Extreme introverting

Yeah, I’m still alive. I just haven’t felt up to writing. I keep shying away from it again and again.

This winter has brought lots of rain, which is good and bad. The drought is officially over in Northern California, and we’ve been experiencing flooding instead. It seems that in the Bay Area, the North Bay in particular has been getting hit with more rain and our infrastructure is suffering. With every storm I get alerts about road closures due to flooding or landslides.

I took a brief break to visit with friends in Portland, Oregon around the New Year. We spent a few days near Mt. Hood and I did some snowshoeing for the first time. Trying to return home became an ordeal due to the weather. The first of a series of ice/snow storms hit Portland, closing the airport and the public transit system down. After enduring two cancelled flights, I decided that the only way to get home was via rail and spent 21 hours on the Amtrak (bracketed by Lyft rides) so I could get to Oakland Airport and retrieve my car. Yes, it was a real Planes ,Trains, & Automobiles experience for me.

It turns out I timed my escape from Portland perfectly, as I managed to slip out just after the first storm hit, but before the second one could cripple the transportation in and around that city, and through the Northern California corridors even further. My train journey was delayed only three hours due to the flooding in Northern CA; it could have been much worse.

Other than that I’ve been mostly holed up at home, working and entertaining myself with ebooks, DVDs from the library, and Netflix. I’m getting lots of knitting done, too, and am working on a baby blanket for a friend and a pair of socks for my sister. Both projects will take me through February and into March, I’m sure.

I took a small break from my extreme introverting to attend a resistance march last Friday night (in the pouring rain, no less) and the Women’s March here in Napa. There were an impressive number of people out and about on a day that kept threatening rain (and eventually delivered while the speakers were still going strong). I met a couple of friends from knitting group and we marched together, wearing our pussy hats proudly. I had picked up the yarn for my hat while in Hood River, OR at a small yarn shop. I was delighted that the bright pink colorway was called Liberally Bleeding Heart. It only took about two days to knit up my hat and have it ready for the march. I’m still wearing it as my go-to hat and probably will for the next four years.

I’m sure some of the reason I’m so low energy is due to the political events. It’s draining to me to see the progress made in the past eight years dismantled, and to experience the gaslighting and crazy talk of the new administration. (Enough said there. I just…can’t.)

Health-wise, I’m also trying hard to focus on the fundamentals: eat nutritious food (yet not too much), get the right amount of exercise, and get enough sleep. I’m doing pretty good with the food part, but the exercise and sleep parts are challenges. It seems that even one night of less than perfect sleep can mess me up for many days, and trying to make exercise challenging enough without overdoing it and causing physical discomfort has been hard. I thought I had been doing pretty well with my exercise level at the end of November/beginning of December, but then started having unusual pains in my lower abdomen near the surgery site. That made me back off completely for a while. Now I’m trying to figure out how to avoid that, while still getting myself back into shape.

I see this extreme introverting (as I’m calling it) continuing through the rest of the winter, at least. Maybe spring will bring some renewed mental and physical resilience.

How has your winter been?

Two years in

I arrived in Napa, California two years ago today: December 1, 2014. It was raining that day and I recall being surprised by the weather. I was expecting there to be blue skies and sunshine since I knew the area was in drought.

The weather continued cool and rainy that first week. The movers unpacking my shipping container of belongings tracked wet leaves across the floors and cautioned me that the paint on the front steps made them slippery. Non-skid throw rugs and treads for the front steps were bumped up my priority purchase list.

The rains eventually abated by the end of the week. They returned a few times, but I enjoyed the mostly blue skies and sun. I savored the crisp air and cool temperatures that left a thin film of frost on my car windows overnight and once or twice led to a frost warning. I could still wear my precious hand-knitted hats, scarfs, and shawls, but didn’t miss the bulk of the thick down coat I had to don in Chicago winters.

Spring arrived in February, with new growth on the deciduous trees and blooming calla lilies in the front yard. The robins appeared in March, and by April I was already regularly wearing short sleeves and capris during my weekly hikes. In late May I was wearing linen and sweating during the day at the local music festival, yet still found it necessary to put on a fleece as the sun went down to combat the evening chill. From May through November I don’t recall any rain at all, but then the winter rains started again and the cycle was complete.

I’ve found that the seasons here are the same as back in Chicago, but they are on an accelerated schedule and there is no snow to shovel. The climate suits me, and my skin doesn’t dry up like it used to every winter in Chicago.

I love Northern California and am glad I moved here. Every single time my gaze falls on the high hills framing the valley, I smile and sigh with pleasure. Despite the health challenges that cropped up within just a few months of my arrival, I am happy in this place. But I am also frequently lonely.

It takes time to make friends as an adult. Friendships were easier while in high school and college, when everyone was moving through similar milestones. It seems that I am out of sync with the vast majority of people in this small town at the edge of the sprawling Bay Area. Most of the women I meet are wives and mothers, and their schedules revolve around their children and husbands. They may be able to meet once a week for knitting or the occasional game night, but they aren’t available on the weekends.

If I lived closer to San Francisco there would be many more single professional women my age and I would have a livelier social life on the weekends. I figured this out before I bought a house here and settled in more deeply. Despite the social challenges, I still chose to stay because I enjoy the other privileges that come with the lower density: quiet, lack of heavy traffic, shorter lines for services, quick access to large swathes of open space, and breath-taking natural beauty.

Two years in I’m still loving Napa. May the honeymoon never end.

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Dystopian imaginings

I can’t avoid the news forever, so I’m occasionally reading some of the summaries and articles about the president-elect and the cabinet appointments he’s making. These are truly dark times (and I’m not just talking about the return to Standard Time and shortening day length).

As bad as it may seem to have Trump as president-elect, I’m actually more worried that the only option would be to replace him with Pence. Unless these seemingly cockamamie claims that the Russians hacked the election are true and audited results change the election outcome, if Trump is found unfit to serve as president we’ll get Pence as our POTUS. Trump may be a buffoon and a profiteer, but Pence is a scary, scary guy.

The litany of strong social conservative positions he’s championed or made law in Indiana is long. He believes in conversion therapy for LGBTQ people, and is vehemently anti-choice. This is the guy who inspired the Periods for Pence (now Periods for Pols) social media group and inspired Indiana women to call his office and report on their menstrual periods.

I have high school friends in Indiana who have first hand experience with living in a state run by this guy. One friend is the mother of a transgender young adult. She’s angry and scared that her child will suffer under a Trump/Pence administration.

Trump is already showing signs of being unlikely to rise to the demands of being POTUS. The crazy conspiracy theory part of my brain is thinking that maybe this was always the plan of the Republicans: use Trump to win the election since he’s able to appeal to the masses, then replace him with Pence as the real president. We truly have a situation of bad to worse here even if there are no grand schemes in play.

Entertain me! (What I’m watching)

I’ve been off work for the past five weeks recovering from my surgery. That means I’ve had plenty of time to read and watch media. I’ve done some reading, but I’ve been doing quite a bit of multitasking (knitting) that is difficult to manage while reading, so there has been a significant amount of viewing happening. (Yes, I do find it possible to knit while reading, but only very simple knitting; working on a cabled sweater isn’t simple for me.)

While I do have “pay channels” they aren’t the premium ones, so most of the media I watch is streamed through my Roku on either Netflix or Amazon Prime. I also recently purchased a Blu-Ray player since I was finding it a PITA to keep connecting up my laptop to the TV when I wanted to watch a DVD. (Also, my laptop is old enough that I don’t think it would even play a Blu-Ray disc if I wanted to rent or borrow one.)

Here’s what I’ve been watching and enjoying:

Poldark: This BBC-produced PBS Masterpiece series is currently broadcasting Season Two now, but I hadn’t gotten around to watching Season One before my convalescing period, so I had to catch up first by watching Season One on Amazon Prime. Then I was able to piece together Season Two from my DVR recordings and the PBS app on my Roku. What’s not to love here: beautiful scenery, a very attractive leading man who is also a likeable character, great costumes, a decent storyline, and a historical setting. (Amazon Prime, PBS app, local PBS station)

Fleabag: Another BBC drama, but this one is contemporary. Each of the six episodes is only 30 minutes long, so it doesn’t take long to binge watch. I watched them all in a single afternoon while I was still in the hospital. (Hooray for great hospital wi-fi!) Yeah, the main character has done some questionable things in her life, but seeing how her family treats her you start to understand why she is an emotional wreck. It’s not a light-hearted series, but I’ve been recommending it to my friends because it is so real and raw. (Amazon Prime)

The Kettering Incident: I actually watched the first two episodes of this thriller back in early September when I had some plane travel. I was intrigued, but found I wasn’t deeply pulled in until about the third or fourth episode. By the end of the series, I was hooked and I’m hoping the show will continue. (Amazon Prime)

Love & Friendship: I love costume dramas, but don’t automatically consider myself a Jane Austen fan. I have a hard time struggling through the writing and dialog from that period, and I know I lose many subtleties. So I guess it’s no surprise that I’d rate this movie sort of “meh.” It seems witty and clever, and there were parts that just went right over my head.  It did get very good reviews, though. (Amazon Prime)

Longmire: Crime dramas are like popcorn; it’s easy to work through quite a bit without paying close attention. That may not sound like a ringing endorsement of this series, but it engages me at just the right level. Plus I love the scenery of Wyoming and have learned how surprisingly diverse it is. (It’s not all cowboys and Indians.) I’ve also become invested in the characters, too. I’m nearly through three seasons and still have two more left, but I was still bummed to see that the series is nearing its end. (Netflix)

Anzac Girls: I ran across this series last year and set my DVR to record it. But when I went to watch the first episode I recorded, I realized that it wasn’t the first of the series so I deleted the few I had captured. Then I ran across the DVDs at my local library and decided to check them out. (Actually, finding this series on DVD was a pivotal reason I ordered my Blu-Ray player.) The subject matter is serious — nursing in WWI — but the series is based on historical figures and features strong female leads. This is the type of medical drama I enjoy much more than the contemporary ones. (DVD)

The Durrells in Corfu: Set in the 1930s, this memoir of growing up in a quirky British family that moved to Corfu is delightful. So far only three out of six episodes have aired on PBS, so there are a few more to look forward to in the coming weeks. (PBS app on Roku)

This isn’t a comprehensive listing of my viewing habits. I’ve also consumed some local news and spent one day largely zoning out to HGTV as I napped off and on. As I’ve recovered and increased my stamina I’ve been watching less TV and spending more time getting out and about. I still made time to watch a few games in the World Series and was ecstatic that the Cubs won this year! Woo hoo!

Writing and connecting

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to write here over the past few weeks, yet I keep putting it off. Why?

I don’t really have a goal for this blog. It’s just a place where I write about stuff that I experience in my life or that I have thoughts about. I started writing a blog many years ago when it was a popular thing to do in the knitting/crafting world. I wrote only about my knitting and my gardening in the beginning. It didn’t take long for that “format” to become more loose and just reflect my life in general, though.

There are many excellent blogs I read because of their compelling content. Every time I read these blogs I learn something about a topic or gather information about an experience that interests me. In my blog reader I’ve categorized the long list of blogs I follow under categories like Crafts, Food, Personal Finance, Lifestyle, and Friends.

Over time, a couple of those blogs have moved from their original category to the Friends list, even if the content hasn’t changed. I’ve happily built some friendships through these online interactions, and have even been blessed to meet some of these bloggers in person.

My online friendships are also advanced through Twitter. Some of these same people who I met through their blogs are followed daily through their tweets, and they have helped me connect to others on Twitter who have enriched my life. (Although, I am really frustrated by the changes in the Twitter algorithm that now result in a jumbled timeline of tweets. I hate seeing a tweet hours after it’s been posted. Argh!)

Are there still doubters who don’t believe online relationships are just as important as IRL ones? I have learned so much from the perspectives and life tales of my online friends. Most of them are younger than me, and seem so much more enlightened and “together” about social issues. I am constantly learning from their perspectives and comments.

I understand life (and blogging) isn’t a contest, but I feel like my contributions — my observations, experiences, and writing skills — pale in comparison to these folks, and that sometimes inhibits me to write here. Also, I am lazy. I often prefer to consume others’ writing and leave comments rather than write a full post.

Maybe I just need to write shorter posts. Maybe I just need to get over myself and keep repeating the observation above: this is not a contest. (Also, the best way to get better at writing is to write more, so just do it, Linda!)

Anyway, here are some of the online connections I make regularly and that have become important to me.

A Gai Shan Life: Revanche is a Bay Area blogger who writes about money, family, and fun stuff like travel. Her unique perspective comes from years of supporting her parents and sibling, and living with a disability that can cause chronic fatigue and pain. Despite her challenges she is compassionate and positive. She also tweets @RevAGSL. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Revanche in person, and she is just a wonderful as she is online. 🙂

Funny about Money: Sometimes she comes across as crotchety and she is always opinionated, but I like reading FaM’s observations about her life in Phoenix and her challenges to maintain her lifestyle in retirement. I admire her writing style and skills, as well as how she explores new income streams and shares her experiences. FaM has a few other blogs specific to her publishing business, and they’re easily accessed from her main blog. She used to teach, as well, and had a blog about topics relevant to life as an adjunct, but I’m not sure if that blog is active anymore.

GeekyLyndsay: Except for the occasional professional (and insightful) article that she tweets, GeekyLyndsay is a Twitter-only presence. She is spunky, likes dogs, and is invariably positive. I look forward to her daily selfies, as well as photos of her dog Luigi and delicious food. She has tweeted some awesome self-care resources and has also inspired me to read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, which is the first comic I’ve read in roughly 30 years. (And she’s right, it is a great comic!) Thanks to Revanche for pointing me in her direction!

Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured): I’ve been reading this blog since nicoleandmaggie were untenured (hence the parenthetical note in the blog title.) Nicoleandmaggie (not their real names) and the “Grumpy Nation” of commentators have widened my understanding and perspective on a number of topics, but it’s their unapologetic feminism and advocacy of each person’s awesomeness that I love the most. Yay for the Grumpies and yay for me!

I Pick up Pennies: Abby blogs and has a Twitter account @ipickuppennies. Her observations about budgeting and frugality while also living with chronic fatigue and depression are witty and grounded. I appreciate her insights and lessons, as well as her combination of kindness and tenacity, and her learner’s mindset to every obstacle she comes across. Abby is always “keeping it real,” and I appreciate that perspective.

NZ Muse: From the other side of the world, NZ Muse inspires me with her observations about being the primary breadwinner in high cost of living area (Auckland, New Zealand). She’s shared her doubts and challenges in her relationship, and is driven in her pursuit of better compensation so she can attain her goals. NZ Muse also tweets @eemusings, and I’ve happily met her in person as she traveled through the US as a newlywed. Sadly, we were only able to spend a few hours together one evening, but I hope I helped her appreciate the perfection of a Chicago-style hotdog at the iconic Superdawg.

Conspicuously absent from my list of online connections are Facebook “friends.” While I do have a large number of them, I am careful to curate my Facebook posts now that so many of my work colleagues are connected to me. While I’m never less than genuine on Facebook, I just feel less constrained here on my personal blog and Twitter. I used to have my Twitter account “feed” my Facebook account but recently disconnected them since I wanted to be able to tweet about stuff that may not be appropriate for work colleagues to read.

There are many other people I follow on Twitter or via a blog, but these folks are my “core.” They’re the ones I look forward to reading every time they tweet or post a blog entry, and to whom I’m likely to respond in kind. I have grown as a person because of the observations, perspectives, resources, and links shared they’ve shared, and for that I thank them!

Do over

I need a fresh start, a do-over. I had high hopes for landing here in the Bay Area and building a new life. I wanted a life that was based on positivity and taking good care of my body and mind. I wanted to let go of the bad attitudes and habits that had made me feel so down about my life in Chicago.

Shortly after settling in here, I felt like I was on the right track. I was involving myself in active social events like hiking and making friends. I was finding joy in life every day and loving my new town.

Then negative stuff started to intrude. I had a series of health setbacks (diverticulitis #1#2, #3, and #4; hormonal imbalances; a rare eye disease; and, a renegade ovarian cyst). My work changed and I had a whole new team/boss with a different culture to learn. I tried dating, and while I had some good experiences in the early days, after spending more time with each person I realized there were issues that made a relationship unworkable. I let all of this stuff drag me down again and my mood switched from mostly positive to negative.

So I’m declaring a fresh start now. I put myself through two surgeries in the past year because they were necessary to me regaining my health. They are done and I’ve got another month to rest and recover. In that time frame I will also start building better habits for myself. I will get back into meditating and studying mindfulness. I’ll allow myself to dream and free associate about my work and professional life. I may look for a local therapist. I’ll look for more ways to continue building my social network. Dating will not be something I actively seek to do, and I’m not sure what I’d do if I met someone socially that interested me. I guess I’ll deal with it if/when I need to.

Back to being a homeowner!

Or maybe it’s being a “home slave?” Anyway, the close happened Friday morning with little fanfare. I presented myself to the title company office at 8 AM, signed a whack of papers, and was out of there by 8:45. That includes some chit-chat time, and a few minutes of education on how property taxes work here. (VERY different from Cook County/Chicago, so I’ll have a new learning experience over the next year.)

I didn’t actually get the keys until about 3 PM. I met my real estate agent at the house and we took some photos of me with a Sold sign for kicks. I also brought Hannah dog with me so she could check out the house and yard. (Hannah was also included in the photos, of course!) After the agent left, I started walking the (now empty of staging furniture) house with the idea of measuring windows and rooms. But then the neighbors started arriving.

The sellers used to live in the house, but now live across the street. The story pieced together by the real estate agent and I through some sleuthing through public records is that the husband’s mother lived in the house they now occupy. She died last fall, and the couple decided to move across the street to her house and sell the one they had been living in. So the former occupants of my home currently live across the street.

The husband arrived at the house just a few minutes after the real estate agent left. He met Hannah and noted that he and his wife used to have a German Shepherd Dog that had died a few years ago, and the yard was great for a dog. (Dog lovers, phew!) We had a nice chat for about 30 minutes about careers, hobbies, and the property. It will be good to have such easy access to information about the house, although I hope he and his wife won’t get too upset when I start making the property over to my own tastes. (There’s too much grass! I don’t like lawns.)

I also met the neighbors who live on one side, and was given some brief info about the man who lives on the other side of the house. The seller/neighbor also offered to introduce me to others on the block.

It seems like the block is a nice community, and I’m looking forward to moving in. For now, though, I’m still occupying the rental house. The electrician should be at the new house tomorrow to start the rewiring work. I’m also having the termite treatment done before I move.

I’m so excited and happy about the house and I find myself wishing I didn’t have to share it with a housemate. But I need to be practical and get that extra income. For at least two weeks, though, I expect to just occupy the house by myself and enjoy my last solitary time.