#SoCS: Old and new

The home we’re buying in Tucson

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/10/02/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-oct-3-2020/. This week’s prompt is “new/old.” Use either or both of the words “new and old” any way you’d like. Bonus points for starting and ending with either one.

Old house, new house, old job, new job, old place, new place. This weeks’ prompt is timely. As I’ve written in my last two posts, I’m in the process of relocating from Flagstaff, AZ to Tucson, AZ for a job at the University of Arizona. This week I became more seriously focused on wrapping things up at my old job. My office walls are nearly bare, my desk is nearly clean (truly a shocking sight), and my email inbox is nearly empty. I have about 3 more days. People have started saying goodbye, an oddly impersonal experience in the age of COVID. There’s that moment after everything has been said, when we would normally hug but instead stand there awkwardly before giving a small wave and going our separate ways. It reminds me a little of middle school dances, with boys on one side of the gym and girls on the other, awkwardly approaching each other but not too close. My wonderful colleagues are planning a farewell party for me next week–in person with masks and distancing and also on Zoom. Maybe if I pull my mask up high enough, my co-workers won’t see me cry.

My email is set up at my new job, and I’m starting to think more about it, about what I want to accomplish in my first day, first week, first month. I’m excited and nervous as I always am when I start a new job. In some ways, it’s like the first day at a new school: Will they like me? Will I make a good first impression? Will I make it through my first day without saying something stupid? (answer to that last one: almost certainly not).

This weekend we need to pack like fiends, because I start my new job in 2 weeks, and we move in 3 1/2 weeks. It seems like every part of packing takes longer than I think it will. Find the right sized box, find the tape, figure out the perfect tetris challenge of fitting everything into a box that’s just slightly too small… rinse, repeat. We’re also sorting through 6+ years of accumulation to figure out what will fit in the new house, where it will go, whether or not we need it in this new chapter of our lives.

We’re having a run of spectacular fall weather here, warm days, crisp nights, aspens turning golden, cottonwood leaves crackling in the breeze. We walk each day, drinking in as much as we can of our beautiful rural neighborhood, our view of the San Francisco Peaks, a night sky that puts a planetarium show to shame, the scent of ponderosa pine with undertones of skunk. In less than a month, we will be city dwellers again. Our new neighborhood is cute and conveniently located, but it isn’t 2.5 acres at the foot of the highest mountains in Arizona. On the other hand, trips to the grocery store won’t require nearly an hour of round-trip travel time. And winter will be sunny and 75F, not windy and 15F. We’ll trade snow-flocked pine trees for a saguaro strung with Christmas lights–if I can figure out how to put Christmas lights on a cactus without skewering myself. I expect I’ll be a human pincushion by the time I’m through. So, tradeoffs.

But, to close on a philosophical note, all of life is a series of tradeoffs. Tradeoffs that shift as our priorities change, as our bodies age, as our interests become more focused. Out with (some of) the old to make room for the new, for the things that are a better fit for who we have become.

And now I need to sign off, so I can pack some of the old into boxes that are just slightly too small.

#SoCS: Boxes, boxes, boxes!

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/09/25/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-26-2020/. This week’s prompt is “container.” Use the word “container” any way you’d like. Or think about a container of some kind and write about it. Enjoy!

I almost didn’t do a Stream of Consciousness Saturday post today, because I am super-busy. Then I looked at the prompt and had to write, because the prompt connects nicely to why I’m super-busy: I’m moving, and I’m supposed to be putting stuff in boxes. And, duh, boxes are containers.

I could wax metaphorical about how moving makes you put your whole life in containers or how going to a new place frees you from the metaphorical box you’ve built for yourself in the old place, but I don’t have the bandwidth to pull any of that off effectively. I will say, though, that I enjoy moving to new places, because relocating provides an opportunity for me to hit the reset button on my life. New place, new job, new house, new friends, new activities… I can rethink what I want in my life at this time and design my life in the new place accordingly. This move in particular feels like the beginning of a new chapter for my husband and me. Our son will live in a guest house on our new property, so he (and we) will have more independence. We won’t quite be empty-nesters, but it’s a step toward that. I’ll have less land to cultivate and take care of, which will be a challenge for an obsessive gardener like me but will also be liberating. No more finding someone to water while we’re on vacation (new yard will be small enough to put everything on drip irrigation with a timer). No more spending hours on weeding and watering and tidying up. I’ll still get to garden, but it can be more about fun and less about being a slave to outdoor chores 9 months out of the year.

As I age, I find my interests changing and want to prioritize my time differently. I’d like more time for writing and travel, which means I need to cut back on other, lower-priority tasks. I hope the new place will help me do that. I hope it will be the right container for the life I hope to build.

#SoCS: To be uncollared

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/09/11/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-12-2020/. This week’s prompt is “collar.” Use it as a verb, a noun, or metaphorically.

One of my first thoughts when seeing this week’s prompt was that a collar is a form of restraint. We put collars on dogs to restrain and control them. Police collar suspects. I suspect my mind went immediately to the idea of restraint, because I’m entering a new chapter of my life, and I want to be less restrained.

I’ve accepted a new position in a new city (Tucson, Arizona), and we’re in the process of selling our house, buying another, packing, and clearing out clutter. Moving to a new place and taking a new job are always opportunities to rethink what you want in life, to design a new life that meets your current needs. That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.

We want our new place to have a separate space for our son, so he can continue transitioning to independent adulthood. I’m planning to—horrors—downsize my gardening so it’ll be easier for me to travel, and I can spend more time writing and relaxing instead of watering and weeding. And we’re going to downsize on the home front—at least a little bit—so we can spend less on a mortgage and more on travel and other experiences. In other words, we want to be less restrained.

I feel like I’ve spent most of my life with various restraints—family obligations, mostly, but also budget, pets, garden, too much stuff… you know, just like everybody else. But as I get older, I want less of that. I want to be untethered—or at least less tethered—so I can do more of what I want to do and less of what I have to do. This old dog wants to loosen her collar a little, maybe trade it for a lighter, less-restraining model. This old dog wants to be free.

#SoCS: I have more, but I need less

Purely gratuitous picture of the forest near my home, where I went hiking early Thursday morning.

More. That’s the prompt for this week’s Stream of Consciousness Blog Hop, hosted by Linda Hill. Right now I have more. I keep getting more. And I need less.

Yeah, I know, that probably sounded really ungrateful, but hear me out. My life is very full right now–full of good things and difficult things and mundane things, the things that make a life. But it’s one of those times when there’s just too much. I volunteered for an activity that, while enjoyable and of service to my fellow writers, is going to take a big chunk of time. My husband is having major surgery in 3 weeks, so I have to prepare to take leave from work and stock up on groceries and make meals ahead and, and, and… We’re waiting for my son’s COVID test results, meanwhile we’ve all had mild symptoms, so we’re trying to do everything we need to do before surgery without leaving the house. I’m revising my second novel. I’m considering hiring an editor for my first novel. I’m finalizing a short story. I’m trying to find a publisher for another story. I’m contemplating some other life changes. I’m in peri-menopause. I’m cleaning and decluttering. I’m cooking every meal at home because, you know, we might have COVID, so we aren’t going out. And I’m overwhelmed. And, oh, yeah, I’m working full time. Wheee….

Whew. Now that all that is out of the way, I want to emphasize that I’m grateful. So grateful. If we do have COVID, our symptoms are mild. Mine are already gone. Husband can’t taste his food, but otherwise, he’s fine. Son is almost back to normal, though he can’t taste his food either. Me? I can taste my food just fine. Too fine. All I want to do is eat. If this is COVID, then we are truly fortunate to come through it so easily.

My life is full of new opportunities and excitement and joy.

It’s high summer, and the weather and the garden are beautiful. I live a half mile from the Coconino National Forest, so I can hike amid the ponderosa pines every day if I want.

I’m gainfully employed–unlike so many–with a job I enjoy.

I’m healthy, and I’m happy.

So yeah, I’d like a bit less–fewer commitments, some time to lollygag and lounge and read and play–but my life is beautifully full. I have more. And it is wonderful.

#SoCS: Clearing the clutter and creating a fresh start

Hellebore from my Portland garden over 10 years ago. Hellebores were the first flowers to bloom each spring, a welcome sign of renewal every rainy January.

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/07/03/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-4-2020/. This week’s prompt is, “toss.” Use it any way you’d like.

I’ve spent a little while noodling on this week’s prompt. Tossing manure in garden beds? Toss-ups? Tossers (a great British insult)? I landed on the idea of tossing things out, on clearing clutter from my life, getting rid of what I don’t value (much) to make room for what I do value. I’ve been doing that literally and figuratively for at least the last year or so.

I’m big on renewal. I had a lit professor back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was an undergrad, who talked about American optimism and how the idea of starting over is ingrained in our culture. That resonated with me then, and it resonates with me now. I’ve always loved the beginning of fall, when the new school year starts, because it feels like a fresh start. I enjoy moving (well, OK, not the actual process of hiring movers and having them steal our DVDs, nor the process of selling our house to some jerk who wants to lowball us and have us do $15,000 worth of repairs). I enjoy the process of starting over in a new place with new people and new possibilities. Having a clean slate forces me to think about what I really want in my life rather than to keep doing the same old stuff.

But I’ve learned that renewal is possible without something as drastic as moving. I can lighten my load, again, literally and figuratively. I can toss out stuff I don’t use anymore to make room for things I will use, or, better, to create space uninhabited by crap. Open space, empty space, is relaxing and peaceful and inspiring. Clutter is exhausting.

I can rethink my commitments and drop a few to make room for my current priorities (like writing). I can drop an old habit that doesn’t serve me well and replace it with one that does. Example: I read a book called The Miracle Morning a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been revamping my morning routine based on its recommendations. I’m actually more excited to get out of bed in the morning now, and I’m getting up earlier, too. Today–a Saturday and a holiday–I rolled out of bed at 5:40, and I started writing this piece at about 6:30. Anyone reading that last sentence who knew me even a year or two ago probably thinks my soul has been snatched by aliens, and I’m now a pod person.

So if you’re feeling like your space or your life is too full or full of the wrong things, you can change that. You can toss out what doesn’t serve you well and either replace it with things that will help you meet your current goals or enjoy the newfound space in your world. Remember:

Today is a new day.

Today is a fresh start.

What would you like to toss out? How would you like to remake your world?

#SoCS: A skeezy wrestler, a skeezy pickup line… and me

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/26/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-27-2020/. This week’s prompt is, “coffee, tea, or me.” Find a flirty phrase of your own or use “coffee, tea, or me” in your post.

I’ve been lucky to not be on the receiving end of too many skeezy pickup lines, but one sticks out in my mind. Back in the early 1990s, my husband and I were living in northern Georgia, where we’d moved for my first job after I graduated from library school. He’d always dreamed of being a professional wrestler (hey, who am I to judge someone else’s dream?), and he found a local wrestling outfit that would train him and give him a shot. And so his wrestling career was born.

An aside: his first character was called the Seattle Storm. He wore a mask and spandex shorts with a storm cloud on the butt. His theme song was, “Smells Like Team Spirit” (we’d moved there from Seattle), and his shtick was to antagonize the local good ol’ boys like the invading Yankee he was. They hated him. It was hilarious.

Later, he became a good guy (a babyface for you wrestling aficionados) called Adrian Champagne, complete with sequins, rainbow feathers, and a mullet worthy of Billy Ray Cyrus (Miley’s dad for you young ‘uns).

Anyway, back to the pickup line theme. Every now and then, they’d have someone from a larger wrestling outfit wrestle there. Naturally they’d promote the event as though Hulk Hogan himself was descending upon Rossville, Georgia, for the evening. And some of the fans would act like the guy was a big star. Well, one night, I stepped outside between matches for some fresh air (summer… Georgia… small, stuffy building filled with screaming wrestling fans…), and the “big star” was out there too. We exchanged hellos, and start a conversation. And that’s when it happened, when I became the target of the worst pickup line I’ve ever heard:

Skeezy wrestler who shall not be named: Are you here with anyone?

Me: Yeah. Adrian Champagne is my husband [side note: that is not a sentence I ever imagined myself uttering]

Skeezy wrestler who shall not be named: If you ever get divorced, call me.

And there it is, folks, the story of the time a professional wrestler hit me with the ickiest pickup line I’ve ever received. “If you ever get divorced, call me.” Still makes my skin twitch.

p.s. to the skeezy wrestler who shall not be named: I’m still not divorced. Get lost.

#SoCS: When the only tool you have is a hammer…

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/12/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-13-2020/. This week’s prompt: nail.

As I read the news and think about the protests going on right now, I’m often reminded of the old saying, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” That seems to be one of the fundamental problems with policing in the USA (systemic racism being another, bigger, problem). When use of force is the only tool in your toolbox, when it’s what you’re trained to do, it’s what you do. When you’re trained to fight crime, you see potential criminals. More broadly, you see what you look for. Combine that with systemic racism that causes many people–not just police–to see people of color as potential criminals, and you get an environment in which a white officer can murder a black man slowly in front of an audience. An environment in which scenes of indiscriminate police brutality play out across the country in video after sickening video.

I haven’t posted much, here or on social media, about these issues, because I need to shut up and listen. Many people, especially people of color, have a much deeper understanding of these issues than I do, so I’ll let the previous paragraph stand as my only commentary on the issue, at least for now. Instead, I’d like to encourage all of us to consider how our perspectives are limited. How the particular hammers we carry cause us to see only nails where we should see nuance.

We are humans, and humans are limited. We are shaped, both obviously and subtlely, by our identities, our upbringing, our culture, our religion, and our life experiences. And we are also limited by those things. They condition our views, our perspectives, our reactions. This is normal, but we don’t have to be ruled by, blinded by those limitations. We can read, educate ourselves, and most importantly, listen to those whose identities and culture and experiences are different from ours. Listen to their lived experiences. Learn from them. Approach situations with humility born of our limited perspectives rather than the false certainty born from our personal blinders. Use our new knowledge to develop tools other than hammers and to see more than nails.

#SoCS: Fandoms (with gratuitous concert pictures)

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/05/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-6-2020/. This week’s prompt: fan.

Some people hear, “fan,” and think of a cooling device. Or people with their faces painted in team colors, yelling from a stadium seat while swigging whisky (note: that described most of the adults at my high school’s football games. We teenagers had more dignity). Or maybe you think of fandoms, which has a definitely nerdy connotation: Star Wars fandom, Harry Potter fandom, etc.

For me, though, “fan” immediately makes me think of music. Music fandom, especially for women, has a different–and distinctly sexist–connotation that sports or movie or nerdy fandom does not. If I schedule my vacations around my favorite football team’s home games, I’m a fan. If I schedule my vacations around Def Leppard’s tour schedule, I’m a groupie. And “groupie” has a very different connotation from, “fan.” When you paint your face and haul your giant foam finger to a 49ers game, no one thinks you’re planning to bang the quarterback. Even if that quarterback is Joe Montana, and you’re a horny 16-year-old (Not that I’d know anything about that. Nope. Not me.)

My sports fan days are mostly behind me, because I have too many hobbies already, and I’m old and cynical enough to be disillusioned by so many aspects of big-time sports. But that’s a rant post for another day. I remain, however, a diehard fan of 80s rock, and I do still take vacation to see Def Leppard when they play nearby (and when I can afford it. $150 a ticket? Seriously, guys? Don’t you have enough money already?) For a couple of hours, I get to feel like a 16-year-old again, dancing and singing along and, yes, looking at the band members. I’m middle-aged, not dead.

Concerts are a shared, multi-sensory, visceral experience, a combination of the band, the music, the lights, and–especially–the audience. It’s a chance to be part of a mob that isn’t angry, that’s feeding off each other in a loud, wild, primitive celebration of musical joy. It’s a wild party with 10,000 of your closest friends.

Concerts are also a fun photographic challenge. I’m not even good enough to call myself an amateur photographer, but I’ve gotten a few good shots at shows. If you scroll through my albums on Flickr, you’ll find some decent concert shots. Here are a few of my favorites:

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Rick Savage of Def Leppard, Las Vegas, August 23, 2019
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Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, Las Vegas, August 23, 2019
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Styx, Auburn, WA, September 26, 2007
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Phil Collen of Def Leppard, Ridgefield, WA, September 12, 2007

What are some of your fandoms, dear reader?

#SoCS: chirurgie

This is my first time participating in the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/05/22/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-23-2020. This week’s prompt: base a post on a word beginning with ch.

I contemplated a few ch words: child and chair immediately came to mind. Then, from nowhere came chirurgie, the French word for surgery. Do I speak French? Non. Not a word. Well, except for merde, because I’m full of it, and one ought to be able to describe oneself in at least two languages, am I right?

So why chirurgie, which I cannot spell without looking it up and am copying and pasting each time I use it in this post? Because it reminded me of the summer of 1991. I was home in Vancouver, Washington (not to be confused with the infinitely cooler Vancouver, BC) between years of library school and landed a job at Oregon Health & Science University doing two things: working the reference desk and cataloging books in the history of medicine collection. There were quite a few French books in that collection, many of which included some variation of chirurgie in the title. And for some reason, that word and its variants stuck in my mind, even though to this day I cannot pronounce it (but I can pronounce merde just fine – thanks to the wonderful Outlander audiobooks).

There was something magical about that summer, sitting in the musty History of Medicine Room, smelling decaying leather (and possibly decaying other things – I heard rumors that we had at least one book bound in human skin, though I was never able to verify that fact) and poring over title pages of books at least a century old–like this one:

L0005170 Title page”Traite des operations de chirurgie” Garengeot Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Amputation: 18th Century 18th Century Traite des operations de chirurgie Garengeot, R.J.C. de Published: 1731 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

I remember lots of herbals–herbal medicine was big, especially in the days when medicine didn’t have much else to offer–and cringe-worthy gynecology texts from the 19th century. Let me tell you, people with female organs, if you ever want to feel grateful that you live in *this* time, take a look at a 19th century gynecology textbook. Or, worse, 19th century gynecological instruments. We had some of those too.

And I think I’ll leave this post with that happy thought. I love to reminisce about the past, but I also try to be thankful for the current moment, whatever and wherever it is. Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers, and keep safe.