Sunday Confessional: learning curve

Historically, technology and I have maintained an uneasy relationship that borders on adversarial. Which is why it was quite a shock when last December, I spontaneously decided to purchase a drawing tablet which would require learning new software.

Big surprise, I became discouraged fairly quickly. Because not only was it all new to me, I was trying to learn while dealing with vision issues. Rather than push on through, I set aside the whole endeavor until this past week.

Unfortunately, the learning curve hadn’t magically disappeared. I found many YouTube tutorials on various aspects of Krita (free, open source software) and began learning things. A few things. I called upon Zippy to watch the one on removing backgrounds from images and we worked together to figure it out. It was a boost to my self-esteem to find out he also struggled to understand just what in the hell was involved in the process. Still, at the end of yesterday’s session I was exhausted and demoralized: all those hours and I still didn’t really know how to do what I wanted.

Today, I had an epiphany. Rather than view Krita as a problem to be conquered, I switched my perspective. Krita and I were allies! Krita was there to help me bring my creative visions to life! I won’t lie . . . I still felt discouraged at times today, but I also relaxed into the process. And now I’m proud to present my very first creation:

The Halcyon image is from footiechic on Pixabay and I hope that stunning bird is happy in the little setting I created. I’m grateful for it’s presence.

Recycled memories

Years ago, I used to begin each day writing three pages in longhand,  per Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages.” It was stream of consciousness writing done via a fountain pen and legal pad that usually morphed from scribblings about my life to the plot and characters of the novel (my very first) I was working on. I loved that ritual and don’t remember why I stopped in the early 2000s. But because I struggle to throw out “documentation” of my life (in large part because my parents saved very few items from my childhood), I stored those years of legal pads in a filing cabinet in our basement where they remained until today when I took an empty cardboard box into the storage room and began emptying the contents of that file drawer.

Image by Dmitriy Gutarev from Pixabay

At first, I averted my gaze, knowing how easy it would be for me to get lost in my words. Instead, I focused on tearing sections of paper away from the cardboard backing. Pad after pad was disassembled before my gaze somehow landed on the bottom of a page where I’d written about Wildebeest’s last day in soccer the day before. Apparently, in addition to ordering a team photo we’d also ordered a trophy for him despite misgivings about participation trophies. I wrote how Wildebeest was so thankful for the trophy he nearly cried as he said, “it makes me so happy.” Or maybe he said “it’s perfect.”

I’ve already forgotten the exact wording.

And that’s what panicked me as I stood this morning in the storage room next to the half-filled box of loose Morning Pages: the knowledge that I was about to recycle so many memories. For a moment, I considered going back through all those pages to extract every one that offered glimpses into my life with Zippy and our two sons. Such as the (May 1999) pages written the morning I’d gotten up at 5:00 a.m. in order to go to the Fillmore Auditorium to get in line for Bob Dylan concert tickets, and the next day’s pages in which I recounted how Zippy and the boys brought me croissants to where I waited in line and that it was Bob Dylan’s 58th birthday which I was celebrating by happily gazing upon the tickets I’d just scored. All those pieces of my life there on those legal pads.

But it wasn’t only highlights I came across as I tore paper from pads. I also read some angry words about Zippy. A scathing unsent letter to my father. And a shame-filled accounting of how I’d temporarily kept our sick dog, who was wet and muddy, outside our tent before coming to my senses and bringing her inside. Those Morning Pages also had the power to pull me back into places I didn’t need to revisit. Deep down, I knew there was no need to reopen wounds.

It’s all a moot point because as I write this, Zippy returned from the recycling center. Those six or so years of documentation are now officially gone from my life. I’m mostly at peace with my decision to let it all go, but admit to still having some twinges of regret. Undoubtedly, I’d documented some funny things the kids said. Fortunately, I don’t need those Morning Pages to remember Zebu pulling off his socks and saying “Mell my dinky toes.”

Thankful Thursday: in which we divest

Wildebeest and Zebu are both home for a visit. We haven’t seen Zebu since he moved to Seattle last August and it’s been five months since we last saw Wildebeest. I’m grateful to spend time with them, laugh at old jokes, and create new memories.

I’m also grateful they cooperated with my plan to get rid of some things. We carved out time yesterday to go through the enormous double closet in the basement that was filled with games, toys, LEGOS, dress-up clothes, etc., etc., etc. It was definitely a trip down memory lane to sort through everything. There was much laughter. We ended up keeping most of our board games, but it was an easy unanimous decision to say goodbye to TWISTER. Zebu commented that he’s always thought it was a really weird and uncomfortable game.

All these things will be loaded in the car and donated to ARC. More items are ready to go, but I’m going to check with the local elementary school to see if they can use them in the preschool and other classrooms. There’s also an electric guitar and bass plus an amp. Maybe the high school band would like them? Either way, we’ll find a home for those, too.

Hooray for letting go of possessions! I’m thankful for the many hours of enjoyment they brought us and wish them well in their new homes.

On developing curiosity

April 17, 2020.

It’s only Monday and I’m feeling anxious about various family members and all I want to do is hunker down with tasty snacks and forget about the rest of the week and everything that comes with it. Alas, life doesn’t work that way. Even this squirrel, who appears so content in the photo, was moments later focused on my intrusion. None of us are allowed to just be. Or, are we?

“There is a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable. You see this even in insects and animals and birds. All of us are the same. A much more interesting, kind and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our curiosity is bitter or sweet. To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is. If we are committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we’re going to run; we’ll never know what’s beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.”
― Pema Chödrön

Sunday Confessional: my mountain biker bias might be past its expiration date

This morning I went out for a run on the trails. Even though it’s Sunday, which would mean more people out in the open space.  And sure enough, I saw a fair number of folks. One male runner in bright, multi-colored shorts and no shirt. Two women hiking off in the distance. A man and woman walking a big ol’ black dog. Plus, quite a few of my least favorite trail users: mountain bikers.

I’ve been anti-mountain biker for years because (1) they carve up wet trails, creating grooves that harden into ankle-twisting ruts and (2) they’re rude, rarely acknowledging when I stop my run to let them pass.

My motto has long been F*CK MOUNTAIN BIKERS!

Well, today I’m rethinking my stance. Within two minutes of getting on the trail, a mountain biker rode toward me. He was on the uphill and I was on the down, so I stepped aside. The man said, “Thanks, but I can get by.” I recovered from the shock and started running again. A while later, three men on bikes rode toward me on the wide gravel portion of my route. They all smiled and called out Hello. I was barely out of their sight as  I started down the narrow part of trail where another man rode up the incline. When I stepped off the trail he called out, “That’s okay. There’s room.” I replied that I didn’t want to slow him down on the uphill and he said, “We can make it work.” He was right. We easily passed each other and off I ran again. A few minutes later three guys on mountain bikes came toward me and I stepped off the trail just as they pulled off to the other side.

“Go ahead!” one called out.
I said, “Thanks, guys!”
“Anytime!” one replied.
“Enjoy!” said another.
“Have a good one!” called the third.

I grinned as I continued along, wondering if the pod people had taken over the mountain biking community. I was filled with love for mountain bikers! But because I am in the confessional right now, I must also admit I’d still prefer to have the trails to myself. However, this morning’s interactions went a looong way toward cancelling my mountain biker bias.

Pod people or not, those men were good ambassadors.

The forest for the trees

Kapok Park. April 1, 2019.

I just spent the last several hours tying up some loose threads on the YA project I’ve (most recently ) been working on since last fall. Basically, I wrote pages of notes in order to have a map for the next time I pick it up. The thing is, I cannot put any more energy into this project right now. My critique group gave me feedback last Wednesday on the first 30 pages and it’s still a hot mess. My words, not theirs. Their feedback was spot-on and they offered some great suggestions, but my heart isn’t in it anymore. This is a project I drafted ten years ago and over the following decade revised multiple times. It’s definitely a better story than it was before, but it’s still not where it needs to be.

So. I’m setting it aside because the characters and plot have become a jumble in my mind. I can’t see the forest for the trees and I’m sick of trying.

Whew. I’m feeling a mixture of emotions right now, but there’s a whole lot of relief in letting go.

Finding the balance

Some days are so hard that I’m tempted to give up and assume the fetal position. Over the last couple days a  young relative was diagnosed with a health condition and then a neighborhood family suffered a heartbreaking tragedy. I’ve felt overwhelmed and weepy. But I’ve also experienced joy as I hugged my son, watched a magpie take flight, and listened to my snoring dogs as they snuggle together in their bed. I’ve made progress on my new writing project and shared laughter with my visiting brother-in-law. I didn’t give up and curl into a ball.

Life is a series of sunshine and shit-storms, and as long as I remember to think of it that way, the better I cope. The key (for me, anyway) is tapping into the light amidst the dark. Finding the balance. I was reminded of that as I struggled to balance the light and dark in this photo of Marcel.

The result is nowhere near perfect, but then again, neither is life.

All good things

Just knowing you don’t have the answers is a recipe for humility, openness, acceptance, forgiveness, and an eagerness to learn – and those are all good things.
~ Dick Van Dyke

His Name Wasn’t Stu

But that’s what I called him.

The name change started about the time he and my mother-in-law traveled to Alaska to visit Zippy and me. I mentioned in conversation that he didn’t seem like a Steve, but more of a Stu. So later on when we were in a gift shop in Fairbanks and I discovered a STU coffee mug, it was a done deal. My father-in-law was forevermore Stu.

Yesterday, the family honored his wishes and let Stu die. The nurses did everything to keep him comfortable, and in the hours before letting go, Stu was surrounded by his wife and four children, two daughters-in-law and one son-in-law. The last thing he said after opening his eyes and seeing us all there was “My chickadees.”

Stu had accepted, once and for all, how much his brood loved him. Following a surgery in early December, his last three months were mostly spent in hospitals and two different rehab facilities, with only a handful of days at home. His health had declined on several fronts and it was incredibly difficult for him. But the gift of those months was that Stu spent time with his family and had conversations he’d never had before. Emotionally honest conversations. Pre-surgery, there’d been a standing joke that Stu’s favorite children were the three different West Highland White Terriers he had over the years. Stu didn’t do emotions. Stu stiffly accepted hugs, but never initiated them. Stu was a rock.

Except, the evidence said otherwise.

From the start, Stu made me feel welcome in the family. Despite our vastly different social and political outlooks. Despite our vastly different dietary habits. Despite coming from such different backgrounds that we were practically aliens to one another, Stu and I had a bond.

Yes, Stu was a rock. Except for that time vacationing in Puerta Vallarta with a six-month-old Wildebeest, when Stu and my mother-in-law babysat so Zippy and I could have a quiet dinner alone. Wildebeest of the mighty lungs wailed the entire time we were gone, and Stu patiently held him and walked round and round the hotel pool, ignoring the other guests’ groans of “Here they come again.”

Stu was a rock, except when we were in Hawaii when I was pregnant with Zebu and the twisty-turny road up to the volcano made me sick and he pulled over to let me throw up in the ditch and then allowed me to drive the rest of the way, even though Stu always, always was the driver.

Stu was a rock, except when putting in hours in his woodshop making toys for his grandchildren.

Stu was a rock, except the time I overheard him telling a nurse about his wonderful family consisting of one wife, four children, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, and ending it by saying he felt very bad for people who didn’t have family.

Stu was a rock, except when he confided that the one good thing to come out of his lengthy hospital stays was that he and I had become better friends.

Stu was a rock, except when he asked the physical therapist to call him Stu rather than Steve.

Stu was a rock, except when I got to his bedside yesterday and he reached out his hand for mine.

I’m so grateful I got to be one of Stu’s chickadees. When I sat down to write this, I caught a flash of movement in the pine tree outside the window. I looked closer and wasn’t at all surprised to see a Black-capped Chickadee hopping around the branches.

Not this morning's visitor, but another Black-capped Chickadee.

A relative of this morning’s visitor.

 

 

Wildebeest and Susie Sweet Rack

Wildebeest and friends drove across the country in Wildebeest’s old Subaru (aka Susie Sweet Rack) to attend a music festival. They were in Missouri on their way back to Colorado when Wildebeest’s friend drove off the newly paved, unmarked road into the dirt and then immediately overcorrected. The car spun one and a half times as a semi’s headlights approached, and then went up into the median strip where it slammed to a stop against a post. The semi, horn blaring, whooshed past them.

No one was hurt. All were shaken up, especially when they realized that the back window had shattered on impact and none of them even heard it.
Fletcher's car 007                  Fletcher's car 005
It took a while, but Zippy and I actually fell back asleep after that phone call. I’m actually pretty proud of that. Progress!