Category Archives: Life

A new edition, er, addition

Yesterday was my last “official” day on contract with Redfin, although we were all quite deliberate in not saying “good-bye,” and we decided to do a happy hour to high five our mutual successes one evening soon, rather than mark any kind of end, since we all agree, in whatever form or fashion, this is not the end.  And I’m really glad, because I kind of totally fell for the team I’m working with there, and I think we’ve got some fun (and learning and work) yet to do together.  At the moment, though, I’m soaking up this morning as a little opportunity for some balance… I don’t have any meetings today… I don’t have any deadlines this morning… I do have proposals and prep for teaching this weekend that I need to get done today but those are for the afternoon.  This morning is for me.

Her real name, bestowed by Auntie Steph, is Stinkin Cute, but we call her Gibson for short.

Or rather, for me, and Gibson.  Ryan and I adopted a little miracle a few weeks ago… we’d started out search for a puppy right after Outdoor Retailer, and a few days later I saw photos of Gibson (at the time, named Sarah) online, arriving in Seattle after a long flight from Taiwan.  She and her littermates were found as strays in December; rehabilitated from malnutrition and injuries by Animal Rescue Team Taiwan, and then flown to Seattle to find homes here, thanks to the Salty Dog Rescue.  There’s a vibrant Formosan Owner’s Group on Facebook, and thanks to one of the moms on the group, a few nights ago we learned more of Gibson’s story on the ARTT website.  The google translation is rough, but the puppies had a rougher start than we imagined when she arrived, and I feel humbled and lucky looking over at the fuzzy little munchkin who’s sleeping beside me, that she made it to us.  She’s a handful — she’s five months old, and all puppy — but she’s smart and (luckily) food motivated, so she’s a lot of fun to work with on training, and she’s got more personality in one of her oversized ears than many people.  We’ve been socializing like mad; taking puppy catch-up classes to work on our manners; doing all sorts of wacky things together (bus rides, vet visits, office tours, weekends in noisy hotels in Portland, long and short car rides, trips to the pet store) to try to get her used to her life in Seattle, and she’s been an absolute champ.

The other day I was getting dressed in the morning, and she trotted into the bedroom to check on me, then trotted back out.  I had a flash of the thought, that I couldn’t imagine what life was like, before she was in it.  And then I realized, life was the same, there was just a Gibson-shaped hole in it, waiting to be filled.

So my right-sized schedule has been a long walk in the morning, which is good for Gibson and good for my arthritis after a bad flare in January and February.  Thankfully, things in that regard have calmed back down again, but there’s truth to the statement “You’ve got to walk before you run,” after a flare like that.  Now that the days are lighter longer, and I have a little running buddy, all I want to do is go pound the pavement — but walking is better than nothing.

Then I nestle in for a few hours of work while she naps.  She can sleep pretty much all day, which makes her a dream of a work at home buddy.  Some days she wants to hang out in the yard, so I set up shop on the back stoop, my laptop on a little cooler on the stairs, a cup of coffee next to me, taking little eyestrain breaks to look up and gaze out on the cherry tree that’s awakening to spring.  To count the yellow blossoms as they pop open on Ryan’s favorite shrub in the side yard.  To inspect the dirt to see if any of the kale seeds I broadcast last fall are sprouting.  The breaks aren’t as long as they sound, but they’re restorative in a way that gazing out an office building window can’t touch.

The mornings and afternoons go fast.  Proposals to write, blog posts to indulge in writing, teaching to prep, emails to return, a novel that needs to be finished, nagging me from one of my office drawers where it sits, printed, imperfect, with problems I need to solve.  And then it’s the evening, and more dog walking, or a puppy training class, or errands, or making dinner at home, or a night out with friends.  I’ve been a little bit of a homebody the last few months since I’ve been spending time on site at Redfin during the daytimes, and I’ve been really thankful for my evenings, and the opportunity to nestle in here, to this home that isn’t new but that I’m still settling into.

So, that’s the update.  Nothing exciting, no big news, no huge announcements.  Just life, lived happily, in the pursuit of balance.  How are your efforts to right-size working out?

How to right-size Halloween: make your own deeley boppers

We’re big on Halloween around here.  Thinking back, my family was pretty big on Halloween — or rather, costumes — as well.  I can’t remember which were for Halloween and which were for the local summer Kiddies Parade, but one often retold family story involves the costumes my mom made for my sister and I when we were kids:  my most memorable was a charming Little Bo Peep costume; my sister’s was a full-on, to-scale snail costume, complete with a hand paper-mache’d and perfectly painted snail shell work on her back and dyed to match grey tights and leotard to finish it off.

After my childhood years, I don’t remember many festive Halloweens.  And after years and years of not doing Halloween at all because I lived way out on a rural road that never saw trick or treaters, or joining friends and their families at Halloween parties observed for the kids, the adults rarely costumed, my first Halloween as a newly single gal a few years ago was an eye opener.

I didn’t even know where to begin with a costume, but what I’d gathered was that my costume, as a single woman, was supposed to be sexy.  The day of the party I’d been invited to, I saw a long black wig with heavy bangs in a costume shop, and decided on the spot I’d be “Sexy Cleopatra,” picking up the wig and some half-hearted Cleopatra-inspired plastic gold accessories, then heading to the mall for a pair of fishnets, short shorts, a sparkly tank top and a thick black eyeliner.  When I donned my disguise, I felt transformed — like some kind of fiercely feminine, powerful creature.  My friends didn’t recognize me right away, and when they did they kept looking at me funny — such a strange shift, it was for them, from the familiar Sara of briefcases and suits and pantyhose by day and dusty capri pants and taped fingers and climbing chalk each evening.

And I loved it.  Not for the reaction of others, but for the feeling inside me even before anyone else had seen my get-up — peering at my own reflection in the mirror under those heavy blunt bangs, my eyes dark with liner, my jet black fake hair cascading down halfway to my waist, I felt like I might have it in me to be just about anything or anyone.  After years of feeling (and being) frumpy and older than my years, I felt a kind of liberation… a youthful lightness gradually soaked into my relatively new single-ness, and I started to see each day a little bit like that Halloween night:  as an opportunity to decide what and who wanted to be, and then be it.

So every year since I’ve made it a point to have plans for Halloween… somewhere to go, in varying degrees of disguise, playing with wigs and false eyelashes and costumes and different characters, just for fun.

I started thinking about my Halloween costume for this year somewhere around last Christmas, and that’s how it goes.  I think about it off and on, swap ideas with the friends in my life who also indulge in such things, and then in the month or two before the big day, I pull it together.

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

I’ve been toying with the idea of being Yoshimi, from the Flaming Lips album cover and song, for years — but have let friends talk me out of it as being too “high concept,” or that nobody would know what I am, so what’s the fun in that?  So when it came to this year’s mail order deadline, I spent a fairly obsessive amount of my free time for a couple evenings looking at costume ideas online and brainstorming with Ryan.  He had some great ideas, but I resisted them — I think, in part, because Halloween is something I still associate with being wholly my own creation… it’s a connection to the independent single gal that both he and I fell in love with.  I felt completely uninspired by the full range of “Sexy [fill in the blank]” options and my only other idea was a Breakfast at Tiffany’s Audrey Hepburn, but that wouldn’t be any good for the dance party we’re headed to this year.

After a fruitless late night of looking online for costume ideas, complete with a mini temper tantrum because of my frustration with the whole thing, and with trying to come up with something danceable, cute, fun AND something I’d like to pretend at for a night, I fell asleep kinda pissed off.

After a restorative sleep, I woke up the next morning, thought to myself, “this is supposed to be fun,” and decided I don’t care what anyone else things, I’m going to make myself a Yoshimi costume, and it’s going to be fun.  Instead of ordering a “Sexy Whatever” costume, my googling turned to tights, leotards, circle skirts and Rit dye.  I found a wig that will do just fine.  I’ve got sparkly Tom’s that will work for footwear.

And I let myself be creative and silly.  A thirty-six year old woman who has not kept to her fitness routine and who’s been indulging a little too often in her antidepressant of choice — dark chocolate — dressing up for Halloween requires a certain lack of care about what’s sexy and cute and a certain level of acceptance of what actually is, in reality, right now — not what was in years past.  Now, yes, I have a belly, and no, I’m not in sexy-back rock hard abs climbing shape anymore, and no, I’m not going to let any of that keep me from shaking my groove thing in a leotard and tights and circle skirt on Halloween night.  Because I gotta tell you — dying a pile of costume pieces tangerine on my stovetop yesterday was a hell of a lot more fun than standing in a check-out line somewhere holding a Sexy Whatever costume even though each piece came out of the dye bath a dramatically different color, nowhere near what I was going for.  Big deal.  So I won’t be the perfect color of tangerine from head to toe — I’ll be salmon and pumpkin and mandarin instead, which is kind of cool with me, in its own random way.

The one complication was a total lack of options for deeley boppers.  That’s a word — by the way — that I only know because I observed to Ryan that it’s hard to google for [holding both hands over my head and gesturing to pantomime little bobbly-pompoms] when you don’t know what they’re actually CALLED, and without even a pause he said, “you mean, deeley boppers?” and I was speechless, again, at the fortune I enjoy having this particular man in my life.

The turquoise tiara of deeley boppers Yoshimi wears on the album cover is a must, and googling for deeley boppers yielded no fruit.  That creative morning of costume problem solving, it occurred to me that perhaps since shopping for a pair of deeley boppers wasn’t working, I could make a pair … so I changed my tactic and googled “how to make deeley boppers” and found a how-to.  A couple packages of sparkly pom poms and pipe cleaners later — I’d forgotten all about the existence of pipe cleaners — the most exciting part of this all will be sitting down with hot glue and pencils and pom poms and pipe cleaners to be silly, and make something fun, and then wear it on my head to finish off my costume.

A frequent response during the last few unusually anxious, stressful months, when I’m spinning like a top, and I ask Ryan in a high-pitched, unfamiliar-sounding stressed-out voice what he thinks I should do about whatever has me all riled up, is a calm, sincere, thoughtful:

“Chill the f@#k out.”

It’s become a bit of a mantra around here — because he’s right.  And I’m glad that it’s starting to sink in, sometimes — like that morning when I decided to chill the f@#k out and  listen to myself and to the costume choice I’d wanted to make for years but let other people talk me out of — to play, and be silly, and have fun with what I was doing and order ingredients that I’d have fun putting together into a silly costume instead of ordering a finished product.

When I told my mom excitedly about my costume on the phone today, she reminded me, with more motherly wisdom than I think she realized, it doesn’t matter if anyone else knows what I am; “It only matters, that YOU know who you are,” she said, rightly.

And now, I just can’t wait to actually sit down and make my deeley boppers.

The costume and the party are frosting … the cake is indulging myself, my creativity, and my sense of play, and having FUN with all of it instead of being so paralyzed by trying to figure out what would be perfect or pretty or sexy or cute that the fun gets sucked out of the whole thing.

What do YOU want to be this Halloween?

When a squash isn’t a squash.

I picked up my CSA box yesterday, and was excited and a little intimidated to see a heavy, large, dark-green skinned squash in the box.  It seemed a little early for winter squash, but that also made me a bit excited — I’ve been struggling to adjust to the colder temps that Fall has brought, so a little winter squash soup sounded like just the thing.  I saw down to work, the squash calling me from the butcher block in the kitchen, and looked forward to making it into something yummy and warm when I took my mid-day break.  I snapped a pic, and instagram’d it, asking what my friends would do with a squash like this, and the front runner suggestion was Thai Red Curry, which sounded just perfect.

So when late lunchtime hit, and I had a few minutes to start the preparatory steps of slicing and roasting the squash to have it ready for soup later today, I washed it, and set it on the butcher block.  I pulled out the only large knife we have — a chef’s knife — ready to do battle with the thing… I’ve wrestled with squash prep a few times a year for years, so I knew what I was in for.  I considered which axis to slice it on to make seeding easier, and wondered if there would be enough seeds to bother roasting.  I thought about what seasonings would go well for the roasting step, turned on the oven, and pulled out the perfect squash-roasting pan.  I pushed the point of the knife firmly into the squash, and started to slice around my chosen axis, and the knife glided through the skin much more easily than I expected.  When I started on the other half of the cut, delighted that I’d finally happened upon an easy to cut squash, the two halves fell away and I realized with bemusement that what I had before me was a watermelon.

It wasn’t a squash at all.

Now this is fitting… watermelon are my best girlfriend Teresa’s favorite food, and this week will go down in the annals as The Week that Teresa Moved to Idaho, so how could I be anything other than amused that the universe sent me a watermelon as an opportunity to reflect on her departure, be thankful for how much Teresa means to me, and look forward to the next time I get to see her.

But as I bemusedly sliced a hunk of the fruit into a bowl, salted it, and picked up a spoon for scooping out round bites to make up my lunch in place of the savory, warm roasted squash I planned on, I reflected on the other lessons the universe was reminding me of.  Assumptions and expectations can lead to disappointment (or if not disappointment, at least, unexpected changes of plans).  And, paying attention, and actually using my senses — touch and sight, for example — instead of just letting my brain do all of its quick work, is important.  I looked at an object, I made a snap decision about what it was (partly based on my own desires — I kind of probably wanted a squash, so I made it a squash in my head).   Where instead, if I’d looked at the box of produce before me with an open mind, I would have  seen something unfamiliar and picked it up with curiosity in my fingers — I would have put it to my nose, and felt the quality of the skin, and looked at the colorings and markings of its rind and known before the knife pierced the skin that I was cutting into a watermelon.

No conclusion for now.  Just something for me to reflect on, for awhile.  And a chance to miss Teresa, and to taste the delicious unexpected sweetness of an unexpectedly late watermelon, instead of an unexpectedly early squash, for lunch.