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!