack, complete with vendor-dispatched consultant. I’ve already put in 40+ hours by end of day Thursday.
I’m giving up teaching my yoga class. I’ve had to cancel so many times this year, most of those related to caring for Mom. Some due to the car accident last year. It hurts so much to give up the thing that brings light and joy at the end of a stressful week. Teaching centers me in a way like no other Practice.
So off I go into Thursday, thinking merely, “At least the week is nearly done.”
There were finally some successes with the work stuff. That and some ongoing respect for me as a profession from the consultant has gone a long way toward making this grueling effort bearable.
I stopped at the market to pick us up dinner, “Hot Woks”, and get fresh flowers. I’d been informed that this market, easy to get to on the way home from my office, gets fresh flowers every Thursday. Fresh flowers around the house is an indulgence that I so enjoy.
Today I picked out a few things to be wrapped together, having them hold the bundle while I got dinner. When I came back out one of the women who works there held out two more bundles of roses to me. They are a little browned on the outer petals, but otherwise still fresh. Being slightly faded, they were going to be tossed away. I laughed in delight and surprise, saying of course I’d love more flowers!
Only Slightly Faded Roses – June 6, 2013 – Portland, Oregon
Bemused at this lovely gift in my day I arrived home to discover another gift. The lovely man who maintains our landscaping built a fountain in the pond today!
Simple Stones and Water – June 6, 2013 – Portland, Oregon
A fountain! It is an amazing gift. He knew I’d wanted to do a water feature to help move the water, getting more air in, and also have the wonderful sound of it. The water sound would help mask the sound of the freeway in the distance.
Now we have one. He has a Kwan Yin he’s adding to adorn the top stone.
16 Mar 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: gratitude, Haiku, poetry, Portland
Spring invites haiku.
Sunlight on maple.
Coral bark blazes alight.
Beckoning to spring.
The view off the deck, March 16, 2013, Portland, Oregon
16 Dec 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: EveryDayStuff, gratitude
King Tides at Strawberry Hill + Big Log – December 2012
This has been a heck of a weekend for weather drama. Meteors my first night and the sound the wind trying to pull the cabin off the hill, with sea foam flying outside my windows as though it was snow! All the while seals and seabirds bob along in storm-tossed waves as if this wasn’t anything big.
CK wouldn’t enjoy being here, exposed and alone out on this bluff as I am. This tiny cabin is literally buffeted on all sides by powerful wind (gusting at up to 70 miles-per-hour) and the waves are truly enormous. She finds these sounds of water and weather unnerving, but for some reason they comfort me. I’ve been cultivating a mental image of the sea foam being blown through the air as a reminder that my little collection of anxiety and fear is so small, that wind like this just blows it all right through me.
After the terrible headache yesterday, I woke up feeling rested and clear. I went out to try and find treasure in the low, morning tide. I’ve come to the conclusion that winter is not agate-hunting weather as I only found one in my time out in the morning. I did find several interesting rocks and a few very interesting pieces of driftwood. I came back, ate breakfast, warmed up and went out again to watch the enormous waves.
I’m fascinated by the seabirds and seals out in the pounding surf, just bobbing along. I anthropomorphize them as “intrepid”, but I’m called to re-read the Genjo Koan and find them instead,in their element.
Played with ATCs today and decided that I’d stay in. There’s Christmas celebrations happening in the lighthouse keeper’s cabin at Heceta Head, but the wind makes driving a challenge and I’d rather stay safely, warmly inside even if it sounds like I’ll be blown right off the bluff!
Today has even inspired a bit of poetry. Of course, within minutes of writing it I was telling myself it was too pretentious to be shared. Maybe so, but here it is regardless:
They name them
And stronger than
The usual waves
Blown by the
Some might say
God is in those waves.
Proof of a Masculine deity
Pounding the shoreline.
Others will say
There is nothing more
Than mundane science
In the shifting of water
As dictated by a rock in space.
Some see the tides
Called by the Moon
As the sure evidence
Of a Divine Feminine.
None of these arguments
Matter to the waves
Or the rocks they crash into.
No conversation changes
The way the wind catches
The top of each crest or
Is considered by the intrepid
Sea birds floating amidst
The relentless movement
Of the sea toward the shore.
15 Dec 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: EveryDayStuff, gratitude, healing
I’ve never actually taken time away without some “reason” for it. Work trips are obvious and account for the largest number of solo trips I’ve taken. I’ve also spent time away on my own to pursue yoga training, definite structure there. Then there’s Zen retreat, which is nothing but structure and silence. One weekend meditating and learning about calligraphy from Kaz Tanahashi. A multi-day, Buddhist retreat for women with some guided writing practice.
Trips alone have to involve purpose. That’s my way of allowing myself to go. I have to work for it.
So to be here, perched on a little bluff, in a tiny cabin, overlooking the crashing waves and buffeted by howling winds, is entirely new. A retreat from the humming and drumming of my very busy, everyday life. A retreat from structure.
From work I enjoyed the view of the barest sliver of the new moon appearing behind clouds. Once I hit the forest a long, winding, dark, and foggy drive took up all of my attention. I was grateful to stop in Waldport for a few groceries.
I arrived to the cabin outside of Yachats to find the sky miraculously clear for winter on the Oregon coast. I bundled up in my beautiful wrap, in the two blankets provided just for the purpose of sitting on the tiny deck, and watched the night. The vastness of sea and stars and wind and cold surrounding me.
Orion was bright and huge above the forested slopes of the mountains, with Betelgeuse glowing intensely red. The brightest glow, streaking out toward the sea and seeming to illuminate a patch in the center of my field of vision, was Jupiter. Eventually, my cold attention was delighted by a meteor, one of the Geminids peaking so beautifully this year. It streaked directly overhead, shooting out over the sea, or so it appeared.
This morning I searched the beach below the bluff, but struck out in my agate-hunting. In 2010 the largest agate I’ve ever found was hunted on the small beach here, but of course the rock field has changed considerably. I came back in as the rain picked up, my head pounding, and ate some breakfast while watching seals out in the waves. I lay down to watch the waves from the warm bed in front of a large window, eventually falling asleep again.
I could have gone to rock hunt elsewhere, but the cold made my head pound more. I went into Yachats, thinking I might go by a spa that a teammate at work recommended, or have a late lunch at a restaurant recommended to me. Instead I bought some crackers and soup before driving slowly through town, checking out some roads I’ve not gone down before. I stopped to watch the crashing waves from the car.
I’ve mostly rested today, my head intermittently pounding. The weather has stormed all day, the wind howling so fiercely at times that it feels like it is trying to blow us up the mountain! I made some food, ate some, read, slept some more, watched a movie, and listened to a new guided meditation one of my therapists gave me. I ate too much ice cream.
I have another full day tomorrow. I can choose to act on the impatient energy that compels me to do something (go for a hike, go to the Christmas celebration at Heceta Head, go to the spa, go rock hunt) or I could spend it inside again reading and napping. I’m trying to not make a plan, not to add structure. If tomorrow I feel like I want activity, it is available to me, but I’m just staying with the idea that it is also perfectly fine to just sit here with the sound of the waves and weather, resting.
Searching below Ocean Haven – March 2010
06 Dec 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: EveryDayStuff, gratitude
CK has insisted I do something for myself. That I go away for a long weekend. By myself.
No dogs. No Cats. No Mom. No Work. No wife.
Just a total break away from everything. Her gift to me is to take care of it all so I can well and truly rest.
I’ve been struggling with this gift, to be honest. I feel a bit guilty, like I’m leaving behind a mess to pick up. I feel like I don’t deserve such a luxury.
I don’t think I’ve ever really taken a trip like this. Any time I’ve gone away by myself it has been for work, training of some sort, or sesshin practice (which is most certainly not restful). I’ve never been in the position to afford this luxury – afford the cost or the time. I’ve never had the kind of support that would let me do something like this.
She suggested Vancouver since it is such a short flight up and I had my passport redone this year for a work trip up there. She also suggested a little one-room cottage I’ve wanted to stay in at Ocean Haven. Situated up on a bluff, separate, and complete with a cozy bed before an enormous window overlooking the rocks which are popular with the sea lions.
So next weekend I’m going. Taking off from work a little early on Friday and coming back on Monday.
I’m even starting to look forward to it.
Exploring the rocks below Ocean Haven, March 2010
25 Nov 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: EveryDayStuff, gratitude, MaryOliver, Mom, poetry
“Oriental Beauty” tea, an Oolong with peachy flavors
It has been busy. This year has been made of busy. No glorification of Busy here, just an observation. We’ll all be happy to see the end of 2012.
A lot has been done. I am filled with gratitude for all that we’ve managed to accomplish this year.
CK and I bought a new house and are renting the old one to a friend who found herself is real need of a place amenable to her companion animals.
I spoke at a conference in September in Orlando at Walt Disney World. I’ve now been at EPCOT (the leading favorite) and have ridden on the Its a Small World ride (freaky, freaky).
Work was all kinds of extra crazy around this time too. I’m ending the year with quite a lot done, CK attributes much of this to my being a workaholic (a bit) at a company full of other workaholics.
We got home. Packed. I rather dropped the ball on helping with the move, but we’ve moved on from although I’m still feeling bad about it. Working on that.
We moved and are in that limbo of not really knowing where just everything is yet.
Mom moved in with us at the end of October. We’ve already had a fire truck at the house due to a low blood sugar. We’re learning.
Yes, it is hard. Worth it, but hard.
I’m feeling rather worn down by the year and hate that it is really showing. CK suggested today that I should take a weekend away by myself to just rest. I’m thinking about it.
Took a few minutes to just sit down and have some tea before tackling the week’s grocery shopping today. We had a little bit of time this week between the holiday and a flurry of medical appointments for Mom to go to Powell’s and I picked up Mary Oliver’s book of poetry, Why I Wake Early.
The poem Bone in it really caught me for the whole cup of tea. Still has me caught, and here it is:
Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape –
and so, last week,
when I found on the beach
the ear bone
of a pilot whale that may have died
hundreds of years ago, I thought
maybe I was close
to discovering something –
for the ear bone
is the portion that lasts longest
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
like a squat spoon
with a pink scoop where
once, in the lively swimmer’s head,
it joined its two sisters
in the house of hearing,
it was only
two inches long –
and thought: the soul
might be like this –
so hard, so necessary –
yet almost nothing.
the gray sea
was opening and shutting its wave-doors,
unfolding over and over
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn’t see anything
through its dark-knit glare;
yet don’t we all know, the golden sand
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it
lest we would sift it down
into fractions, and facts –
and what the soul is, also
I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
through the pale-pink morning light.
05 Sep 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: EveryDayStuff, garden, gratitude, practice
We’re still in that constant of accelerating change around here. Moving toward light, toward positive change, but still sometimes the whoosh of it all gets rather dizzying. Yes, of course, this is why I Practice in a kind of “still. whoosh. still. whoosh. still. whoosh” way. The winding path of a householder.
Soon to become holder of houses, which feels enormous at times. CK and I are co-purchasing, it feels good to have found a home together. Today’s been a tough one; makes buying our current home seem like a lovely party where at the end I got a house.
Next week I’m speaking at a conference, this one actually directly related to the work I do in Business Intelligence. Kind of a big deal and I’m feeling under prepared, as always. Oh, and there’s packing to do.
And there’s packing to do. The house, the stuff. Trying to breathe through all of the anxiety that comes up for me around moving, even when for the better. It will hopefully be back from the conference and into a big whoosh of packing and moving. Then settling a little before Mom joins us, which has been a big part of the new house. That and reducing my commute considerably, which I’ve become resigned to but it does take a big toll on my body.
Here and there, between the whooshing, we spent a leisurely weekend celebrating my birthday quietly. I also canned 8 quarts of sauce! The garden has been very productive this year, which is a little bittersweet, but mostly I’m just enjoying the bounty!
Bounty of San Marco paste tomatoes! Portland, Oregon, August 2012