Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Birthday Reflections – 44th Edition

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.


August Stroll

CK is in Toronto this week for a team meeting. It feels like she barely returned from Hong Kong.

As the weather warmed in our new neighborhood CK finally found a Good Walk. Suitable for both dogs and humans wanting a good bit of exercise. We've been trying to walk together with the dogs as many evenings as possible. Trying to wedge some time in the Busyness to get some time together, a bonus because it is doing something for our good health together.

When she's away I try to keep up the walks for the dogs and I. Tonight we even spied a dead bird along the way. I had to laugh at this find making me think of CK, but we're definitely the type to be curious about such a thing. Were she here tonight we could have taken turns holding the dogs at bay while the other got a closer look. Having a supportive partner makes all the difference in life.

I wanted to share this walk for my Love, who I am hoping is well asleep. A poem for a late evening in mid-August is the result of that desire to share.

August Evening Walk

We walk to the park.
Really, the dogs
Walk me.
Pulling toward the
Steep hill
Covered in grass.

We arrive at the
Time when the
Last orange of
Sunset fades
To the pale
Blue-grey of
When the sparrows
Give over the
Hunt to the bats
And the frogs
Begin their songs.

We rise,

As we return it
is I who cajoles the
Dogs along toward home.
Pausing here and there
To watch them press
Warm bellies
Against cool grass.


Worth the Effort

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.