Sunday, March 08, 2015

More of the Same

Not much excitement to report out this way. Still no rain. I did get a new camera yesterday, a Nikon CoolPix. It was cheap at Costco and seems to be enough camera for my needs. Also, the video part seems easier to figure out - I had a hard time knowing if my last camera was recording or not. It's amazing to me how many features is has for so small a device and price.

M and I have been enjoying the fine weather with the motorcycle, taking a ride to the beach last weekend.

Yesterday we took a much longer ride, five and a half hours, along Dry Creek Road and then along King Ridge. I found out that four hours is really about my limit. I was wiped out for the rest of the day.
We stopped for a picnic on the banks of this creek along Old Skaggs Springs Road

M continues on his home beautification projects. He tried to warn me how much he was going to cut back the oak tree, but I didn't really absorb it and was pretty shocked when I came home one day last week.

Some excitement is ahead however - we're going to Boston next week! I have a conference and M has never been, so he's really looking forward to it. I have an extra day on either end, so hopefully we'll be able to see Kamala and clan a couple of times.

From my Happiness Project notebook, some of the things that have made me happy lately:

Feb 25: M got up with me and made us waffles before work

Feb 28: Laying around and reading a book, The Good Lord Bird

March 1: Going to church then taking a motorcycle ride, smelling juicy grass, manure, salt water, skunk, fresh air along the way

March 4: The huge luminous moon bookending my commute - golden in the morning darkness heading west, white in the east this evening

March 6: Going out to dinner and seeing M suffer from the super spicy Indian food

Sunday, February 22, 2015

San Jose -n- Stuff

I spent much of last week in San Jose for a conference.  I'm relieved to say it was successful overall and that I had a good time to boot. 

I hosted a women's meetup on Wednesday evening. That went well. I also hosted some networking at tables at lunch the following two days that went very well, even better than usual, some interesting discussions. Those kinds of activities are very gratifying for me.

I got up early the next morning and went for a run with some of my colleagues as part of one of the conference activities. I admit, I didn't get very far, but it was mostly the doing that made me happy. That day was my 15th anniversary of being hired at O'Reilly. It's amazing how time flies, and how things change...yet also remain familiar. I don't take my work for granted and am really grateful that the last few years in particular have become so rewarding for me. 

The view from my room at the Hilton.

The Presidents Day weekend was before the San Jose trip and M and I were both pleasantly surprised at how productive we were with our various projects around the house. I think the good weather and lengthening days help.

I got together with friends Rachel and Katrin earlier this month. We had a fine time chatting as usual. Katch had recently been to New Mexico and brought back some lovely hand-spun yarn that she passed on to me. It felts up beautifully.


I'm enjoying having a knitted project. Though I'm done with the knitting part and now have to find a fun lining and zipper. I have most of the blue yarn left so need to think of a new project to start soon.


Another wonderful experience to report thanks to a gift: Mom and Don couldn't use their season tickets, so today M and I went to the City to hear some chamber music at Davies Symphony Hall. It was a beautiful day, crystal blue sky, warm. We had a pleasant lunch at Absinthe then wandered few a few blocks of Hayes Valley before hearing the music.  It was our first time there and we really enjoyed it.


While I was in San Jose I shopped at Muji, a petit, pared down Japanese department store. I bought a couple of notebooks and used one to start a happiness journal - every day I write down one thing that happened that day that made me happy. As I go through the day, it's nice to think about what I'll choose to jot down in the notebook. So far I mostly have a hard time picking just one or two things to record. I think that's a pretty good sign.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All

I've been going to the Center for Spiritual Living for just over a year now, usually a couple of times a month. I started taking notes during the services in June to help me reflect and hopefully take actions for leading a more meaningful life.  

In 2014, the Center's monthly topics focused on a different "Power of..." - Intention, Meditation, You, Humor, Awareness, etc. June's topic was forgiveness. The affirmation, which the congregation recites together near the beginning of each service, was: I live in the spirit of that which I wish to become. I focus on my spiritual heritage. I feel myself to be whole, happy, and well. I'm not really sure what that middle sentence is all about, but I really like this affirmation overall.

These are my notes from June 29 - Removing Obstacles to Forgiveness

We are on our own path and timing for forgiveness, not anyone else's.

The nature of force is to be met with resistance, so how can I create an environment for forgiveness to enter and to exist since it can't be forced? Nurture the inner space so forgiveness can enter.

I am AFRAID that forgiveness will:
- make me seem weak
- mean that it is/was OK and allow the resentful-making activity to continue
- reduce my power over the other < THIS

Remove the fears of forgiving to remove/get at the real problems. Do the "gentle work" to undo blocks and barriers to forgiveness.

Control what is yours to control.

I have a couple areas in my past where I don't feel I possess the power to forgive. But the service gave me some insight. It was good yet also a little uncomfortable and humbling to realize there are a couple of people (notably, my ex...sigh, there's some baggage I should drop, but hey, I'm on my own schedule, right?) whom  I hold a grudge against because I think it somehow gives me power over them. I felt the lack of forgiveness glacier melting a scoche that day.


At the end of January, I went down to the City for our first conference of the year. It was on bitcoin and other crypto currencies. It was quite interesting. Luckily, it was only one day. And a beautiful day it was - thank you, drought.

Our next conference is coming up on the 17th, in San Jose. It's a big one, so I think many of us will be very relieved when it's over. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

MLK Weekend + A Yearly Theme!

It's been a good weekend, but as always, there doesn't seem to be enough hours to enjoy, even though M and I stayed up late (til after midnight!) last night, watching TV, reading, and knitting. Well, I was knitting.

We started the weekend with a date night, taking in Fury at the cheap, second run movie house, then going to dinner.

During our date I told M that I was feeling the need for some culture, so he suggested we go to Berkeley. We didn't really have a day over the weekend in mind, but Saturday dawned and that seemed like the thing to do. The Berkeley museum was closed, so we modified the plan for the Oakland Museum of California. We drove around town a little to get the feel, had lunch at a pretty good Mexican place, wandered around the edge of Lake Merritt, then hit the museum.

Like the Mexican place, the museum was also pretty good. A very succinct and well-exhibited history floor, plus some natural history exhibits, as well as Art art, focused around history and California artists: Dorthea Lange and the f/64 group, the WPA murals, some Frida Kahlos, and Beat-era works. We particularly enjoyed the California landscapes. It wasn't overly crowded, which was nice. I had seen some Joan Brown paintings on our visit to the di Rosa Preserve last year, and was happy to see several more of her works at the museum.

Sunday was pleasant. M indulged my desire to have a morning in bed - he fetched us coffee and the New York Times (I still haven't gotten beyond the Arts section), then made pancakes. I roused myself at noon and went out to get some yarn to make a hat for Mom's friend who will be starting chemo soon. It was a quick pattern, so I finished it up in one day. Amazing how when you follow directions to use the right yarn and needles, it turns out better! I usually try to make do from my stash, with mixed results. 

We haven't really done much to reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, unfortunately. It's become another holiday that is just a day off for many, including me, a sort of desperate holiday bridge to look forward to that first day back at work after New Year's Day. Still, I appreciate the time away from work to reflect on my life in general.

We couldn't let the weekend go by without a little motorcycle ride, so we met Mom, Don, Caitlin, and Sean for a walk on Sears Point, which the Sonoma County Land Trust is working on.

We had lunch in Novato then went our separate ways.

I'm desperately trying not to have the Sunday-on-Monday blues, but am not very successful just now.


One thing I didn't do much of this long weekend other than the hike today, which was really more of a walk, was exercise. However, I did do the elliptical machine at the gym on Friday, and while I was working out, my Yearly Theme came to me! It's "Cultivate Happiness" which I know sounds a little vague and obvious, but I can make my theme actionable by breaking it down into activities and projects that support my happiness in three main ways - learning and trying new things, creating more stuff, and practicing being present. Making happiness a Theme is also a way of giving myself permission to do things I know will nourish me mentally and physically rather than thinking of them as unimportant or things to do when I have more time (like that ever happens!). For instance, blogging right now, and spending most of the day yesterday knitting Arna's cap, even though I probably "should have" been working. I think I can also arrange some of my work duties into the Yearly Theme, so even work can help fulfill my Yearly Theme, at least occasionally - and if I think of work tasks through the Theme filter, who knows, it might become more than occasionally!

M also wants to be very active about trying new things, which is actually why he suggested going to Berkeley this weekend - we don't really think of that city as a destination. Theme activity achieved! And I tried to incorporate my Theme activities while at the museum: Not only did I examine objects and art, I created a little animation, played a keyboard that made the sounds of various objects from the past, and added to my Life Imitates Art Flickr album.

Even just coming up with a Yearly Theme made me happy, as did writing about it. Voila! Sunday blues tamed a bit.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Birthdays and Gathering

On Friday, Jay turned 50 and M turned 44. A zero birthday means some celebration must be had, so I took the day off and we headed to the interior. We met Dad at the Motel 6 in Redding, then headed to Win River Casino and rendezvous'd with Mark, Felicia, Jay and his date Lisa. We dined, then hit the gaming floor for a few rounds with Lady Luck. 

There were no big winners among us, not surprisingly - there is a casino business model after all. M and I dropped Dad back at the motel, then headed out to Steve and Jay's to continue celebrating. Mom and Don had come over, Glo and kids had come up with Mark, Felicia brought Sophia, and Steve's squeeze Lori had come over from Eureka. Officially a party! Mom made a cheesecake for M and a carrot cake for Jay. It was nice to see everyone. Steve's pad is coming along nicely.

Saturday morning, M and I had breakfast with Jay, Felicia, and Dad, then headed to Shasta Caverns for a little geological observation. We made the first tour of the day, so it was a very small group, just one other couple. The low lake level was a bit distressing, but caves are cool, in so many ways. The formation of stalactites over hundred of thousands, even millions of years puts our puny human birthdays in perspective.

After the caverns tour, we stopped briefly by Steve's again for a quick hello, then to the Pendleton Outlet store for a birthday gift for M, and thence to Chico. We hung out for a bit at Mark and Glo's and had a fine meal as always at Sierra Nevada Brewery. 

We had a little more visiting with the Chico clan at breakfast today then headed home. We saw lots of birds - hawks, herons, egrets, snow geese mostly - on the way home. And! a porcupine at the washout in Chico! That was wild. He was just ambling along right near the road. It looked almost Muppet-ish, particularly around the footpads.

Here's the Flickr album of our visit. I'm so glad Dad made the trip out, and to be so close to family and friends so we can mark these milestones, however briefly.

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Double Sawbuck + Holidays

Despite noting it in the title, I neglected to mention in my last post that on Thanksgiving,  "smoochiversary" referred to M and I celebrating two decades of togetherness. Maybe you figured that out. Well, "celebrate" might be too strong of a word. We had been thinking about it, and acknowledged it, but we didn't do anything to really celebrate it other than wonder at how the time flew by and be grateful that we are still very much in love.

I also had Grandma in my thoughts quite a bit over Thanksgiving. November 27th was the anniversary of her passing. I've really been missing her.


I know that I'm very lucky to work for a company that closes for almost two weeks at the end of every year. It makes the holidays so much more restful and enjoyable when you know that you won't be coming back from vacation to a massive pile-up of email messages and trying to catch up on projects. I had planned to try to have relaxing and also productive 16 days off, and with one vacation day and one weekend left in my holiday, I can say I've accomplished that.

In addition to the front yard project, M worked on a storage project, building cabinets in the garage for some of our excess kitchen stuff. I've been going through our cupboards here and there, sorting out some items for Goodwill and putting other things that we rarely use in boxes for storage. I admit I was a little resistant at first. Everything we own does have a place, so why find a new place for it? But, it is good to go through and make more space for things we use more often - it reduces both my mental and visual clutter a bit, and god knows I need more clutter reduction. We're also experimenting with rearranging things a little, which I think is a good exercise, even if we end up putting everything back the way it was.

Christmas was very nice. M and I went up to Mom and Don's for a few days. We ate well, walked on the beach, visited with neighbors Mary and Tom, as well as seeing Caitlin and Sean, whom we don't see enough of in the town where we live just a few miles from each other.

Seafoam was our white Christmas

As part of their Christmas gift to us, we went to Monterey for a few days after Christmas with Mom and Don. We stayed at the Monterey Bay Lodge, which was close to downtown and right off the beach.

View from our fireplace room

We packed a lot into the two days, starting with the lovely drive down Highway 1 past San Francisco. We walked on the wharves, visited the Museum of Monterey, strolled down Cannery Row and found Julie's plaque which was pretty neat, went to the Aquarium, cruised along the beautiful beaches and 17 Mile Drive, had breakfast in quaint Pacific Grove, drove through picturesque Carmel (I now covet a Comstock Cottage), saw hanks of Monarch butterflies hanging out in their sanctuary, did a little thrift store shopping. We saw lots of pelicans, sea otters, and seals outside of the aquarium. The traffic was pretty bad in spots, but that was the only snag. We had great weather, thankfully.  Here's the photo album.

Well, there was one other snag - my camera stopped working! I had my phone of course, so that was a memory saver. I can't get to the camera menu to muck around with it like I was able to when the same thing happened on our trip to  Hawaii. I really hope I don't have to buy a new camera, though I'm sure I'd have fun with all of the new features...

What else about the vacation? I've been to the gym a few times. We watched "Enchanted" in the middle of the day. I've had meals with friends and dear Felicia, including a day in the East Bay with the Point Arena gals. I started knitting a scarf. I've reduced some clutter in the craft room, including ripping out two unfinished knitting projects, which I will try very hard not to replace with new unfinished knitting projects.

For the New Year, I didn't make any resolutions, but I have been working on an exercise inspired by someone whom I met through work. She created a very successful Kickstarter campaign for a creative, brainstorm-y notebook that focuses on making an annual theme that you support with actions as a guide for your life and work. I haven't been able to distill my theme yet, but so far, being more creative and less fearful are my front-runners.  It includes exercises, inspirational quotations and questions, and places for projects and monthly challenges, so I think it will be very useful.


Time is funny, isn't it, how it unfolds before us in plans and ideas, and stretches away behind in memories and, maybe, regrets. Given my age, I guess I'm starting the slide down the far side of life's fulcrum. Sometimes I feel as though I just want to settle deeper into the routines I've established - most of them make me happy and feel nourished, but sometimes they feel more like ruts. I also realize that going deeper can be another way to mix things up, if I do it in a mindful and positive way.   2014 was a pretty good year but it also had some major challenges, an annus somewhat horribilis. I'd like to think I learned a lot, at least.

Happy 2015. Here's to continuing to learn!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December Update

It's been far too long since I've posted. I'm mulling resolutions for 2015 these days and "more blogging" is on the list. Again. I'm thinking of rechristening them goals, or at least attaching more concrete outcomes to the list this year. So, "more blogging" will probably become "blog at least once a month" which is the minimum output I'd prefer - don't know about your preferences, but then it's not really about you, is it? :)

Part of why I haven't blogged is because life's adventures have been modest of late. Luckily, work has mellowed to normal levels of stress from the freakishly high they were for a month or so since that also makes it hard to post.

The front yard project is coming along well. M has been working very hard removing the top six inches or so of soil, replacing it with good dirt, and pouring concrete pavers. I've been offering helpful design advice and assisting with the plants. It will still take a year or two for all of the new ground covers (elfin and creeping thyme, sedum, and dymondia mostly) to get established and spread to every nook and cranny of the yard, but even with just the new soil replacing the dead "lawn" it looks much better.

I'm not much of a Halloween celebrator, but our Accounting Department makes a big deal of it every year. I suggested they let the whole office know the theme this year so we could all join in. I hope you can tell the theme they chose from the photo below, taken with my friends Monique and Mace. Monique and I walked to the nearby grocery store to pick up lunch in our Old West attire, and it was kinda fun being out and about in dress-up getup.

M and I took a motorcycle ride to a place we'd tried to see before but were turned back because of fire: The Geysers. We weren't allowed very close to the plant, but there are tours a few times a year. It was a little unnerving seeing a whole valley threaded with pipes and steam rising from a couple of buildings. Apparently tapping the steam has increased the number of earthquakes in the area. It was a lovely ride through a very remote area.

Thanksgiving was a fine holiday. I took two additional days off of work, and that was great. I went up early to Mom's and got some extra relaxation in. Arienne, Christin, and Scott came up with M the next day, as did JeriLu and having a few more family members made it extra festive. The food was great of course. Booze flowed freely.

We played games in the evening, which was a fun change - Cards Against Humanity - once in between hands of 31 - and Pictionary! Team Women won against Team Men. We worked on a puzzle. The weather was clear at first then got a little wet, but we were able to squeeze in a walk on the Stornetta Public Lands.

With Mom at Starcross
 Arienne, Christin, and Scott had to leave on Saturday; M and I stayed til Sunday. Mom and I did some holiday shopping at Starcross, a monastic community in Annapolis, at the Gualala Arts Festival of the Trees. We stopped off at the Sea Ranch Chapel, a particularly lovely little building that I'd never actually been to before, though have passed probably a gazillion (at least!) times in my travels up and down the coast lo these many years. Here's the Flickr album for Thanksgiving.

We finally got some rain! The mushrooms have gone mad this year. We also had a storm last Thursday. The various authorities were really hyping it, so most people were prepared. Unfortunately, the city did not clean out the culvert at the end of our street, so the water flooded the gutters and washed away much of M's hard work on the front part of our yard. It's mostly just a matter of getting more soil, but a frustrating setback in time and a little money.

Of course, it could have been much worse. On the bright side, we're happy with how the yard is coming along generally. There's a lot of planting left to do, and now we're a little worried about timing. We want to get in as much as we can when it's cool and rainy, but we don't want to have more wash away, either. Given the drought, we didn't anticipate that that would be a problem!