Thursday, November 25, 2010

Trying To Be Thankful

I spend quite a bit of time in general trying to find things for which I am thankful.  The last 15 months have been nothing less than crazy. I lost my marriage.  I lost some friends who were very dear to me.  I lost two very cherished members of my family.  I can easily say the last 15 months have been both the worst and the best months of my life.

Amid the turmoil, many good things have happened to me, too.  Trekking paths I would have never imagined myself on, finding happiness in unlikely places. Mostly, I have spent more time focusing on things that really matter rather than trying to make everyone else happy at my expense.  I have had to learn who I really am rather than trying to be what I think everyone else wants me to be.  It's been an adventure, but I don't have all the answers yet.  I may never have all the answers, but I'm committed to never stop questioning.  I never again want to experience the depressing complacency I succumbed to years ago.

But yet, there is always change.  After taking a risk on a new and exciting job, my boyfriend lost the new job on an insurance technicality with no other temporary positions available as a backup.  I'm a month or two behind on some bills because I tried to help with child care costs.  Now my student loans are coming up for repayment in a couple weeks and are shockingly close to $700 a month.  The promise of a raise at work is unlikely amid low sales and some downsizing as a response.  I have just enough in savings to cover the current round of bills and get caught up and then we enter survival mode.  I could lose a lot of the things (convenience services like cell phones, random stuff, the house to name a few) I have worked very hard to achieve over the last several years and I would be lying if I said I was handling the anticipation of such a blow to my pride gracefully.  I'm more like a wounded animal: baring my teeth and snapping at anyone attempting to approach.

It's hard to look forward and be thankful when I feel like I'm in a house of cards and can see a storm blowing in my direction.  But I have many things to be thankful for.

I'm thankful for my boyfriend who is nothing less than a rock who is not just supportive, but resourceful and creative.  I have faith in him and trust him completely, and I'm proud of him for taking a risk to make his life (and our lives) better, even though it did not work out like we hoped.

I'm thankful for my best friend who always reminds me to look on the bright side of life, including exercising kindness to others and kindness to myself.

I am thankful for the amazing people I am lucky enough to call friends.  These are the people that put up with long periods of silence from me when I was stressing over some thing or another and still welcomed me back with open arms unquestioningly whenever I was free to visit.

I am thankful for my family who, despite the emotional gaps, never hesitate to help no matter what the situation.

I am also most thankful for myself because, seriously, where the hell would I be without me?!  Even though I can be an emotional wreck, I'm smart and resourceful.  I am a survivor.  I'm too hard-headed to give up on almost anything.

I'm still pretty tender right now, emotionally speaking.  I don't know how I'm going to make it to winter, much less get through it.  I'm trying to see it as a challenge to live more simply, more fully, and find and do the things that really make me happy.  And I'm thankful, very thankful, for the opportunity of change.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sitting on the Career Fence

Sometimes I lie awake at night wondering if I chose the right career path.  Progress always seems slow, I rarely feel like I'm given reasonable priorities to accomplish even the simplest of tasks, and I frequently get caught up in some kind of rut.

And then I realize I'm really lying awake because I was brainstorming some application I'm excited to design and code, and really I'm just frustrated that I don't ever seem to be able to make the most of my time in the office working on or developing my skill set to complete those kinds of projects.

It's like having this really awesome sandbox, with shovels, rakes, pails to mold sand, and fine detailing tools, and being held inside all day watching the tools rust in the rain while cats use the sandbox as their community toilet.  It makes me cranky.

There's a position opening that would (in theory) allow me to do more playing.  On the other hand, I would be forced to abandon my current niche that I was hoping to continue to explore with some major projects coming down the pike.  I had honestly hoped my position would be reclassified into a business analyst position because that is essentially closer to what I should be doing in my existing position.  Instead I'm frequently left out of the loop during decision making and forced to make an environment comply with the whims of users unfamiliar with the limitations, existing modules for use, or how such decisions are going to impact the whole organism.  It's what happens when you're just seen as help desk support rather than a part of the planning team.  I don't get a lot of internal support to help to change that mindset.

After talking with my super about the new position, it didn't sound like the new position would be a good fit for either of us.  I remember walking away from that conversation hugely disappointed with a feeling that I would have to make major sacrifices to my happiness working there for a new opportunity and that the (likely minuscule) raise wouldn't be worth leaving my comfort zone.  Money isn't everything, and I'm not interested in putting myself in a position where I am going to start hating coming to work.

On the other hand, I might be able to find a way to maintain some of my existing responsibilities within the confines of this new position and attempt to spread out others with the other programmers through cross-training.  My biggest concern here is that since everyone has their own way of doing things, this could potentially create chaos in database and class structures, but in the end that's technically such a concern is not my responsibility.

I'm on the fence about it.  I am usually a pretty good risk taker, but with economic concerns and fears about my inability to find happiness in a new position, it's difficult to just make a blind leap.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On the road

I am writing this from my iPhone while lazing in a hotel bed in lovely Auburn, CA. As a computer programmer, it is rare that I get to visit our sales offices throughout the state, but due to an office plague, I get an opportunity to get away from my desk and on the open road to help our techs deploy new equipment. I really do love it. Our sales personnel are not shy about sharing their feelings about our hardware and software solutions. It's an opportunity to get honest feedback to think about current problems and how to solve them.

I just love to travel. There's a lot to see in this beautiful state. Lots of interesting people to see and meet. Lots of new experiences to be had.

I used to travel two weekends out of every month. At some point it dwindled to maybe two or three weekends every year. I certainly make more than I did, but I never seem to have the money. Now I have a mortgage and a house to maintain, a family to take care of, and an endless to do list to conquer. Over the last year, I have taken steps to just do what is important and stopped stressing about non-critical tasks. Still, there is always something holding me back.

I think it started when my ex-husband started working Saturdays. Naturally I wanted to share my experiences with him but it becMe increasingly difficult to plan around his schedule. Ironically my boyfriend so works weekends. In fact in the month of November we only have two days off together. Thanksgiving Day and the day after. It's a little sad.

But I love traveling. I'm thankful for an opportunity to do some (and get paid!) this week. Maybe this will help encourage me to get out some more in the future. Afterall, I do have that annoying fear of snow I promised to work on getting over this winter.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Obese, but still healthy

Yeah, that pretty much sums me up. I read an article on Yahoo! News a few weeks ago (here) about a study researching whether it was still possible to be obese and healthy.

Needless to say, the research still leaves a lot of questions unanswered and nothing is really safe to assume yet.  But in the last year I've often sardonically joked that I must be genetically predisposed to being obese.  All my vitals are perfect, my blood work came back as a shining beacon radiating health.  I'm still fat though.  Quitting smoking actually killed most of my risk factors.  Given my age and current BMI my risk of health-related complications is still super low.

Frankly, vanity compels me far more than health risk factors do.  I'm relatively comfortable in my own skin, but dammit, I could be even more comfortable.  I certainly think I could breathe better at night and get better sleep.  Recent bouts with chronic pain have made sticking to a regimen difficult, but I'm learning how to deal with that one day at a time.

Living in a culture that demonizes and legislates against the growing number of fat people, it's an interesting concept to push that some people are generally healthier being fat than our existing model of so-called "health".  I look at shows I grew up with in the 80s and 90s and find that what passed as "hot" then generally has more meat on the bones than today's standards of bony waif-ness.  Even Megan Fox confessed her diet generally consists of coffee, cigarettes, and a regular vinegar "cleanse".  That's just gross, lacking in health, and likely to be masked in plastic surgeries and Photoshop editing down the road.  Assuming the rumors are true she's already gone that route.

I have to deal with the issue of projecting an image of health frequently with our son who has two vastly different households with dramatically different eating habits and takes on what comprises healthy eating/living.  One is hugely restrictive on food yet (seems like) little emphasis is placed on organized meal times or family-style meal plans.  The other is very permissive on food and places great emphasis on everyone sitting together and eating the same dinner.  Fortunately, he isn't all that picky and regularly tries new things; we never have lack of appetite issues although we have had problems with him declaring fullness when he didn't want to eat what we gave him (he would like the food, but want something else), but now that we're better aware of what he is doing, this hasn't been a problem for weeks.  I mostly worry about pressing the issue of clearing his plate (eating beyond his hunger).  We just encourage him to eat a little more of something, negotiating a couple bites for escaping from the dinner table (after helping with cleanup, of course!).

It's hard not projecting my own issues with food onto a child, but I think we're doing okay so far.  We try to give us all ample time to do some physical activities together and make sure our meals are relatively balanced.   I still worry about what our physical image projects about our health, true or not.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


There's this whole "green revolution" thing happening right now.  It's the weirdest thing I think I have ever seen, and I've seen some might weird stuff in my limited time on this earth.  Some of it makes sense: trying to lower waste, reusing things that can be retasked elsewhere (our 4-year-old loves my pirate-shirt-turned-pillow-case).  Some of it is ridiculous: advising we buy and consume more by "tossing" our chemical-laden cleaners and switching to more gentle (but still chemical) cleaners.  Some of it is simple economics.  It's more affordable for me to buy a used dress from a thrift store (or better yet, find some through a local "freecycle" program) than to go to the mall and buy the latest designer model (although I can't say I have ever done that--it's an issue of genetics).

It makes it difficult to do any one thing without sounding like a complete hypocrite.  I have friends that bemoan our dependence on foreign oil, and yet they drive gas-guzzling cars, live in over-sized houses, and wouldn't even dream of taking public transport for their commute.  When I started taking the bus to work, quite a number of people pointed and laughed at me (mostly from within my office) as if taking the bus was something only the under-privileged did, or conversely many people said they would take the bus if the system was improved.  Well, the first view point is just a sad projection of those who think image is everything; the second can never be resolved if people aren't taking the bus in the first place (because if you're not riding it, you're not contributing to the cost of running it).

Here's a personal example: I try to reduce my waste (seriously, I think I am the only house in the neighborhood where the cans only go out once every month), but some things lend themselves better to my lifestyle.  Take cheese singles.  If you know me, I don't even need to explain the logic.  For those that don't...well, let's just say for my safety and for yours, you are legally forbidden to allow me to handle sharp objects. That means I can't slice or grate my own cheese.  Pre-sliced and grated cheese include additional processing and manufacturing, but boy does it keep my ER bill down.

Buying local slogan is an irritant to me.  Many people tout the importance of buying locally while shipping more and more jobs overseas or looking to purchase goods in electronic markets where shipping is free or state taxation doesn't apply.

Life is a give and take.  We all try to do something to make our existence and hopefully that of our community (be it your neighborhood, state, country, or the world) a bit of a better place.  Hopefully those attempts are informed.  But sometimes, even with the best intentions, we just end up looking like jack-asses, regardless.

Monday, November 1, 2010

November Goals

I started this blog in order to get back into writing.  This is just a general forum for my thoughts.  Nothing special really.  Well, except I get all perfectionist on it once I start taking it seriously until I'm not updating.  I have over two dozen half-written blog entries that haven't been finished or fully fleshed out, much less posted!

Goal number one: post my thoughts while I'm thinking them.

Sometimes I'm away from the computer.  I have an iPhone that's usually pretty easy to type on.  There's no reason that I can't step away for 20 minutes to post a blog entry.  I previously considered updating before bed to clear my mind, but usually I just keep thinking well past I've published a post.  So from now on, I'll post in the moment and see where things go.

Other than that, I've been wanting to live more simply or at least cut down on my clutter!  This has been a slow process.  I wish at times I could take it more seriously, but I love stuff.  On my lunch hour today, I read an article about a minimalist who gave up using a dishwasher as part of his journey to simpler living.  Since I have been considering buying a new dishwasher as a Yuletide present for my house, I thought November would be a good time to challenge myself.

Goal number two: cease using the dishwasher for the month of November.

I usually end up washing my dishes before I put them in the dish washer anyway.  This wastes my time and my water heating costs since I'm doing double-duty.  It's going to be difficult washing dishes after every meal (especially since I usually eat breakfast then run to the office) but it is a challenge after all.  Most importantly, I'll have the potential to be saving myself $300 to $600 on a dishwasher I may not even need.  That's more money into savings or paying down my student loans.