Saturday, April 13, 2013

4/12/13 Blog Hiatus

Once again, I've been unusually quiet in this space. I've learned throughout my life that any sort of extended silence or inactivity from me tends to raise concern. "Are you feeling OK?" people ask. "You haven't said anything in 3 minutes!"

This time, it's deliberate. Though good things have been happening, the need to protect my privacy, re-establish autonomy, and create safety for freedom to speak and write openly have become too pressing to ignore anymore. Something I've considered for a long time is to take my blog private, or start a new private invite-only one.

I hate that idea. One of my favorite things about blogging is discovering the casual readers for whom my life is certainly not worth enough to bother with a sign-in of any sort, but might occasionally be worth a quick check-in. I've so enjoyed discovering who finds my ramblings interesting -- many completely unexpected. Every so often I discover that my musings bring a flicker of interest or even joy to the most surprising parties, and these discoveries are instants of glory to writers.

But my blog's open availability has become a liability, weighing on my freedom to express, to be honest, to explore my thoughts and feelings, to reveal a painful or amusing backstory behind the events I document. I think my introspection and free expression has long been my blog's best asset -- for me as well as for its hapless readers -- but I've felt too exposed for too long now, too restricted, too conscious that my words could be turned against me. It really struck me when I realized I felt more relaxed on Facebook of all places, where I have a thin illusion of control and choice, where the medium affords me a tiny bit more autonomy. It just isn't satisfying, and is a lot more work, having to edit carefully (mentally, and in the archaic composition window Blogger clings to) for fear of repercussions.

Throughout my life, writing has been the primary medium I use to develop thoughts, to focus ideas, to make false starts, follow insights, form connections, to eventually synthesize feelings into understanding. That certainly happens aloud too, but only at the graciousness of a good friend or family member who is prepared for an onslaught of rapid speech, scattered thoughts, and emotional energy. I've always purged my addled brain in writing, and so enjoyed blogging as part of that -- but now, the very freedom and openness that enables that cathartic exploration, has been compromised by memorialization, by awareness that my words are made permanent by the blog, and could be interpreted later as the way I am, rather than just how I was feeling at the moment.

(It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite movie lines: "Can anyone prove that they're sane?")

These days I'm not known for efficiency -- heck, I'm now three years behind on summer-visit photo books! -- so updating my blog method will likely have to wait until a wild hair strikes. But it'll happen -- writers can't help but to write after all -- and when it does, I'll have found a way to feel free to write and be myself again and feel safe in some privacy and autonomy, hopefully while still managing a way for casual readers to peruse photos. I realized it's a little self-indulgent to assume that anyone might actually miss my daily check-ins, but throughout my life, any sort of stillness or inertia from me has always demanded explanation!


Thursday, March 28, 2013

3/28/13 Update overdue!!

Isn't it funny how "getting behind" compounds itself exponentially? Once I'm behind one day in my blog, the barrier to entry is WAY higher the next day. After 3 days, I barely know where to start!!

Gabriel went on his 5th-grade Angel Island Overnight trip yesterday. I dropped him off uber-early at school, wearing his Civil War Re-Enactment "uniform." I'm still kicking myself for not snagging a photo of him in long pants with a red stripe, his backpack, and anticipation-filled smiling face. He looked so grown-up, even as he was embarking on a kids'-school re-enactment.

Gabriel of all kids isn't one a parent need worry about on an overnight trip. I'm proud that we've done enough camping that he's pretty self-sufficient about these things. Unlike most of his classmates, he's slept outdoors, set up a tent, struggled to cram his sleeping bag into its case, dealt with the countless snags of camping.

Of course, that doesn't mean I wasn't a little anxious about him....I thought about him a lot, wondered what he was doing, missed him intensely.

I got home late night and found some Angel Island items tossed onto a table, and had another painful pang of missing my firstborn. I'd talked to him a lot about the trip, bugged him many times to prepare his "uniform," insisted he collect and check off each item he needed, talked to him about the activities, then dropped him off super-early amidst other Civil-War clad 5th-graders. So I was looking forward to seeing him when he returned.

But the current split-week custody arrangement meant that not only didn't I see him when he returned from his trip, but by the time I have his attention again, days will have passed and he'll have moved on. I remember well how cute he looked in his red-stripe uniform, and wonder how the re-enactment activities went, if it was cold and his sweatshirt was warm enough, and how did he do with his injured ankle. But I won't see him until late tomorrow and the new memory will have worn off. I really regret this loss of continuity; kids live so in-the-moment, and these moments are so often lost by a schedule dictated an impartial legal agreement.

Back to grownups....

Everyone always says they're super-busy at work, but lately, I really mean it. Every job had its deadlines, and my job is quite flexible in many ways, but when my job is inflexible, it really is. When I have a training class, or an exam scheduled, there's just no way around that.

(In the work-world context that is -- it's nothing at all like the pressure of raising babies. If you're diagnosed with pneumonia, you cancel the training class and reschedule the exam, but you never ever stop taking care of your baby!)

Recently I had a one-week training class (which I had to miss some of to care of babies), then a crucial exam. In the grander scheme, these vendor exams I have to take are meaningless -- they're not "real" exams like in academia, but rather, "certification" exams that include questions like "what 3 options are available in a such-and-such drop-down menu..." Nothing conceptual, but passing the tough exam is important to my revered employer, to have a certain number of "certified" engineers on staff. So, sure, of course I'll do all I can to make it work, but it is incredibly time and attention-consuming.

I had to summon my "computer virus guy" again to wipe clean an old laptop that, despite following all usual precautions, picked up a virus that completely froze it within 10 minutes of browsing. (Ironically, the exam I just passed, and much of the work-learning I've been doing, surrounds computer and application security.) I could make a whole career out of security if I were so inclined...instead I had to fall in love with a far less lucrative discipline (wireless networking). I attended a talk at a Forum my company hosted this week, that included an interesting comment from a vendor: "We don't try to eliminate security threats, but rather manage them, and make the economics fail for them." Good luck with that. I'm keeping my "virus guy" on speed-dial.

A full weekend is coming up, so please forgive me if I fall behind again!


Sunday, March 24, 2013

3/24/13 weekend chores

"Look, Mom!" declared Katrina this afternoon, "We're all doing jobs!" Indeed, I was doing yardwork, Gabriel was mowing the lawn, and Katrina was washing my car.

I'm not sure why she was so insistent about this job, but she took it seriously and worked hard at it for well over an hour!

And my car always needs washing, especially after ski trips.

Ski trip?! It's late March, and T-shirt weather has set in here in the South Bay. But I snuck in one last spring-skiing day yesterday anyway, at a favorite resort I haven't been to in years. This time, I got to ski with a friend -- a grownup -- and this time, the end of the day meant margaritas instead of hot-chocolate with marshmallows and "why did he get more than I did" and "GUYS stop FIGHTING" and "would you PLEASE take your boots off" and countless other details. It's great fun to ski with kids, but I have to say, at the moment the kind waiter showed up with "on the rocks with salt," and "what you you like for dinner, Ma'am?" I can't say I missed them all that much!

It was also TOTAL fun to ski with another grownup, a friend, who I know from motorcycling (though we never rode together), and who I know is adventurous, brave, experienced, willing to challenge herself, and who completely relates to the things that carry over from motorcycling to skiing. Motorcyclists, especially ones who ride dirt regularly, completely understand things like facing fear, knowing your limits, managing competitiveness and ego, balancing risk and reward -- even technical details like looking ahead and gauging your willingness for speed based on your ability to stop. Of course, any adventurer thinks about these things regularly, but if you're with someone who shares a strong interest in a particular discipline, you know how they think.

We had a great time, including a tough run in off-piste un-packed mogul-y "crud" under a lift ("West Coast Express"). (photo taken toward the end when it had levelled out -- honestly, it was a lot harder than it looks from this picture!)
(this is my friend, who also wore a white jacket and black pants, but is much taller than I am!)

This tough adventure made a relatively packed, well-traverse mogul-y black-diamond ("Jack Rabbit") seem completely fun and easy afterward.

My friend learned that if she was looking for reason or judgement in deciding whether or not to do something, it wasn't going to come from me -- as soon as she said, "Hmm, can we do this --" I'd say "Of COURSE WE CAN!" -- and off we were. Not all my male co-riders were always happy when I didn't give them a bail-out option....heh!

Spring has set in -- it was almost 50 degrees and we could sure feel it in the heavy rapidly melting snow -- but we made the best of it and had a fantastic time. Heck, I never liked skiing when it's cold anyway.

This photo is at the top of my former nemesis, "Lower Main" - this was so hard and scary 2 years ago, but SO fun yesterday. My friend is also a very very talented photographer, so I was so happy she got this terrific shot with my crummy point-and-shoot.

The mountains behind me are just beautiful, but I'm sad that they're not slathered with snow. You can definitely see how it's all melting away now.

Back at home, I was too tired today to get all the things done that were on my List -- seemed I could only drag myself outdoors to do outdoor manual-labor chores, which I did a lot of while Katrina was washing my car. Though yardwork tires me out, after being outside all day yesterday, it seemed more drudgerous to be inside. I'd better get over that fast, because tomorrow, it's back to the regular world, and there's a whole lot of indoors there!


Friday, March 22, 2013

3/21/13 Meow!

Gabriel has taken on this awful habit of "meowing" all the time. He enters a room and makes a high-pitched "meow" sound, answers questions with it, responds to requests with it, and just does it constantly. It's incredibly irritating.

Seems his new habit has struck a nerve at school too: I got a notice from his teacher that ALL the 5th-grade teachers have complained about his "meow" sounds: it distracts his "squad," makes him very annoying to interact with, and people are starting to worry that something's really wrong with him.

Gabriel has a long history of annoying his class with constant, repetitive, inappropriate sounds. In kindergarten, it was "POP goes the weasel!" and in 1st-3rd grades, it was the nonstop humming. He seemed to get a handle on it in 4th grade, but now his tendency to express whatever sounds are coursing through his head have a feline manifestation.

I talked to him at length about it, explaining that it wasn't just me being annoyed at his grating sounds -- now people are thinking there's really something wrong with him. I know there isn't, but I told him that he really, really, REALLY has to stop it. We shook on it....then I made fun of his floppy handshake, and he laughed and gave me the firm one of a young man.

Ironically, the real meow-makers are far far quieter, and much more judicious about the use of their vocalizations. The sound I hear the most from my squirmy shadow Meow-stache is, by far, purring.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

3/19/13 Standing Room Only

Julian came home sick from school, but luckily I was prepared to work from home today. This meant a lot of time in the office .... standing up! The chairs were occupied all day!

The Nerve!!

Lots more to say, but I'm exhausted and I'm sure it isn't very interesting anyway :).


Friday, March 15, 2013

3/15/13 Lab partners

Tough, busy week. I've complained at various times about having to take stupid exams -- well now, I have to pass an exam that isn't stupid. It isn't hard conceptually, but means really knowing a product line well, and just I don't yet. So I spent this week taking an intense training class at home to prepare for the exam.

Fortunately, I had a diligent lab partner.

And company, though it meant I had to sacrifice a chair. The nerve!

I know, I don't get it either.

The question-mark tail says it all!

Lots of prep, practice, and memorization for me this weekend....But I'm glad to have some support!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

3/14/13 Online class pals

I've been at home this week working on yet another online class, in prep for yet another certification exam, by far the hardest one I've had to face.

Fortunately, I had some diligent lab partners.

It was nice having them around all day this week, though they kept stealing my office chairs. This will not be news to anyone who's spent any length of time around cats, but they sure do sleep a lot!!

Wonder if they'd be willing to slip me some answers as I'm floundering through the exam...?