Friday, November 21, 2014

Ten Days of Gratitude

I know an amazing group of women in Norman, Oklahoma.  Several years ago, they did the hard work of helping me grow into a responsible, less neurotic, and more balanced person  that I am today.  I don't think it can be overstated the impact their friendship has had on me. Hopefully, I contributed to their lives as well in a small way.

Since we moved to Washington, I've mostly kept up with them on Facebook. I see their families grow up. I see them becoming parents and grandparents and going out into the world and doing good things.  They make me happy and I love keeping in touch even from afar.  One of these friends created a group called 21 Days of Gratitude. This is my first real chance to participate- ten days in.  Ah well, better late to the party than never.  Here are the prompts and my responses.

Day 1: What do you have enough of?
I have enough love. I am a well loved person. I have friends, family, people I care about. Pets. Friends pets. Friends kids and their pets. And students.  Yes, there's lots of love. The more you give away, the more you have.  Works for compassion too. 

Day 2: Who do you know that you could never repay?
I could never repay Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for his impact on my life.  Nor Michel Foucault, or Paulo Freire for their guidance through theory and practice. They all changed my world, made it bigger, and made it ok for me to make mistakes and learn from them. 

Day 3: What do you take for granted?
My safety. I live in a relatively safe place.  I never felt secure until I bought my own house, and even then my hypervigilance took a long time to go away. I'm still a light sleeper. I worry for people who do not live a life where they can exit their homes alone at night or who live in fear of a loved one. I try to create a space in my classroom, not just of physical safety, but where students can be comfortable and free from ridicule and bullying. 

Day 4: What inconvenience are you grateful for?
We made a decision a few years ago when we moved to Washington that we would walk to work and home every day. It's inconvenient, especially when I'm running late. But I'm grateful because this imposes discipline in me, and gets me out in the fresh air twice every single day. And we save gas and don't add more pollutants to the atmosphere. 

Day 5: What is your most precious memory?
I have a lot of them. They're not just memories about things that have happened to me- like getting my black belt or graduating with my Ph.D.  I have precious memories that revolve around people I love. Nieces and nephews graduating from high school, a first day of college, holding my great niece for the first time and watching her little smile. Spending summers at my grandparents house when I was a kid. Fishing with my grandpa. There was this one time I went out on my sister's boat with her, her husband, and their son.  Beautiful water, crab pots out, swimming off of the boat.  It was really magical. And, of course, the day that G and I got engaged. We were at Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City. I'll tell you about it sometime...

Day 6: Which artist lights up your world?
Picasso. Not just his cubist paintings, though those are mind-blowing. 

Want to see one I really like? 
http://imgarcade.com/1/picasso-line-drawings-and-prints/

I've been thinking about this as a tattoo for about 6 years now.  My friend Kat has it on her shoulder and said it would be ok if I did the same. I might do it. If I ever get around to it. I may settle for a framed print. 


Day 7: How have you changed for the better?
This is going to sound sad, but it's happy. I'm much better at accepting love than I used to be. 

Day 8: What do you know that you never want to forget?
That being a freshman in college is hard and that I don't know about other people's lives. That it's best to leave my assumptions at the door and listen to what they need rather than overlay what I want. 

Day 9: What's the best compliment you have ever received or given?
I've gotten some really nice compliments. G paid me the compliment of respect.  Ok, he still is respectful. And being loving when I don't really feel lovable. And he uprooted his whole life to come here to Washington.  He loves it here, which is a relief. It's a powerful thing to have someone not just say they believe in you, but to bet heavily on you. 

And the other day, I overheard my students talking about me. They were talking about how old they thought I was.  One said that I reminded her of a cool aunt and that she'd like to hang out with me when I wasn't her teacher. 

Maybe the real compliment is in the high number of students who take multiple English classes from me.  I'm not an easy grader, but I'm glad they still think it's worth their time. It makes me feel valued as I derive a bit of my self esteem from teaching. 

Day 10: What's the best advice you have ever received?
My husband gave me this one- it's from his mom (My favorite mother in law!): 

"Don't borrow sorrow from tomorrow"

And since my favorite MIL is currently in hospital and I tend to worry about her incessantly, I'm trying to remember this one as a mantra for today. 

That's it, peeps! All the stuff I'm grateful for today.  That and personal space heaters at work. And that my quarter is wrapping up nicely and that we're heading across the world in less than 4 weeks. 
I'm also grateful for soup and two legs that work and chiropractors. 

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In Other News...

I think sometimes during the school year, I get all up in my work and forget the world around me.
G is very patient about this.  He generously lets me do my thing in the evenings, a day on the weekends, and whenever I have some big grading project going on. So when I got the opportunity to show him how much I value his friendship, love, and understanding, I took it.

We went to Seattle last weekend.  I didn't tell him that's where we were headed; I just said that he should wear layers and sturdy shoes. He initially thought we were hiking in Wentachee.  I sort of blew it when I said we'd be going over Snoqualmie Pass. Ah well. He had no idea what we'd be doing.

First stop was brunch at the incredible Seattle restaurant The Dahlia Lounge. Great food, great service, great time. G loves a good restaurant and that set the mood for the whole day.  Then I gave him a choice: the Seattle Art Museum or the Seattle Aquarium. You can't do it all in one day, not with a two hour drive each way. The SAM has a pop departures exhibit right now, but we've already visited there a couple of times.  He opted for the aquarium, with their touchable sea animals exhibits and outdoor enclosures right on the city pier. The animals seem pretty happy there. They have plenty of room to roam (except for the river otters; they need miles and miles). There were divers, octopi, and an under the sea sort of dome with hundreds of salmon, halibut, sturgeon, and multitudes of others.  Lots of people too. It was amazing.

Our last stop- since we'd been walking most of the day- was my last surprise. A movie. This may not seem like a big deal.

However. G likes nothing more than a good movie and since we moved to a little town, the nearest art house theater is in Seattle.  We saw Birdman, with Michael Keaton, Ed Norton, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts (among others).  G said it was the best movie he's seen this year.  I agree.
Add caption
It was a beautiful day

Look at his sweet face! Reminds me of the Neverending Story.


Puffin!

This Guy..




















In other news, it finally froze last night. Hard freeze; got down to 17f.  The rest of the week is cold, with a chance of snow. Snow!  I am so excited. I busted out a warm scarf that my friend (and Oklaho-mom) Charlotte made for me. Before it froze, I gathered the last couple dozen tomatoes and cut back my little porch garden. We're ready for winter!


Finally, buried at the end of my post: in other news we are spending the holidays in London and Paris.  It's my first trip to Europe; I'm so excited! We booked plane tickets and hotel reservations and have created loose itineraries for our time.  For Christmas eve, we'll be at midnight mass in Notre Dame.

How.Cool.Is.That??!!?

Ok friends, stay warm. It's a polar vortex out there! And now I'm back to grading, practicing French phrases, and huddling happily by my space heater.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Note To Self

I sometimes need to remind myself to live in the moment. I have this tendency to want to take a certain action and I overthink it.  If I do this, then this might happen, then surely this person will react this way, and then this will happen and things are just going to go to heck in a hand basket.

I call it the spiral.  One moment, life is good. I go to work, do my job, love my life, exercise my body, encourage others and eat really good vegetarian food with some fish. The next moment, I contemplate a change. And from there my thinking starts to get out of control. My fears start to get out of control.

I didn't have a lot of what one might call 'consistency' when I was growing up. Not a lot of firm ground. As a consequence, my fears always culminate in me losing my job, my house, my loved ones and ends with a picture of me and my cat living under a bridge by Seattle, with our own shopping cart and a machete for protection.  Don't worry, I know how to use it. For variety, my fears now include taking my husband with me and his favorite handmade afghan for comfort and warmth.

Anyway, a few things have happened lately to make me think about insecurity and the more distant idea that someday I will lose everything dear to me.  It all boils down to fear and not being in control every minute of every day.  I think that some people would do well to maybe just let me run their lives- as though that were my business and as though I could do so.  I can barely manage my own life, let alone someone else's.

It's about alcoholism, of course, and my bad reaction to it.

When someone I love gets all crazy in their sickness, I almost never give an outward sign. It's not my business. Except when it could hurt someone besides themselves, says my brain. No. It's not my business.  Alcoholism always does hurt others, but mostly the alcoholic. I still hate it.  And it makes me scared. It's still my job to first protect myself, then to love.

I used to be self destructive skip that first step of self protection. I just can't afford to do that anymore. My life means something to me and even my wellbeing means something to G, and I have to take care of my heart and all the soft parts that want to make things better for someone else who isn't just on a path of if they self destruct, but when and how hard and how many others have to go through hell too...

For me that means not to rescue anyone from jail. Not to offer to make things better. Not to enable, not to nod affirmation to something I think inherently is not right.  It means that I love and don't judge- or at least do my best to not judge by saying mean things to or about someone- and that I keep my own circle of sanity nice and clean.

It's not really that I worry that I'll end up living under a bridge. Eleanor is a tough old cat. We'd have an afghan and a machete. G could tell jokes and everything would be ok. We like rain.

I worry about the fallout for everyone else, for people that aren't as good at curling up in a little ball as I am, as we all wait for the current hurricane to pass. I try to not take this personally. Because really, this isn't about me.

I am reminded of something we used to say a few years ago, in Al-Anon.  It's an organization for the friends and loved ones of alcoholics.  Ready?

You did not cause it. 
You cannot control it. 
You cannot change it. 

And you don't have to contribute to it.  

Making a little note to myself.  

I spent a lot of time in Al-Anon, and I am forever grateful for the women and men who helped me when I so desperately needed help with boundaries, detaching with love, and giving myself permission to enjoy life.  Sorry if this is somewhat of a bummer of a post. I try to keep the things I write light. If I'm not careful, I can drift too far towards the ills in the world.  But you know, life isn't always light or bright. It's what we do in those hours that define us.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Catch up!

Catching Up!

Life is moving fast, so I'm going to hit a few highlights and add lots of pictures. Sound ok?



 As it cools down outside, my tea love spouts again. Actually, I started drinking hot tea to help get me in the fall mood, even though it was over 80 outside then.  I love this mug, and if I'm honest, all things owl. My husband doesn't, so I keep all my cool owl stuff at work.


 My little kitty is certainly aware of how cute she is.  This is how she gets people to cuddle when they're running late.

 I snapped this on campus. The science building is lovely, and even mores with bright trees turning color out front.

 Eleanor is running out of fall days where it's warm enough to go outside. Almost every day she demands a few minutes out in the autumn air. On the porch, away from bugs and dirt.


 Saturday mornings are our sleep in days. I love to get up before G, make a strong pot of coffee, and whip up some breakfast in bed.  This is my favorite. His favorite is- always- blueberry pancakes.


 Yup. Still knows she's cute.

 This is the building where I work, taken from the south side.

 This little creek runs all over town and is part of my daily commute.  By "commute" I mean that both G and I walk to work.

 Hello Fall! This is right outside of city hall and half a block from home.

 This concoction is butternut squash and apple soup. It was delicious. We finally got a crock pot!


 Closer picture of my building. There is no bottom floor on the bottom. All this is just the middle joiners of two buildings- one on either side of the camera's view. My office is on that top floor on the right.


 Maybe not a GREAT view, but the window opens wide.


 Ready for fall, it just hasn't happened yet!


 As the faculty affiliate for women's softball, I go to as many games as I can. We had one two weekends ago- just exhibition games. G is gracious and goes with me.


 This is Barge, the oldest and most beautiful building on campus.


 Snuggle time.


 Fall means the roses are fewer and farther between, and also more dramatic.


 Yellow roses always remind me of my sister, Patti.


 Part of my commute.  One of my bloggy friends reminded me of how lucky I am to live in an absolutely beautiful part of the world. I couldn't agree more.



Speaking of beautiful, look at that cup of coffee!  Just kidding. The other thing I am so, so grateful for is the opportunity to work in the same place as my husband. We get to have lunch together several times a week too. Doesn't he look like Sam the Eagle from the Muppets?

Well, that's my catch up. Hope you are enjoying fall as much as I am. Fall is almost my favorite time of year. I can't WAIT for the snow to start falling. I'm hoping for a really cold, really snowy year. Wish us luck!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fall Hikes #2

"Hike" #2 isn't nearly as dramatic.

I got us into a conference in Vancouver, WA, across the river from Portland.

By "us", I mean my two employees from the Online Tutoring program, who worked for me over the spring and summer before I left the program. We presented on the realities and lovely bits of starting the program. It was fun.

We had to drive to the conference and stay overnight in a hotel.
Kimmy and Savvy are pretty much game for anything. Since the first evening had a mixer, they dressed nicely for the meet-and-greet. See? Don't they look nice?

Heh.

As we drove along the beautiful Columbia Gorge, I said "Hey, wanna pull off at Multnomah Falls?"

 "Sure." Neither had been to Vancouver, or to an education conference.

We pulled off and I said, "Oh, look. Isn't that beautiful? Let's go get a picture!"

Off we went with our cameras.

The lower falls, visible from the welcome center

Can you see the bridge in that upper photograph? I said "Oh, this sign says it's only .2 miles to the bridge. Would you mind?"  

Heck yeah, they'd love to go take pictures from the bridge. 

Pretty, right? 

Our best goofy smiles

Those kids are such suckers. Wait until I spring this on them...

This is looking up from the bridge. 
Yesssss

"Hey you guys, it's only .8 more miles to the top. Wanna go?"

I got "the look". The one that says I want to say no but I'm afraid of the consequence.  Kimmy used to work in my office and Savvy was my student and both have worked for me in the past. 

And I had the keys to the car. 

Victory.  

And up we went. There were helpful signs along the way. "Switchback 1 of 11" "3/4 mile" and my favorite "1.5 miles". 

"Wait, did that say 1.5 miles?" Kimmy was in a cute tunic and Savvy was wearing boots.  Both were lathered and sweaty.  I was wearing, oddly and so fortunately enough, hiking pants. 

A couple of men walked by on their way down. "You're almost there!" they said encouragingly.  We exchanged knowing smiles. 

It was .8 miles straight up to the top. It's longer when you add in all the criss crossing you have to do to get up that mountain. 

We were passed by a four year old girl and her dad and an elderly Asian lady. 

Respect. 

But we made it to the top. 


Top of the falls, looking down. 

Can you see that speck that is the bridge?

This is a little feeder pool to the falls

Nice view! 

They squirmed when I wanted their picture.  Savvy, on the far right, is ready to push me off the top.
I'm feeling very smug.
 On the way down, we passed several people.  Savvy kept saying "You're almost there!" to encourage others.

The following are shots I edited to make the light look different and more appealing. I like them, but I also like unedited stuff too.








 There is a nice conclusion to this.  Kimmy and Savvy got bragging rights at the conference, telling our other presenters and students from the university that I dragged them up a mountain. They were pretty stoked, after it was over. And we even went on a little nature hike during the conference since the campus is something like 20 acres and the day was fair.

Bonus: Since I'd had to break our date last Friday and spent this Friday driving to a conference, I had been thinking of ways to inject a little extra sunshine into Gs life.  He's not resentful or mopey or anything like that. In fact, he probably never felt bad at all about my poor time management.  But I did.

VooDoo Donut.

These are the best donuts in the world, if you ask my husband. And the only place we've had them is in Portland.  Which is across the river from Vancouver. And we'd only been there once.

Hmm.

The other people from our university drove separately, and fortunately, one of our party loves to travel with her husband. And he had the day off while we did our presentations.

HMM.

Was he going into Portland? Yes. Was he maybe going by VooDoo? He could.

Here's what happened:

They line up around the block for this place.  And he did wait the hour and 15 minutes, buying doughnuts for all 11 people in our group. That is a nice, nice man.

SWEET!

So at 10:30 p.m., having dropped off my exhausted kids, I dragged myself home with the biggest smile and a pink doughnut box of love to a man I'm lucky to get to come home to.




Fall Hikes #1

Some days, you just gotta get the hikes in where you can.
I'm so bummed that my last two hikes have been without G.

But there's a good reason:

F R I D A Y

I'm teaching four classes. Four is an overload. Three of the four are classes I haven't taught before and they're literature classes. Two are online. So I'm busy.

But I'm only IN class 4 days a week.

Don't get me wrong; I work about 55 hours a week right now. But I can squeeze in a hike on Fridays if I really bust my butt.

Two weeks ago I hiked Ingalls Pass to Ingalls Lake.

This may not seem like much; it's not called "Scary, Really Steep Pass". It sounds like a Little House on the Prairie episode. Maybe Half Pint twists her ankle and Manly has to come save her on a horse or something.

It's actually a pretty challenging hike.

For which I was mostly unprepared.

My friend Lisa teaches in the English department at our university.  She's awesome and is older than I am. She's an experienced hiker. I put myself in her capable hands when she suggested a day hike on Friday. She's in the same teaching boat as I am, except for the fact that she's also the coordinator for one of the programs.

So I took a backpack with a knife, a kerchief, three protein bars because it might be more than two hours of a hike, and a big bottle of water. Also, I had no idea where we were going.

Lisa brought a lunch. And hiking sticks. And two bottles of water. All of which I wished I had brought!

We drove almost an hour up the Teanaway, past Camp Wahoo, and parked the car.  Then we went up.  Thank goodness Lisa lent me one of her walking sticks. We went up, up, up, up, up and up some more. We hiked above the tree line. We could almost reach out and touch Mt. Stuart. I had to stop to take my inhaler. To breathe, to just catch up to this not-quite-a-fireball lady who was kicking my butt up and down a mountain.

We did a lot of what's called "scrambling".  That's where there are so many rocks and not really a clear trail so you scramble towards a pile of rocks, a cairn, and hope that it's leading you the right way.

We saw some hikers, some campers, and were passed by two men from Seattle who had ducked out of work to hike the pass.

We came upon a mountain goat who was not particularly impressed with us.  He reminded me of an old video game I used to play by Blizzard, where random animals lived in parts of the grid and never really left that territory. They didn't interact with the players but if you bothered them, they would damage you even if you were wearing armor. He or she was a pretty tough looking goat. This is not to say that she/he didn't pose for some pictures for us. I'll share them below.

Our final scramble was sort of surreal. It was over the lip of a small pass and on the other side was Ingalls lake. The lake was fed entirely by melted snow and rain water. There were no streams and it looks like something out of the Sound of Music. We rested, ate our treats and left for the hike back. It was about 12 miles round trip. I was way over my time, and had to cancel plans with G to go out that night.

That's one understanding man. I was like "I owe you". He said "No you don't. We're married. It'll even out."

MM Hmm.  I never forget these things.
Here are a few photos:

This way, said the spider to the fly.

Are we going up this, or around?

Up.

Well this isn't so bad.

Pretty little mountain meadow

That's Mt. Adams in the distance.  To the right, not pictured, is Mt. Rainier




The trail. By trail I mean "trail"

That's Mt. Stuart in the distance. See all the sweat?

Pristine and glassy.

Should I be singing "The Sound of Music"?



Love the larch trees

There's no delicate way to say this: mountain goat butt.


My amazing, super fit, fun, great conversationalist hiking buddy


Yes, that's the equivalent of 327 flights of stairs. 

This is my favorite picture of the day

See? He posed for a photo op.

Looking down on the tree line

That's Mt. Stuart in the distance



So that was hike #1. Pretty dramatic, right? With an expert to guide us and sandwiches. Like 5 hours of hiking up and down and a change of 2,500 feet in elevation.

In the next blog, I'll illustrate the second one.