Today I turn 50

It’s been an easy going day. My company has volunteer day today so there were no meetings. I decided since it’s my birthday it’s reasonable to take most of the day off work. (Plus, there were no open volunteer projects that involved getting away from a computer.) So I got to knock a few things off my work To Do list while still enjoying some relax time.

One of today’s highlights: my mom called me and sang Happy Birthday. I was shocked and surprised that she would even remember my birthday. With her dementia advancing, most of the time she can’t even remember what she had for lunch or when we last talked, but golly she remembered my birthday. ūüôā

Sister asked me what I’d like to do for my birthday and I requested that we pack a picnic and head to the little park along the river for a concert. Tonight is the first of a series of free musical performances in downtown Napa and the main band is a local favorite for good reason.

Other updates:

  • I’ve been getting pelvic floor physical therapy. It’s been helping me feel more comfortable about getting appropriate exercise that will help me build my strength back and lose weight without feeling like I’m injuring myself. It was also a relief to have someone in the medical field acknowledge that I did, indeed, have some real basis for the pain and discomfort I had been feeling when doing certain exercises.
  • A friend came to visit me from Chicago and we had a blast together for a week. There are so many amazing things to do within an hour or two of here. I really love living here.
  • There’s been knitting progress. I finished the knitting on another sweater for myself, but there are some fiddly finishing things I need to do, so I can’t consider it entirely done yet. I’ll get to it eventually. In the meantime I started a new cowl knit with linen yarn.
  • I’ve also done a lot of reading, including not just fiction but some good non-fiction. I’m currently about halfway through Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I’m highlighting many passages in this book, and plan to share a short post about it on our company internal social media network. My boss keeps prompting me to talk with leaders regularly and this has been making me anxious. Like most companies, leadership is very extroverted. Interacting with them wipes me out, but I have to figure out how to meet the expectation that I do this regularly. I’m studying the situation like a good introvert.

I’ve been getting lots of birthday wishes on Facebook, but despite a direct ask for birthday greetings on Twitter only one person has responded. Maybe it’s because yesterday was such a busy news day.

The progress loop trends downward

I’m in a bit of a dip again. I was doing really well until a few days ago. Last weekend I was knocking it out of the park: quigong at the gym on Friday, a long walk on Saturday morning with a new walking group (social time and exercise!), all the eye drops remembered, sensible eating and drinking, and adequate rest. I had a fun time visiting with a friend in San Francisco on Sunday, and felt some good restoration from a weekend of self-care.

As last week progressed I started to lose my grip. My work days weren’t going as planned (Ha, ha, ha! When do they ever?!) and I’m worried about missing some deadlines now. The House passed that stupid healthcare bill and since I’m a walking set of pre-existing conditions these days and have several people I care about who are, too, I started to panic inside. I went to quigong on Friday again, but was having trouble maintaining my focus. By afternoon I had¬†ENOUGH when a random dude on a bike stopped me as I was rolling my trash bins into my driveway. He offered “help,” which apparently consisted of telling me the best way to do it myself. I let him ride away a few feet before commenting out loud that I didn’t need to be mansplained how to deal with my trash bins. Later, as I pulled in the parking lot of the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions (of yet more eye drops, of course), some other dude tried to pull out in front of me. When I tapped the horn to get his attention he stopped, but then yelled at me through his open window that I needed to “Slow down!” I completely lost it at that time and hurled foul words in his direction out my own open car window (many juicy F-bombs were dropped) and continued to grumble as I exited my car that I was TIRED OF MEN TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!

I coddled myself Friday night by eating leftovers, not turning on the news (or the TV at all, for that matter), and consuming a stiff vodka martini. But I did myself a disservice by poking around too much online. I had bad dreams that night, and the imagery was pulled from my browsing history. I roused myself at some early hour from a dream where I was in a small camper/tiny house that was inside another building or warehouse and was being ejected through the wall by a malevolent force. The only good thing about the night is I managed to wake up just enough to break through that dream cycle, but not enough that I was fully awake and unable to get back to sleep.

Still, I dragged myself out of bed with the sunrise and managed to make the walking group again.¬†I visited the farmers market and got some yummies, but didn’t buy more than I can consume this week, and then hustled home to cook lunch. I met with a (very strong) potential short-term renter for this harvest season, and had a short rest to make up for my broken sleep.

Last night’s social event was spent with a friend I’ve made through my local knitting group (and also the local UU church when I decide to attend). We spent the evening enjoying some take out Indian food, a small amount of wine, and working on our knitting projects while we watched a movie. I had brought over Moonlight, which I’ve had on request from the library for (seemingly) ages. Wow. I struggled with understanding some of the¬†dialog, but still. Wow. I couldn’t help crying at the end. This poor young man was so lonely, and I associated with it¬†maybe too much.

I had such high hopes that when sister had moved here for good that we would friends and I’d have companionship. But that hasn’t turned out to be the case. Of course. Those expectations were¬†unrealistic, yet I can’t seem to shut off¬†the part of me that has them. Just today as we discussed a possible outing together she started using a nasty, impatient voice and then turned around and denied her annoyance when I mentioned it and blamed me for having an attitude. The outing never happened, needless to say.

Here’s another¬†thing: I’ve been dealing with a “crush” the past month. It’s stupid, really, really stupid to have an attraction like this. I’m too embarrassed even to write more details about¬†it, quite frankly, but it’s there and I am trying to shut it down really hard and failing. The person I am crushing on has no reason to know that I exist, and I wouldn’t even approach him and make him aware that I do since I feel so rotten about myself right now and I know I just could not stand any rejection.

So, I really identify with this aspect of the main character in Moonlight. That longing for connection and loneliness that’s not there. That had been there for a brief time, but was lost.¬†I wish I could just shut down any romantic notions I have and make them go away permanently. I’m swearing off any romance novels for the near future, at least. I just can’t let my subconscious get any ideas that I’ll be encountering someone as I go about my life where there is a mutual attraction and a plausible chance of a relationship. I’m trying to sternly keep myself focused on strengthening friendships and taking care of myself. Those are realistic goals, at least.

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. ūüôā

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!