Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Solstice!

I know I have posted this poem before, but I love it, so I am posting it again (this time with the correct credits!).

The Shortest Day
by Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.


As they say in Revels: Welcome Yule!

I will be off to California tomorrow morning for a few family gatherings and the wonderful camp Harmony -- there's no better way to bid farewell to the old year and bring in the new. Happy Solstice, and, if I don't post again before then, Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Even my eyes are perfectionists...

I had my first eye exam in... well, ever, I think... today and let me tell you, I came out extremely thankful for my good vision (20/15 to be precise, and yes, I'm gloating a bit). The whole process was utterly fascinating, from checking out the crazy apparatus with all the lenses and dials that they make you look through (like some torture device from a sci-fi novel), to the bright yellow numbing eye-drops (when I saw that my drip-catching tissue was bright yellow I immediately asked if I could check out my eyes in the mirror to see if they had changed color [they had a bit, but not dramatically]).

And then she dilated my pupils and I had the strangest experience of all. It was totally bizarre to "watch" my vision deteriorate as the dilating drops took effect, and to gradually have my vision get blurrier and blurrier. I got up out of the chair and just started walking around the room looking at things, trying to read labels or distinguish details, and then going back to the same things a few minutes later to find that they were unintelligible. (Pretty much the opposite of Graham's experience after LASIK.) It was like my brain was playing tricks on me -- I would try to focus my eyes like I always do, but they just wouldn't focus, and things remained obstinately blurry. I pretty much retained my distance vision throughout, but my near vision was abysmal. The whole thing served to make me a hundred times more thankful that I was already that I was blessed with good vision and that I don't have to deal with fuzzy edges on a regular basis. Oh, and I was also happy to find that I am not far-sighted, there are no other problems with my eyes, and I don't need to have another checkup for a good number of years. Hooray! :)

After my exam, I stopped by the bike shop downtown to purchase new brake pads. (Since I haven't yet managed to get my bike to a shop, I figured I should try bringing the shop to the bike.) I asked a guy behind the counter for help, since I wasn't sure exactly what I needed... and then, as he started laying my options out on the counter, realized that I would have to explain to him that I couldn't actually read any of the product information, since I couldn't focus my eyes on anything. He was amused, and very nicely helped me out (after making eye contact and remarking, "Wow, your pupils are huge!"). So now I have new brake pads to put on my bike -- hooray! Hopefully I will be riding to work again come the new year.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Catching up

'Tis the season for a number of things, one of which seems to be catching up with friends I haven't seen in a while. This week has been wonderfully full of planned, spur-of-the-moment, and chance encounters with people I haven't seen in some time, and it's been great! Paul came over on Tuesday and chopped vegetables for a veggie pot pie; DeMara came over on Thursday and showed me pictures of the house she just bought (woohoo!!); on Friday I was on campus at PSU and spontaneously decided to knock on Virginia's door and see if she was there -- and she was, and we had a nice catch-up chat; and this morning I ran into Lisa as I was walking down the Park Blocks to the farmers market.

I am now munching my last morsel of Maine maple candy and thinking about another someone I haven't seen in a while (three guesses who...), and starting to get very excited about coming down to CA for Christmas and Harmony. At the same time, of course, I'm realizing that I now have less than a week left at home before Christmas, and that I am completely unprepared in the gifts department (and the clean laundry department, but I won't go into that here). So, if last week was the week of being out and/or otherwise social every night, this week will be the week of staying home and getting creative. :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Know Thyself


When you can take joy in the rising sun
and greet the night like a welcome friend;
When you can find comfort in the unconditional truth of the seasons;
When you know that you yourself are nothing
but the wind and the stars cascading
over the earth in an endless wave of compassion;
When you can look deeply into yourself
as into a still lake under the moon
and listen to the joyful singing of your heart;
When you can be completely still
yet utterly, vibrantly, jubilantly alive …
This is when you know yourself.
This is when you are whole.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Thrilling Discovery

I just discovered that my digital camera has a black and white setting -- that's so exciting! :) (Especially since I just put new color film in my borrowed SLR camera.) Unfortunately, the battery ran out as I was exploring things to take black and white pictures of, so I didn't get a whole lot of pictures. But now I have something new to play with tomorrow! :)

Here are a couple of photos I did manage to get. It's funny, things I would never think to take color pictures of somehow all of a sudden look good in black and white. It's like having new eyes!

Yes, I know this one is in color. I put it in to compare it to the black and white one below. Pthhh!


A black and white version of the same. It needs a less distracting background, but that's where the light was.


I liked the shadows in this one. Who ever thought my beat up kitchen chair could look cool in black and white? :)


Yes, I know I need a new mirror. No, it's not dirty, just really old.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Reflection

Ripples on a pond
Memories, drop by drop, fall
Reflection unfolds

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It's Official

February 1 will be my last day at OHSU - yay! My manager took the news quite well, considering. She was vacillating between excitement for me and "ohmygodwhatarewegoingtodowithoutyou?" which I expect to be the reaction from the rest of my team as well (though Catherine will be outright devastated, poor thing). So, it's still mostly a secret, but secrets will out, and this one probably will within the next week. It feels so good to be moving forward!

Zest

I love these moments in life of extended periods of blissful happiness. They often seem to come in the middle of or following a big life shakeup, as if I'm finally waking up and realizing that I'm okay, and I'm going to be okay, that life is good -- wonderful, in fact -- and exists only to be enjoyed to the fullest.

I had one of these periods in August of 2005, when I scribbled this on a piece of paper by the side of the couch I was sleeping on at Mom's:

It's a deep excitement
that keeps me awake at night,
Not some superficial
spur-of-the-moment giddiness,
but a deep-seated eagerness,
an excitement for life itself
and a readiness
for whatever it may bring.
I'm excited about my life.
I love where I live.
I love how I'm choosing to live.
I love the consciousness with which
I choose to live
and act every day.
I am in the thick of my life
and I totally love it.
I get so excited about life
and so eager for
whatever comes next
that sometimes
I lie awake at night
not sleeping for excitement.


And I'm having one of those periods now. I was pretty darn depressed after my bike accident and ensuing cold, but I finally managed to make a positive mental shift on Friday, and my whole world has changed. Everything is making me happy, and nothing seems to dampen it (not even the huge storm we had this weekend -- I love the rain!). I was even happy during my biology final. Not just "not stressed," but actually happy! (I know, I'm strange. But I finished that 2-hour final in 35 minutes!)

I've been smiling all the time, and laughing a whole lot, just finding joy everywhere (and absolute fascination watching raindrops strike puddles on the street). It's a skippy-jumpy-bouncy energized kind of happy, and it feels fantastic. I'm feeling completely ready for the next step in my life, which is a good thing, because today is the day I get to walk into my manager's office and happily tell her that I will be leaving OHSU next month. On second thought, maybe I'd better try to tone down the overjoyed happiness a bit so I don't give the wrong impression. :P

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Limited Mobility

I can't believe I used to take the bus to work, spending countless hours waiting for buses, waiting in traffic, waiting for a transfer, and then getting to my destination hopefully on time. Granted, I still prefer busing over driving, but still... I guess I've been spoiled for the last several years, being able to bike or walk to work and school, and most other places I need to go.

This week, though, I'm stuck taking the bus (which takes about 10 minutes longer to get to work, and today took me 30 minutes longer to get home -- and it wasn't even raining!). My wrists still aren't up to biking par, and I don't want to test them out at a time when I really need them... like for getting to work, or getting home from my midterm tomorrow night. So I'm practicing patience with the buses this week, and will try out some gentle test-biking this weekend when I can walk myself home if my wrists aren't ready yet.

I guess I've always taken my ability to get around by bike for granted, never assuming that there would be a time I wouldn't be able to rely on that type of transportation. When I moved to my current apartment, I was glad that my new house was by a bus line that goes downtown, but figured I'd never have to use it, since it's so easy to bike there. Well, I now have a renewed gratitude for my high degree of personal mobility in my normal, healthy state, and a renewed gratitude for Portland's generally excellent public transportation system... even if I can get there faster by bike. :)

In other news, my stitches are out, and now I just have an oddly-shaped lump on my chin. It's not really visible, but it sure feels strange! It was basically a small chunk of fat that they sewed back into my chin, so it will be interesting to see if the lumpiness subsides as it reincorporates, or if I will have a permanently lumpy chin from now on (go ahead, start making up nicknames). The skin seems to have healed over pretty well, so hopefully the scar won't be too bad, though they say it takes 6 months to a year to really be able to tell.

I will be so happy when I can get on my bike again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"If you put makeup on your other eye and went downtown, you'd look normal!"


Um, thanks... I think.

In other news, apparently you don't know how much you use your pinky finger until you injure it. Turns out I use mine all the time! It's like a tail, infinitely useful for balance and stability in all sorts of situations (brushing my teeth, taking the milk bottle out of the fridge, holding the camera steady...). I don't think it's broken, but it sure hurts sometimes!

Yesterday was a very sore day, but I'm better now, thanks to a couple of hot baths and a terrific shoulder/neck rub that loosened up some of the major knots. My wrists still aren't happy at all, nor is the aforementioned pinky finger, but I assume my stitches are working and my chin is healing, so that's good. Also, I changed my flight and will be flying to CA today instead of tomorrow - yay! As long as I keep this band-aid on my chin, it should be difficult to over-stuff myself. :P Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Monday, November 19, 2007

My First Stitches

My Monday has not gone according to plan. But then, who plans to have another bicyclist pull out in front of them without a glance (and without listening to the mad ringing of one’s bike bell), on a wet and slippery downhill slope, causing one to slam on both brakes and flip head first over the handlebars into the pavement because the back brake is in need of replacement and the front brake caught first? Yes, folks, I just got back from the emergency room about an hour ago with my first ever stitches (not counting the dissolvable ones I got when my wisdom teeth were removed, though the numb-jaw feeling of having been to the dentist is ominously similar). Three of them. In my chin. Black ones. With big knots on the ends. For a week.

The semifinal toll of scrapes and bruises and soreness (I’m sure I’ll find more tomorrow when the shock has worn off): Hole in the chin with flap of fat & skin (thoroughly cleaned and sutured), slightly scraped nose, big lump over the right eyebrow (which threatens to turn purple in a few hours and develop into a beautiful black eye), skinned left knee, small skinned area on the chest (from a snap on my raincoat), badly skinned and sore right pinky finger, really bruised palms (thank goodness for padded bike gloves – no skinned palms!), and pain in both wrists when I turn them (no fractures, though). Tomorrow I expect to add some significant back and neck soreness and overall stiffness to the list. Oh, and a bloodstained white turtleneck (I knew I should have worn red today).

Many thanks go to the two very kind gentlemen who stopped and picked me (and my bike, and all of my stuff) off the ground and took the time to make sure I was okay, to the gentleman who allowed me to borrow his cell phone to “call in injured” to work, and most of all, to Catherine, my coworker who insisted upon driving out to pick me up at my house and take me to the emergency room (and home again), because I was too stubborn to admit I needed medical attention (and, by the time I got myself home (yes, on my bike), not in any condition to seek it). There are some truly wonderful people in this world.

The irony is that I was going to go to the bike shop after work today and get a new set of brakes. Maybe I should get an air horn while I’m at it. The other biker never had a clue what she caused – she just kept right on pedaling and never heard a thing. At least I managed to avoid a collision in which two people would get hurt.

Please, everybody, if you ride a bike, ALWAYS wear your helmet. It may not be able to help you predict the actions of other bikers or avoid accidents, but it can save your head – literally. Oh, and look both ways before pulling out onto a major bike thoroughfare.

I think the anesthetic is beginning to wear off. Time for more ibuprofen.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Photography Lessons

I had my first photography lesson with Mary (John's mom) last night, and came home with a camera on loan to practice! I think she taught me just enough to make me think I know what I'm doing, even though I really don't. But she also lent me a few great books, so I can read up on how the camera works and figure out if I'm doing things right -- because I can't see my pictures as I go along like with a digital camera! :P I am going to be very good and write down the settings I use for each shot, though, so I can go back later when I get the film developed and figure out how I could have improved each one.

Mary also said that her favorite darkroom teacher may be teaching a class close by during the winter quarter, so we may take that together (she uses it more as a workshop, since she already knows how to do most of her own developing, but I would learn a ton). I'm excited! It will be neat to "take photographs" instead of just "shooting pictures."

Friday, November 16, 2007

GRE-Free

Well, all I can really say is, I'm glad that's over!

The fallout (highest score is 800):
Verbal: 650 (I thought I did much better than this, but apparently I didn't)
Quantitative: 690 (not bad for an anthro major!)
Analytical Writing: I'll know in two weeks

It was quite an adventure getting to the testing location. I must say, I am eternally grateful for Portland's network of "Bike Boulevards," complete with signs, distances, and street markings. Unfortunately, the best bike directions in the world don't do anything about the fact that it's raining outside, so I sat my test completely soaked (and progressively colder, with the fan from the computer blowing directly onto my hands), and then, when my jeans had almost dried to merely damp, I got on my bike to go home. I had to wring out my jeans when I got home, and it will probably take my raincoat all weekend to dry. But I'm nice and toasty warm now, no harm done. :)

Hooray for not having to take the GRE again! (At least, not for another 5 years or however long the scores last....).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Overheard/seen in Portland

A man and a woman are walking down the street, arguing. The man steps off the sidewalk into an alcove doorway and stands facing the door while the woman walks on. After continuing to walk and rant for a few steps, the woman notices that she has lost her companion. She stops, turns around to look for him, and, when she sees him, asks, "What are you doing there?"

His response (still facing the door): "I'm hiding."

I walked past them at this point and did not catch any more, but somehow I don't think it worked. :}

Friday, November 09, 2007

Innovate or Die

I just found out about the Innovate or Die Pedal-Powered Machine Contest. It makes me wish I knew how to do things with batteries and electronics so I could design something cool. I particularly like the pedal-powered washing machine (watch the video below). The contest runs September 19 - December 15, and I'm rather surprised there haven't been more entries so far. It would be awesome if this could become something as well-known and popular as solar car competitions. But this is only the first one, so hopefully it will catch on quickly. :)

If I could build a pedal-powered machine, it would probably be a small oven so I could bake cookies by pedal power. :) What would you build?

~~~ The "Green Machine" pedal-powered washing machine:

Friday, November 02, 2007

Don't tell my co-workers...

… But I’m quitting my job in January. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and mentioned it to a few people when I was down in CA last weekend, but I hadn’t realized that I had actually made the decision until I noticed things like this happening all week:
- My co-worker told me that she had heard that, in January, she and the rest of the team would finally get to move their offices up to the hill to join us in the Career Center (they’re currently about a mile away, which gets frustrating). My outward response: “That’s fantastic! It will be so great to have the whole team together at last!” My inward addition: “But, really, I don’t actually care all that much, because I won’t be here anymore.”

- We just got a new manager, and she has set up a half-day team strategic planning meeting for next week. In the midst of trying to prepare for it, all I can think of is, should I tell her before the meeting that I’m leaving so that we can use the time to develop a plan for hiring and training a replacement, or should I wait until afterward so the meeting isn’t awkward with everybody knowing I’m walking out on them?

So, I guess my mind has made itself up without me for once. :P The plan is to (at some point, probably soon) tell my boss and my co-workers, so that we can put out the job announcement and go through the interviewing process, hopefully in time to hire somebody about a week before I leave for my Christmas and Harmony vacation. I can train the person, then go on vacation and leave him/her at the office. Then I’ll come back from vacation for a week or so to answer all the questions that came up and tie up any loose ends (and make sure I get paid for that vacation time!), and then I’ll be out of there! (Side note: Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the people that I work with, and I will be honestly sorry to leave them behind. But the job’s not right for me, so I will be glad to get out of there!)

What am I going to do after I leave my job, you ask? Well, for starters, I’m going to get back on a decent sleep schedule. Then I’m going to start doing all of the things that need to get done but that I’ve been too busy with work to do, and then move on to all the other things that I want to get done but that I’ve been too busy with work to do. Things like volunteering, taking guitar lessons, doing yoga, exploring Portland on my bike, going to community events and lectures and meetings, and just participating more fully in my life in general. Because work isn't my life, and my life isn't work. Yes, I’ll have to find a way to make some money in there somehow, but honestly, I’m really not worried about that at this point. I think I am finally trusting that that part will flow easily into the rest of my life once I get a few other things figured out. (Hallelujah for that! It makes moving forward so much easier.) I just need some time to relax, to explore, to figure out who I am and how I fit into this world, how I can contribute to making it a better place while being true to myself.

So, there you have it. But, shhhh! My co-workers don’t know yet…

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Halloween Poem Turns 10... And Needs a New Title

Happy Halloween! (And Happy Birthday, Monee!) I wasn't going to post my Halloween poem this year, because most of you have seen it before (probably more times than you'd like), but I'm going to after all, for two reasons:

1) Today is its 10th birthday (or writtenday, in the case of a poem, I suppose)
2) It desperately needs a new title

For those few who have not been subjected to this poem yet, I wrote it in highschool as a Halloween homework assignment. It was actually supposed to be a short story, titled "Monsters and Such," but I had no creative juices for short stories and this came out instead -- still titled "Monsters and Such" in the hopes that I would still get credit even though I'd severely bent the rules of the assignment. It shocked the living daylights out of my teacher (who gave me full credit) and classmates (several of whom asked me where I copied it from). And even after 10 years, I have to say I still think it's pretty creepy to think that I wrote something like this when I was sixteen. :)

If you can come up with a better title for this poem than "Monsters and Such" (it really shouldn't be that hard, since that's such a terrible name, but it's been 10 years and I have yet to accomplish it), please let me know!

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ll tell you a story of which the dead boast,
of ghouls and demons, of witches and ghosts
who creep into closets in the black of the night,
and fill little children with horrible fright.

These ghosts, with their vengeful spirits afire,
with hearts full of malice, bloodlust, desire;
These are what’s under the bed of your youngest.
One waits for bedtime, and then out he lunges!

He carries the child in arms made of mist,
and whispers through lips that the Devil has kissed,
“Heaven be damned, you’re in my power now.
To Satan, the King of all Hell you shall bow.”

Through Hades the innocent youngster is borne.
He sees all the people whose lives have been torn
now cowering in misery, fear, constant fright,
with hellfire and brimstones as their only light.

Souls that have sinned, and those that are damned,
all serving the Devil in this barren land.
Their decaying bodies rotting down to the bone
cause a stench no one wants to admit as his own.

As the young boy feels his stomach grow weaker,
he locks eye to eye with the deadly Grim Reaper.
The long bloody scythe held high in his hand,
the child knows he will never escape from this land.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

On a more cheerful note, I got to wear a Halloween costume for work today, because I was helping out at my co-worker's Employee Giving Campaign event. It was quite refreshing to walk around in my pirate costume all day instead of my normal all-too-professional gack. Arrrrr! :) Unfortunately, I missed the "Tour of Untimely Departures" at the cemetery near my house, because I had class tonight -- and it wasn't even a very good lecture. Grrrrr.

I hope nobody knocks on my door tonight, because I didn't even think about buying any candy! But then, I'm going to bed soon, so I wouldn't answer anyway! Happy Halloween from the world's biggest party pooper! :}

Monday, October 29, 2007

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Did anybody else get this in the mail today and wonder what on earth has happened to Planned Parenthood?



I suppose it was effective in one way, because it got me to at least open the envelope instead of chucking it directly into the recycling.... but, still. What a bizarre (and potentially very self-defeating) way to request donations, especially when the first things you see inside the envelope are



and a donation form.

Is it just me, or is this slightly disturbing?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Successful Surprise... And a Surprisingly Fun Trip Home

Well, I'm home safe and sound from a "surprise" visit to California for Pa's 80th birthday -- happy birthday, Pa! :) Of course, by the time the weekend actually rolled around I think just about everybody knew I was coming... except Pa -- I have to give Monee a huge amount of credit for managing to keep the secret. It was wonderful to see everybody, to talk about some of the things that have been filling up my consciousness and my subconsciousness recently, in person, with the people whose insight and wisdom and support I value most. It was also good to just get "away" for a brief time; there is something about physical separation from one's normal surroundings that enables a fresh perspective. So, I'm thankful for both of those side benefits of the visit. Of course, it was all too short, and I had to come home this evening, but at least I have my Thanksgiving visit to look forward to. And I actually had a highly amusing flight home, which cheered me up considerably.

You know you're in for a good plane flight when, just before takeoff, the flight attendant asks you to "please be sure that your window shades are all the way open, because we're going to go really... really... fast." :) Shortly thereafter, while rapidly ascending, a few packets of peanuts zoomed past my aisle seat on the floor, toward the back of the plane. I watched them pass, saying a silent "oops" for the person who dropped them... until I realized that the flight attendant sitting in the front facing the cabin was pulling handfuls of peanut packets out of the cabinet and sending them down the aisle like bowling balls. Pretty soon everybody in the aisle seats caught on and was trying to catch the peanuts, so hardly any more made their way back to where I was, but it was fun nonetheless. When we landed, during the big "whoosh" when the plane is slowing down really fast (I think that's an accurate and non-contradictory statement), the attendant turned on the intercom and said "Whoooaaaahhh, boy!" and started making horse whuffling noises and clip-clop-clip-clop sounds as the plane slowed down. I like flight attendants with a sense of humor. :)

So, it was a good visit. And, with all such things nowadays, I came home with some things clearer in my mind and others newly opened up for questioning. But answers are beginning to formulate, so I am hopeful. Thank heaven for family.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Strengthening my (follow your) heart muscles

“Really big, but not very strong.” That’s how a physical therapist described my calf muscles earlier this year when I finally went in to investigate my prolonged shin problems. I was shocked and, to tell the truth, slightly offended: after ten years of morris and social dancing, I never expected anybody to accuse me of having weak calves. (It was like when the makeup designer told me I needed to use stage makeup to “enhance” my eyebrows when I was in the Revels – I wanted to say, “Are you kidding? People already tell me I look like Frida Kahlo!” (Check out the photos on this page and tell me if you don’t agree.)) But since then, I have dutifully done my physical therapy exercises every morning to strengthen my calves and shins and hips (I leave my eyebrows unenhanced, however).

I think I also need to work on strengthening my “follow your heart” muscles. In theory, these muscles are incredibly large – I want more than anything else to change my life to align more closely with my ideals and goals. In practice, however, I continually run into obstacles that (I allow to) prevent me from moving forward in that direction. Obstacles such as what I call my “psychological money block” – the need for financial security and the knowledge that I will have enough income in the future to support myself (note to self: think in the present). Perceived obstacles such as not having enough of the nebulously defined “experience” to pursue the path I want (what kind of a Catch 22 is this where you need experience to gain experience?).

So, I’m working on baby steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle – sort of like emotional/spiritual therapy for my follow-your-heart muscles. I’ve already reduced my hours at work under the guise of going back to school, though the deeper reason is that I simply don’t believe in the 40-hour work week. Granted, the time that this has “freed” up has been rapidly absorbed by other things (such as the aforementioned school), and I would love to work even fewer hours, but at least it’s a somewhat healthier balance (while still providing most of the financial security I cling to). A future step (maybe not the next step, but definitely a step) is to get out of this job altogether and find something better suited to me (mmm, wouldn’t it be nice to have a job that I would do even if I weren’t getting paid for it?). Meanwhile, I’m investigating volunteer opportunities, starting with Hands on Greater Portland, which offers one-time or short-term projects rather than asking for a long-term commitment (thanks to Graham for reminding me about the Hands On network). A future step (once I free up more time for non-employment) is to commit to a more in-depth volunteer program(s) to which I can devote more time and energy, and which would provide the opportunity to gain experience, get to know other people with similar interests, and let me feel that I’m giving something substantial back to my community. I want to move toward a more service-oriented lifestyle, and volunteering seems to be a good way to start.

For some reason, I’m really good at making up excuses not to follow my heart. But I’m not going to do that anymore. That’s my commitment to myself from now on, and anybody reading this has my full permission to hold me to it (please!).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude

That has got to be the coolest name for a ballet that I have ever heard. :) And it's one of the three ballets that I got to see for free last night! Due to a string of simultaneous lucky coincidences (unexpectedly encountering John outside his building as I was riding my bike home, while he was on the phone with his friend Marenda, while Marenda was searching for somebody to share her pair of free ballet tickets for that night), I was invited (well, okay, I really kind of invited myself...) to go see A Midsummer Night's Dream by the Oregon Ballet Theater. Only, it wasn't just Midsummer -- it was their "Germanic Lands" program, which included two short ballets, then an intermission, and then Midsummer (1 hour long). So, we got three ballets for the price of one - which was free! :)

The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude was actually my least favorite of the three (and the women's stiff, flat, bright green frisbee-like tutus were mildly distracting), even though it had the best name. The second one, Almost Mozart, was really cool. I guess you could say it was in "acts;" each act was introduced by a brief, haunting Mozart phrase from the orchestra, and then the majority of the dancing was done in silence. That in itself was very different, and it could have been terrible, but the choreography was fantastic. The first act was two men, joined by both hands the entire time. It was amazing what they could do within those limitations. In the second act they added a woman, who was sometimes linked with them, sometimes dancing inside or weaving in and out of the circle of their arms. Again, very cool. And it was pretty neat to be able to hear the dancers as well -- their feet, their breathing -- which you don't normally get in a regular ballet because of all the music.

And, of course, Midsummer was great. I was impressed at how they were able to tell the story so well without words, in only an hour. (Granted, I haven't seen Midsummer performed as a play for quite some time, but there was a recognizable story line that was easy to follow, which is a great feat to accomplish.) The goal was to make it a very family-friendly and kid-accessible show, so there were lots of kids in it as fairies, and they threw in lots of silly things as well, like a ballet-tango between the fairy queen and the donkey, which was hilarious. All in all, it was a highly enjoyable evening.

It's nice to be reminded me that the world does tend to put us in the right place at the right time, even if we don't know it at the time. :)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Top 10 Reasons I Like Biking (Even When it's Rainy & Cold)

In no particular order...

1. I get exercise without having to spend "extra" time on it -- I get at least an hour of "automatic" exercise every day just getting to & from work & school.

2. There's less bike traffic on the roads and bridges when it's rainy (and yes, in Portland, bike traffic is a commute consideration).

3. When I'm biking in the cold and rain, I can feel every part of my body so much better. A lot of the time in our current weather, I'll just wear a t-shirt and fleece vest, so the skin on my arms gets the invigorating wind chill while my body heats up from the inside -- it's such a fantastic feeling. And when the rain starts soaking through different parts of my clothing as I ride, I become more aware of those parts, how they're feeling, how they're working, getting me to my destination (albeit soaking wet). It's biking with the rain, not against it. (And no, I haven't caught cold from it yet.)

4. Doing my part to put as little carbon dioxide into the air as possible.

5. There's a bizarre sort of righteous satisfaction in "toughing it out" and biking in all weathers, when other people wimp out.

6. Not having to get on a damp, steamy bus that's crowded with sopping wet, crabby riders. (Oh, yeah, and not having to pay for the bus, either.)

7. Enjoying afternoon rainbows that drivers are going too fast to see.

8. Facing a new and unknown commute challenge every day, depending on the fickle fall weather here in Portland.

9. OHSU pays me to commute by bike when I would do it anyway.

10. I crack myself up. Somehow, I am always able to find something amusing while I'm biking (usually myself). In general, when my face isn't screwed up against the driving rain, I'm laughing. Sometimes I interrupt the "rain scowl" with laughter at how silly a face I'm making. I also talk to myself almost constantly while I bike, and apparently I'm highly entertaining It's great.

So yeah. Bike commuting. I highly recommend it. Even in the rain. :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bioneering in Spirit

This weekend, I will not be traveling to San Rafael for the 2007 Bioneers conference. I opted not to, in favor of using my vacation time and air miles to visit Quena in Maine -- and I'm very glad I did! But I will certainly miss Bioneers, for the intensive weekend of inspiration and rejuvenation, for the fantastic lectures by some incredibly intelligent and forward-thinking people, and for the community of ecologically-minded individuals from all walks of life, all working toward the same goal - "Revolution From the Heart of Nature," as the Bioneers website puts it.

Last year, Eugene, Oregon held a "Beaming Bioneers" event - a satellite conference that "beamed in" the plenaries from the main conference and then held its own workshops and lectures in the afternoons. I was holding this out as a less expensive option for me this year, but for some reason, there is no Beaming Bioneers in Oregon this year. I wonder why? One might think that, in a state so "green" (in so many senses of the term), it would be easy to garner support for such an event. But perhaps not two years in a row. Sigh. I shall have to content myself with downloading audio tracks of some of the talks after the event, and getting my annual dose of Bioneers inspiration that way.

If you're interested, check out the conference website. I think you can still drop in for portions of the day, if you're in the area - I would highly recommend it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Need to do Something Worthwhile

Do you ever get that niggling sense that you’re just not quite making your contribution to the world, not quite pulling your weight? Like there’s something else that you should be doing to take care of other people, animals, or the environment, but you just don’t quite know what it is?

I do. Sometimes it’s just a general feeling of unease that I’m not doing my part, or curiosity about what the world would be like if I made more of an effort to make it a better place. Other times, it comes in incredibly intense bursts of longing to break out of the life that I’m living, to shed the artificial parts (the job that doesn’t fit, all the “shoulds” that go along with playing the career ladder game that I don’t believe in, the hesitation to follow my passions for fear I might fail) and devote myself completely to a worthy cause that’s larger than my own struggles. Bursts so intense that the tears come from nowhere, brimming with an indefinable emotion that is a mixture of frustration, regret, excitement, fear, urgency, hope, and raw, aching desire.

At these times, I am convinced of the absolute necessity of restructuring my life to expand my horizons and make a worthwhile contribution to the earth, and I understand why people commit their energies to two years in the PeaceCorps or a lifetime of volunteer service. I ask myself, what can I do? What am I willing to give up or change in my life so that I can dedicate my energies to causes I believe in? Could I spend a month, six months, a year or more of my life volunteering my time to preserve rainforest biodiversity or restore threatened habitats in critical regions of the world? What would it take to move my life to a place where I could do that? What can I do in the meantime?

Needless to say, these things are on my mind this weekend, thanks in part to Graham’s post about Thinking Beyond Borders and a conversation with a friend about EarthCorps (which, unfortunately, I am too old for – now, that’s a scary thought!). Volunteering and travel do seem to present an appealing combination of experiences, and one that I think I will look into further.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Morning Adventures

I have had an interesting series of morning "adventures" this week. The first two were not planned, nor terribly enjoyable, though I did manage to find the humor (or irony, as the case may be) in them and keep smiling.

Wednesday
I have had a hard time admitting to myself that my commute to work takes longer than the half-hour that it used to (including the tram ride and changing clothes), so I have had a hard time getting out the door on time in the morning. On Wednesday I was determined to be at work on time, or even 5 minutes early, so I was all set and ready to go 10 minutes before my customary rush time. But... when I got to my bike I discovered a large shard of metal sticking out of a very flat back tire. Sigh. So much for being early.

I decided to just switch out the inner tube entirely, since the hole was so big... but when I got out my box of spare bike stuff I realized that the spare tubes I had were for my old tires and were the wrong size. So, I had to patch the hole as best I could and use the same tube. I figured that, as long as I was already half an hour late for work, I may as well make it 45 minutes and stop by a bike shop on my way in to get a spare tube in case the patch didn't hold. So I took a slight detour on my route to go by CityBikes... but it turns out that they don't open until 11:00. Neither does the CityBikes Annex, 13 blocks down the road. So much for being prepared.

Luckily, my tire held out and got me to work, though it was definitely leaking. I pumped it again before I left work, and rode straight to the bike shop downtown, where I bought a replacement tube, a spare tube, and a refill for my patch kit. I had just enough time to bike back to PSU and change my tire again before class. All's well that ends well, I suppose... though I think I still have bike grease under my fingernails....

Friday
My Friday adventure actually starts with an adventure last weekend -- getting my heater to work. To make a long story short, a technician had to come out to check it out, and eventually to reconnect the sparking cable so that the heater would light. He turned the heater on before he left, but I immediately turned it off again because I was baking and the apartment was plenty warm already. So the pilot light is on (and the heater makes a constant background noise -- just like the sound of your neighbor taking a shower in the next apartment over, when you can hear that the water is going -- it's driving me nuts), but I haven't turned the heat on. This is for a couple of reasons: 1) I'm cheap (I mean, frugal), and I would rather wear long johns and sweaters (as I'm doing now) than turn on the heat, and 2) the heater is placed right next to the attic door and the entry stairs, and does a very good job of spewing heat directly onto the landing, from which I guess I would just have to hope that it goes into the other rooms rather than up to the attic. 1 + 2 = I don't want to pay to heat my attic and my entryway.

Okay, enough background. So, on Friday morning I decided to test out the heater, because Antonia was coming to visit, and it's not polite to freeze one's house guests. So I got up, shivered through bed-making and tooth-brushing, and then turned the heater on to "2" before going into the living room to do my stretches. About a minute later the wonderful morning peace is shattered by the incredibly loud and obnoxious sound of my smoke alarm. At 6:00 in the morning. I am sure my neighbors were not very pleased with me. I was not very pleased with my heater. Apparently it had collected some dust (and goodness knows what else) over the summer of dis-use, and was burning it off. It smelled terrible. So, instead of having a nice toasty warm apartment that morning, I had to open all the windows and turn the fan on to get the smoke and the smell out. It was not a warm morning.

On Friday when I got home, and when the outside temperature had risen a few degrees, I turned the heater on again (after disconnecting my smoke alarm), and ran it with all the windows open and the fan on for a bit, to try to burn off whatever was in there and get rid of the smell. I hate to just blow the heat right out the window (I'm paying for it, after all!), but I do want to be able to use the heater when I really need it, without having it smell up the place and set off the smoke alarm. I think most of the nasty stuff did burn off, but it still doesn't smell too good when the heater is on. And I haven't put the battery back in my smoke detector yet, either....

Saturday
My Saturday adventure was much better -- both planned and pleasant, thank goodness. I went to the library book sale -- wheeeee! :) It was held in what used to be a Wild Oats store, and it's supposed to be the largest used book sale in Oregon, with about 100,000 items. It goes all weekend (it started with a members-only pre-sale on Friday night, and ends with a 75% off day on Monday), but I wanted to get there at the start, so I went this morning. I thought about going back this afternoon, because they kept putting out new books, but I didn't make it back. Maybe tomorrow. :) I didn't find any of the books I was looking for in particular, but I did come away with a few fun things, and one useful one -- a GRE prep book with CD, which will hopefully inspire me to actually study for the exam that's coming up next month. :} It was fun just to wander amongst the books, never knowing what you'll find, and being in the company of so many fellow bibliophiles. Not that anybody actually talked to each other much, with everybody in his own little world, moving along the tables with eyes roving the titles. Good bookish energy, though. It's been far too long since I've been to a library book sale. I didn't think they even had them here, because the library has a full-time book store (called the "Title Wave") -- but this is the Friends of Multnomah County Library, and apparently they do sales twice a year. It's just not advertised very well on the library website for some reason, so I never knew about them before. But now I know, and I'm very glad I do. Hooray for library book sales! :)

So, I think planned weekend morning adventures are good, but other work-day morning adventures are probably to be avoided. :} On the bright side, we finally have a new garage door, so after nearly two months of lugging my bike upstairs every day I finally get to park it in the garage again! :)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Every day you don't cop out makes you stronger -- some thoughts on exercise

I am often tempted to skip my physical therapy exercises in the morning, because they take time, require me to put on shoes, and involve moving furniture. But every day I do them, my shins (and knees, and hips, and ankles) get stronger, and are less likely to hurt later on. And every day I don't cop out is a day I don't make excuses to myself, and builds a bank of days I can draw upon when I feel like copping out later on -- I can say, see? you weren't a wimp that day when you really wanted to be, so you can't be a wimp now, either! I like not being a wimp. :)

On a similar note, I went swimming today! I think I can truthfully (and somewhat abashedly) say that this is the first time I've been swimming in Oregon (in a pool, I mean -- I'm not counting the several notable occasions on which I have dived into shockingly cold lakes/rivers, because you can't really "swim" when you're gasping for breath). I bought myself a pair of goggles and a swim cap and rented a locker at the PSU gym for the quarter, in the hopes that I could drag myself to the pool a couple of times a week (all of this in continued efforts to strengthen my lower extremities without impact). And now that I've been, I do think I will continue -- it wasn't nearly as traumatizing an experience as I expected. :} I think Friday afternoon is a good time to swim -- there were only a few people there, so I had a whole lane to myself, which was nice, since I was pretty self-conscious, not having swum laps since highschool. My other options for times are Tuesday and Thursday mornings (though the open swim times are not ideal), Tuesdays after work, and weekends. I'll see what kind of regular schedule I can get myself into, because swimming is good for me! At the moment it doesn't take much of it to wear me out, but that's good, because it shows me how much potential I have for improvement. :) Now I just have to figure out how to get all of my hair under the swimming cap so there are no gaps and my hair stays dry and non-chlorinated -- any hints? (Cristie?) :P

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Small Pleasures

Some of the things that have made me happy recently...

~ Friendly seat-mates on homebound plane flights

~ An abundance of ripe tomatoes

~ An entire neighborhood that smells of freshly baked bread

~ Discovering that, after six years, I really can ride my bike with no hands

~ Strawberry blossoms in September

~ Just knowing that I have sourdough starter in the refrigerator

~ Local milk, yogurt & eggs from the co-op

~ Invigoratingly chilly morning biking weather

~ Huge batches of fresh homemade pesto, to be frozen for the winter

~ Free tickets to the opera

~ Realizing that, starting next week, I'll only be working 30 hours per week

~ Munching crisp Maine apples

~ One last weekend before school starts

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I had fun. I came home. :)

So ended the majority of Graham's and my childhood stories, and so was my wonderful Maine vacation brought to a close. Here are a bunch of pictures and a few stories, to give you an idea of the fun that Quena and I had.

Some General Pictures to set the scene


"The Big House." Still under construction inside, but everybody finally lives there.





The Playhouse, where WendiLou holds her daycare, "Skip to My Lou."

Friday


A sign in the Belfast Co-op Café, where we ate dinner prior to the contradance.


Quena, getting ready to go into the Belfast "Flying Shoes" contradance, played by the magnificent Nightingale. A truly wonderful dance it was. I got to meet a bunch of Quena's dancing friends, taught somebody the delightfully silly interlocking-elbows-nose-holding swing (I am hoping he will pass it on), and iced my shins all the way home.

Saturday

Saturday is English Muffin Day in the Salman house, meaning fresh, homemade sourdough English muffins -- absolutely delicious! I got the recipe, and Wend even gave me some sourdough starter to take home, so I can make my own!


The view from Mt. Wallamatogus, commonly known as Togus Mountain for short, which is right behind the house. Quena and I hiked up and picked wild low-bush blueberries on Saturday morning. They're tiny, but delicious!


The "gravel pit," a lovely pond where Quena and I took a bath (complete with biodegradable soap and shampoo) in the afternoon after our hike. It was chilly but not too cold, so we could actually stay in and swim a bit. Oh, and there were very cool frogs and a turtle in it, too. :)

After our hike and swim, Quena and I baked rhubarb muffins, then went to an outdoor potluck party hosted by the family of a friend of hers, who live on a truly wonderful farm with a huge garden and horses and pigs and goats and the most beautiful brown cow I have ever seen. There was music and frivolity (and lots of pies), and Quena and I had a highly enjoyable cross-step waltz on the grass, uphill and downhill and around the food tent.

Sunday


After a breakfast of sourdough blueberry pancakes, Quena and I braided our hair and Bella's, and the three of us went to Blue Hill Park. We were going to go blueberry picking in the afternoon, but it rained, so we took a nap and had a lovely evening at home instead.

Monday


Quena had to work on Monday, so I went into Blue Hill with her to wander while she worked. I went for a lovely walk up the road toward East Blue Hill, wandered around an old cemetery, discovered the Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI, which is a lovely cheerful acronym), and found some library books to check out for Bella.

I had lunch with Quena at the co-op, and spent the remainder of her work hours in the cafe, because it had started to rain again. A couple of Quena's friends came in and we all spent about half an hour trying to figure out if there's a way to sew together 6 square faces of a cube in one continuous, non-overlapping seam. We couldn't figure it out, and we think it's not possible. But if you can figure out how to do it in fewer than four separate threads (non-overlapping), please let me know!





Monday was sushi night, because Reuben had caught a bunch of crabs that day. He and Eliza came over with the crabs, which we boiled and prepped outside in the drizzling rain (that's me in the black apron), and Royce and LouAnna came over and we had a wonderful sushi party in the tiny "cafe" kitchen. Delicious!

Tuesday

Tuesday morning we spent around the house, prepping the front entryway for laying bricks. Then Quena and I went to various small towns to check out thrift stores, and had a smoked seafood pizza for dinner at BarnCastle. Unfortunately, it was dark and rainy, so I didn't get any pictures of the place, because it was really cool - not called BarnCastle for nothing! :)

Wednesday




Quena had to work again on Wednesday, so I stayed home to do some exploring. I went back up Mt. Wallamatogus, played with stones, and found a gigantic patch of blueberries. I was wearing a small purse to carry my camera, and ended up putting my camera in my pocket and filling the purse with blueberries because I couldn't possibly leave them behind. :) When Quena got home we made a blueberry-rhubarb crisp, which was delicious.

Thursday

Thursday held more Blue Hill wanderings while Quena was at work.



This lovely little bakery was attached to a bookstore. I had gone into the bookstore and noticed that the used book section was located in the bakery. When I got there, the baker was offering another woman a free croissant that was improperly baked (in a too-hot oven, so it was dark and crispy outside and somewhat gooey inside). I was grinning at his explanation, and he saw me and said, "You're smiling over there, do you want one as well?" I said "Of course!" and the three of us spent the next several minutes munching croissants and talking about Oregon and Shakespeare and other things. I also found out that the baker knew Quena, because he used to work at the co-op (and because Quena knows everybody in Blue Hill). So that was fun.




After Quena got off of work, we walked to the base of Blue Hill Mountain (which was a hike in itself!), and then up the mountain. It was lovely, and hiking up it barefoot was very satisfying.


The view from Blue Hill Mountain. If the picture were big enough, you would be able to see a bare patch on the top of another hill in the distance -- that's Mt. Wallamatogus!


I just liked this tree, with the leaf in it. It looks like some little wood-witch spirit standing guard over the path.


This was just a really cool bit of path that was mostly comprised of tree roots.


Us, in a roadside mirror on our walk back into town.

Thursday evening we went out to Quena's friend Jess's house and spent the evening cooking and eating and chatting with her and another friend, Kiera. We were going to watch a movie, but never got to it. :} Jess has a fantastic apple tree, and sent us home with bulging bags of delicious apples.

Friday



On Friday morning we drove to Schoodic (pronounced "Skoodick") and had lovely rocky beach adventures. Quena discovered that she could skip stones better left-handed than right, which was quite exciting. We then went and had lunch with Quena's friend Andrew, who told me how to make homemade yogurt, and who had rows upon rows of beautiful onions drying on his garage floor. It was very inspiring.

On Friday evening Quena and I baked two apple pies and a bunch of apple turnovers with the apples that Jess had given us (we only used about a third of them). WendiLou made yummy pizza for dinner, and then Quena read Harry Potter to me while I packed.

Saturday




Saturday was once again English muffin day, so I had a lovely breakfast before Quena drove me to the airport. I flew in the smallest plane I've been in yet from Bangor to Boston -- the kind of plane where each passenger has both a window seat and an aisle seat at the same time, and the flight is pretty much full with 16 passengers. It was a very noisy, vibrating flight, but fortunately short -- the woman sitting across the aisle from me said she just thought of it as a nice long massage. :P On my flight from Boston to Cincinnati I sat next to another woman going home to Portland, so we had a lovely chat. Then on my flight from Cincinnati to Portland I ended up (after some seat shuffling when the captain announced that the flight wasn't full so we could all move around if we wanted) next to a very nice man from Boston, and we whiled away a good deal of the flight chatting. It was kind of nice - I don't normally do that on plane flights (usually my flights are so short that I just doze through most of them), but it certainly made the trip more enjoyable and quicker. He was very curious about Portland (he's from Boston), and talking to him about all the cool things going on here made me realize how much I really do enjoy living here. There's just a lot to like about Portland, and it was nice to be able to share some of it with somebody from out of the area.


So, that's my story. It was a wonderful vacation, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks to WendiLou and Tristan for welcoming me into their home, to Quena for sharing her Maine life with me for a short while, to everybody that I danced with and chatted with and got to know just a little bit. And now I'm home, safe and sound, ready to face my daily challenges with a renewed perspective. Hooray for vacations!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Off to lands unknown... to me, at least

That's right, folks - I'm off to Maine to visit Quena!!! I probably won't have internet access while I'm there, but I'll be back on the 15th, hopefully with plenty of pictures and fun stories to share. Have a great week!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Questioning

Note: Please bear with me as previous posts come tumbling down around my ears....

I've finally decided to go back to school. I've picked my favorite graduate program and spoken with the director to determine my class schedule and application prep for next fall. I've arranged with my boss to cut down my hours at work so I can take classes. I've posted an affirmation on my blog that I will only be in Portland one more year; after that I will officially be a masters student at CSUMB.

And now I'm questioning.

How do I know a masters program is really what I want? Should I spend more time exploring academically before choosing a program? Should I work in the field first to determine if I even need a masters degree to obtain work that is fulfilling?

What if all I really want is simply to go home, to be near my family?

What if I just want to go to CSUMB so I can go and work at the Lab as a jack of all trades, because I've done it before and it made me happy? What if I'm just using grad school as an excuse to go back to work at the Lab, even though I know it can never be quite the same?

I worry because I am a jack of all trades -- in all the personality assessment and skill assessment stuff I have done with my co-worker (a career counselor), my strongest specialty has been generalization. I'm interested in everything, I want to try everything (maybe that's why I have such trouble with restaurant menus), and I worry that I would (a) not be able to choose a thesis topic, and (b) feel frustrated with the resultant limiting of my scope. I want to take one class in every subject; I can't think of a particular focused topic that interests me enough to be the sole focus of two (or more) years of intense study and research.

It gets back to an observation I've made before about myself: I seem to completely lack ambition, in the conventional career sense. I am perfectly content to do whatever is needed, in whatever capacity I fit -- whether it be peon or project manager -- as long as I enjoy it. I have no desire to work my way to "the top" because, for me, that's an artificial goal. To me, being at the top means doing soul-satisfying work, and that covers a wide range of possibilities. Do I need a masters degree to get to the top? I don't know.

That's what I'm questioning.

It seems that second-guessing myself is also a fundamental aspect of my personality...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

One-Year Countdown

I am "putting it out to the universe" that I am only going to be in Portland one more year. In the fall of 2008 I will officially be a grad student at CSUMB in the Coastal and Watershed Science and Policy program. All I have to do between now and then is take care of all of my prerequisites, take the GRE, ask for letters of recommendation, and apply. :-D

I spoke with the director of the program on Friday, and it sounds like I'm actually pretty well on track to get all that done and be able to attend in the fall. I will be taking biology all year, and one or two statistics courses (goody, goody), and I will probably take the GIS requirements when I get there. Fortunately, my science credits do not expire, so all of my earth science, geology, oceanography, etc. credits from Stanford will be accepted. And I technically already have the statistics requirement done, but I don't remember a thing of it (it was 5 years ago and I haven't used it at all since then, so why should I let it take up space in my brain?), and since I know it will be a critical foundation course for graduate work, I'm going to go ahead and re-take the quarter that I took, and probably the next quarter as well.

I was also given the names of a couple of faculty members to contact for possible research and advising opportunities, so my next step is to follow up on those. It's like Cristie said in her comment on my last post -- once you make a firm decision and begin to move in the right direction, things start falling into place. Or, to quote The Indigo Girls, "The sweetest part is acting after making a decision." Here I go! :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I love my boss

I had a meeting with my director today (who is now also my direct boss, since my manager recently left), to discuss the possibility of reducing my hours so I can go back to school. I had half expected her to freak out a bit, since there are so many changes going on in our team right now, and so much is up in the air, and there is so much work to be done, but she was totally supportive and enthusiastic. Basically, all I have to do is figure out my class schedule and let her know the hours I want to work, and she'll put the paperwork through! I will probably try to go down to 30 hours/week, because that's the lowest I can go and still get full-time benefits, which I definitely want -- especially the tuition discount! :}

So, now I get to start looking in earnest at classes, since I think I'm going to try taking two this term (biology for sure, and something else). Unfortunately, the GIS class I wanted to take is full, as are a couple of other interesting-looking ones. So I might be looking at something boring like a re-take of statistics, which I haven't taken for about 5 years. Oh, and I need to check with some of the grad schools I'm looking at to see if my science credits expire after 7 years, which I've heard is often the case. If that's true, I may have to re-take a bunch of science credits... yipes! But I'm excited to get this ball rolling, and so grateful that my team and my boss are on board. Hooray!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My new favorite song

I recently sent out an email asking some friends for new music suggestions, since I've been listening to the same music for a very long time and don't really have any motivation to seek out new stuff on my own. Thanks to everybody who responded and suggested/sent music! Mom (who was just up here for a wonderful visit) didn't reply, because she claimed she didn't have anything I would like that I didn't already have. But it ended up that she's led me to my new favorite song! Check out Michael Bublé singing "Everything".

I like it because it's happy and upbeat, has good lyrics, and because he obviously just gets a kick out of singing it. Oh, yeah, and he has an absolutely delicious voice. :) I've been following the You-Tube trail all afternoon listening to different songs, and they're all great! If I can just get my hands on some of his music, I'll be quite content for quite a while. :)

In other news, I had a lovely (and all-too-short) visit with Mom this weekend, wherein she wholeheartedly approved of my new location, and we had a delightful day doing the "Hawthorne Hop," a Portland activity consisting of strolling up and down Hawthorne Blvd. and checking out all the cool shops on the way. We spent the majority of our time in the Powells Home and Garden bookstore, but also put in appearances at such fun locations as the sunflower intersection at SE 33rd & Yamhill, a bead store, a hostel with a green roof (well, we looked at it), a "vintage" consignment store, and "The Awe-ful Waffle" with the "Waffle Window" at the side of a cafe. We went for a lovely walk this morning in Laurelhurst Park, upon sight of which Mom exclaimed, "It's not flat!" Indeed, my neighborhood is pleasantly hilly, though you wouldn't know it from a map. Oh, we also made fresh pesto (which we ate on pasta with cherry tomatoes from my garden), and chocolate mousse, and rosemary shortbread cookies. Yum!

My new neighbors are moving in downstairs this weekend. They seem quite nice, and we're looking forward to planning a revitalization of the front yard, which is in sore need of some love. The weather is gorgeous and all is well.

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Update: I finally was able to load Michael Bublé's website (it's been obstinate all day), and discovered that he's singing in Portland... tomorrow. And I'm going!!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

How do people do it? I don't think I can.

I don't know how some people manage to work full time and go to school full time. It's hard enough for me to work full time and go to school part time, or work part time and go to school full time, let alone doing them both full-time! I work with a woman who has been working full-time and taking 9 graduate credits per quarter. Nine! And she's still sane! I had enough trouble with one 4-credit online econ class this summer along with my full-time job (and moving, of course), and I don't know what I'm going to do when my 5-credit biology class with lab starts up in the fall.

I don't know how they schedule it either. For instance, my biology class has to be in the evenings because I work during the day. It takes up three evenings a week: two for lectures, one for lab. Now, there's also a GIS class I'd love to take; however, it is also offered in the evening, and happens to be the same evenings as biology. Now, what am I supposed to do with that? If I could take biology during the day, I could take the GIS class in the evening, and everything would be hunky-dory. ... Oh, yeah, except for the little problem of work.

I'm starting to really long for a very flexible, part-time work schedule that would let me work around whatever class schedule I happen to have each quarter, and let me take more than one class per term. I would dearly love to not only finish my minimum prerequisites for graduate school, but also get a stronger foundation in some of the areas I'm weak (for instance, statistics, shudder though I do at the thought), in the next year, so that I can apply for graduate school for next fall. But that's not going to happen as long as I'm working 40 hours a week, because I just don't learn if so much of my time and brain power is spent on not-school.

As much as I'm comfortable with my current job and like the people that I'm working with and am getting paid decently with great benefits, I feel like I'm letting myself get stuck there. Okay, so they pay me to ride my bike to work, which is fantastic, but the job itself really isn't doing anything for me, and the longer I stay there, the longer I'm building a really great resume for a career I know I don't want. I'm starting to wonder if it's time to take the risk and get myself unstuck, and put the priority back on my education. Of course, I'm not giving myself much time to make this decision (and find a part-time job) if I want to have any flexibility for the fall quarter.... Can I pause the clock for a while while I figure all of this out, please?

Maybe I've just let myself get too stressed out with everything that's been happening recently, and I'm not thinking clearly. I've made some pretty rash decisions so far in my life, some of which were significant ingredients in the brewing and stewing of my current quandary (would I be facing this dilemma in the first place if I'd stuck with my original major?), and I really don't want to throw away the pretty-darn-good thing I have without being pretty-darn-sure that I'm moving on to something better. But part of me insists that this is thinking clearly, that this is what makes sense to most quickly get me back on the track I need to be to make my life fulfilling.

Money sucks.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pink Panda and the General Public

I just got back (and showered) from the 2nd annual Eco-Games, hosted by the Northwest Service Academy and Americorps. It was my first time, since last year it wasn't open to the public, and it was fun! And it completely wore me out. Basically, the idea is a bike race in teams, stopping along the way to do ecological restoration projects. That's all I knew when I signed up. I had no idea of the distance, nor the number of stops. It turns out that we did an almost 20-mile loop, with a total of 8 stops along the way. We got 15 minutes at each stop to complete the assigned task; the tasks included:

2 Ivy Pulls
1 Blackberry Hack (thank goodness it was only 1!)
1 Weeding around Natives (with points taken out for pulling the natives)
1 Nightshade Yank
1 Identifying Natives (and spelling their scientific names correctly)
1 Teambuilding "Group Ski" activity
1 "Schulty Pull", a very silly activity where one person gets crowned "King" and gets in a porta-potty on wheels, and the rest of the team pull it around an obstacle course. Guess who got to be king because she was lightest?

My team didn't win (we were also short one person, who got sick and couldn't come), but we had fun anyway. And one of our team members got the prize for best costume (well, okay, she was the only one in costume) -- she had painted her face like a panda, attached panda ears to her helmet, and wrapped bamboo pieces around her bike. It was very cool. Our team was also "Team Pink" because we had to wear pink ribbons to identify ourselves. So, our team name started out as Pink Panda. But then we realized that we were the mismatched team consisting of the only people who weren't current (or never had been, in my case) Americorps/NWSA members. In other words, we were the general public. So by the end, our team name was Pink Panda and the General Public. Sounds a bit like an indy band name, but we weren't clever enough to come up with a theme song.

And now I am exhuasted. I don't want to do anything for the rest of the day, and it's only 4:00! But I have to go to the store to buy ingredients and make a key lime pie, because my manager is leaving next week and I promised I would bring a dessert to her going-away dinner. I think I'm going to wait until my legs have un-jelly-fied a bit before trying to walk to the store, though! :)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Reevaluation

There’s something about moving (and, of course, the associated breakup) that puts me in a reminiscent mood, and makes me reevaluate my life in its present state and freak out at how poorly it matches my vision of where I want to be. Okay, freak out is a pretty strong statement, but honestly, I’ve been realizing more and more intensely recently how important it is that I get back on the right track with my life. Here I am specifically talking about my career, which is definitely in the wrong place.

I’m listening to GrooveLily right now, and just picked this line out of the song: “It’s hard when you see someone else live your dreams.” That line definitely hits home with me. I recently joined LinkedIn at the request of my manager, who has taken a new job and wants to stay in touch. Naturally, I set about searching for old acquaintances to see if I could reconnect with anybody. I found the profile an old friend from highschool and discovered that he is now a geospatial analyst, and has been for three years. Now, I don’t really want to be a geospatial analyst, but seeing that really made me stop to think. I graduated from high school with this person. He is now a geospatial analyst. I am working in an administrative job in a field I know I don’t belong in, making half as much money as I did when I was 18.

I’m better than this. I am nowhere near the point in my career or professional development that I had always assumed I would be by now. Granted, I have taken the scenic route to my educational goals – I graduated from college 6 1/2 years after I graduated from high school. That would be fine, except for the fact that I also got lured on a major detour (major in size and subject) and never got back to the main road that I knew led to the field I wanted to be a part of. Sure, my anthropology degree was fun, sure I learned a lot, but when it comes right down to it, it was not an environmental science degree, and it does not get me a job in the environmental science field, which is what I’ve always known I wanted. It’s hard to see people like my high school friend, who pursued a degree and then got a job in the field and are presumably busy being successful and satisfied. It’s also hard to see people, like another friend of mine, who are actively pursuing an education with specific career goals in mind, and are making steady progress toward those goals.

So, I have decided to finally start making progress again myself. I am taking post-bac classes (starting with the economics class I just finished) with the aim of getting into grad school in the next year or two, in an environmental science program (perhaps this one?) that will feed my brain and my heart and my soul and help me find and do the work I know I want to do. I am excited to be getting back into school, but also frustrated that I can only take one class at a time, given the need to work to make money to live and pay for school. I just have to keep reminding myself that I am doing what I can, and that I am on the right path again. And I am also actively searching for well-paying part-time jobs in just about any environmental field (yeah, I know, good luck), to get me working in the field and leave me more time for studying. Wish me luck on that one! :}

Reevaluation is tough. But it’s good to define goals and move towards them.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Deluxe Model Two-Speed Hands-Free Vibrating Body Massager

Thank heaven for Goodwill, providing us with the necessary items for life.

Sadly, I did not purchase said necessary item; I did, however, find many other, though admittedly less novel, items to equip my new abode. Yes, in case you didn't know, I moved! If my new contact info hasn't reached you yet and you want it (and I know you), shoot me an email and I'll send it to you.

My new home is absolutely lovely - lots of windows, lots of trees outside the windows, a huge kitchen, and an attic! Even the name of the neighborhood is happy - Sunnyside! :) It's a longer bike ride to work (including a bridge over the river, which can get annoying when all the bikes pile up in a pack and you can't go at your own speed), but it's a good ride - downhill most of the way to work, so I don't get too sweaty, and uphill on the way home, which tires me out and assures a good night's sleep. Speaking of which, I managed to sleep in past 5:30 this morning for the first summer Saturday in two years, since I no longer have a farmers market directly outside my window. There are tradeoffs to that, of course - now I have to ride my bike to a farmers market, but that's not so bad. I can either ride downtown to the PSU market that I used to go to, or ride to NE to the Hollywood market, which I did today. It was an interesting ride - much more "scenic" than I had expected, definitely not a route that invites rushing to a destination. The market is in the Value Village parking lot, and a block from Trader Joe's, so not a bad location to get a few errands done on a Saturday morning.

That's it for now. Off to do more unpacking, then more errands, and hopefully studying for my econ final at some point this weekend! :) Here are some pictures of my new home, in case you're curious.