Radioactive material

Normally, I take horoscopes with a grain of salt. I learned in my college astronomy course that the precession of the earth (the wobble in the earth’s axis), has a cycle time of about 2,000 years. That means, the current zodiac, which was also created based on the earth’s axis location was off approximately 23.4° to what it is now. Don’t believe me? It’s science – look it up and read about it here. What that means is I may be a Leo/Virgo cusp nominally, but really I’m full-on Leo according to the real signs translation on that site. There’s even a whole new astrological sign you probably didn’t know about in November! Think about it like you would with the nominal versus the real price of something – the sign you’re probably familiar with is the nominal sign.

I digress. Coming back to my point, and I did have one, with a horoscope like this one, I got the message it was sending me, quite clearly. Write.

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Writing helps. You dont have to be good at it, actually its best if you dont even consider what it is you are writing. What I am talking about is writing for healing. Writing for consciousness. Writing for your sanity. 

I was recently on a plane ride from the twilight zone where everything that could possibly go wrong did. Least important of all, the entertainment system gave out. Each of us had a little individual TV in front of us that could be turned off or would loop the same commercials and movie trailers over and over. And over. The oddest thing is that for the two and a half hour flight most people just starred blankly at the revolving door of clips. But its kind of how our brain works. Really we are recycling only a couple of clips over and over. And over. For everyone else around us it can be maddening and once we wake up to it it is for us as well. But how to get out of the rut?

Write.

Write your fears, write your hopes, write your losses, write your woes. Write it down so you can see it. Write it down so it exists. Write the ugliest bits of yourself (they need love too). Write from the shadows (they need love too). Write from the rejected (they need some super-loved love). Write from the ones in you that are less known. 

Say hello.

The more willing we are to be in touch with this raw and sometimes radioactive material the easier a time youll have when it rears its triumphant head. Because it will. This month will be full of ego-busting bombs and take-out containers full of humble-pie. 

Get a head start by giving the old Dear Diary some more time on the schedule. 

– See more at: http://www.chaninicholas.com/mercury-retrograde-horoscopes-week-september-29th/#sthash.LEt9EyKq.dpuf

I do write for sanity. I write using a stream of consciousness, and it helps me work through my thoughts. I need to write more about my fears, my hopes, my losses, and my woes. I feel it all swirling around in my head, but I do need to see them too. When you write things down, they suddenly do exist. You birthed them from your mind onto a page. Now it’s there. The ugliest bits of myself do need love.

I had to write some long emails over the weekend that required sorting through, identifying, and finding a way to express a lot of emotions, and reading/listening to someone else’s emotions. I couldn’t just talk to the person face to face, or pick up a phone, as much as I think we both wanted to. It was a hard conversation to have in any instance, and having to type it out made it harder. But I’m glad we had that exchange. It provided much needed clarity, and in the end communication was what needed to happen. It had a positive result.

Sometimes when I speak of difficult things in person, I have trouble not in finding the words, but in saying them – in putting them out there and making them exist. I know what I want to say. I’ve already articulated the words and the message I want to send in my head. I am sometimes not always brave to say what I really want to. Yes, it can even happen to me.

I have already written about fears, in this post. I am working on new hopes. For a long time, my hopes merely consisted of moving back to San Francisco, reconnecting with old friends, and getting settled and stabilized in this crazy city. To be honest, I hadn’t thought so far in the future to the point past when my houseguest left. I’m figuring out what to work towards next.

Now that October approaches, I have no idea what the next three months will bring. Work is definitely ramping up and getting busier. I find my current states (physical, mental and emotional) to be unprepared for that level of stress again. I find my body actually resisting it.

My body is quite literally protesting. My back spasmed all weekend, overcome with stress. I’ve been housebound but not bedridden the past three days, trying to find comfortable sitting positions, standing, stretching, applying copious amounts of bengay, taking hot showers despite the current drought situation, and seeing how many ibuprofen I can take in a day (I think I got up to 10 in a 24hr period…)

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I’ve had a headache all day today. And the back spasms shoot down my left leg, into my left shoulder, and aches all through my lower back and hip. I found myself having a conversation at brunch with friends yesterday about medical ailments and I thought to myself, “Jesus, I sound like those octogenarians whose only conversation topics are their new drugs, new pains, and who is calling to take care of them or look in on them.” When did I get so old? Or, in the immortal words of Garth Brooks, “I’m much too young to feel this damn old.”

So right now, I’m ending September with handling my stress physically. This means that in my ever thickening work calendar of clients and meetings and deadlines, I will have to find more motivation and time for the gym.

I have a confession to make too. This weekend, I did some emotional eating. Actually, it started as far back as last Wednesday, when I broke my weekday vegetarian commitment for a waffle containing bacon, cheddar, and potatoes, with a side of sausage. I’m not sorry. My body wanted meat. It couldn’t wait for Friday night. And this morning, Monday morning, I had some leftover sausage with my eggs for breakfast. So Monday is shot. Right now, my body is telling me what it wants and needs, and I’m listening to it.

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Sounds like October has more in store for me with “ego-busting bombs” and “take-out containers full of humble pie.” I’ve always kept myself and my ego in check, especially given my penchant for clumsiness and propensity for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. I’m in touch with my raw, “radioactive material”. The best thing about radioactive material, by its very nature, is that the matter is in a state of decaying. It has a half life and its power decreases exponentially over time.

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By idigres

Withholding stories

When I read this, it resounded so strongly with me I think I felt the walls vibrate. Here, have a read:

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/our-stories/

Of course, that was my first reaction. Once I marinated on what I read for a while, I realized even more why I knew it to be true. The message is along the lines of one I shared when I wrote this post. What is that untapped potential we all have in our very beings that doesn’t get shared? What about the other 6/7th’s?

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But more importantly, I liked this article for sharing the doors that honesty can open, so they bear some repeating, for effect.

  1. Honesty and openness prove we are trustworthy.
  2. They display our humanity.
  3. They highlight the importance of hard work and personal development.
  4. They allow others to know us and themselves better.
  5. Honesty and openness challenge others to share their stories.

I rewatched an episode of SNL when Christoph Waltz was the guest host. There was a skit of a game show, with a set up similar to Wheel of Fortune, but instead, it was a show called “What Have You Become?” It had really sad, pathetic people as contestants, and the game was simply the host of that show asking the contestants the question: “What Have You Become?” If the contestant didn’t have a mental breakdown and realize how pathetic his or her life was, they won the round.

When you ask yourself the question, “What Have I Become?”, honesty and openness are of utmost importance. This creates self awareness to step away, look at the facts and observe the situation with an outsider’s perspective. You shouldn’t lie to yourself.

What I love about my interactions with people in the past 3 years, is the brutal honesty with which I attacked conversations. I put my humanity on display. By asking myself questions about the kind of person I was and wanted to be, I navigated some very tough decisions and remained as true to myself as I could be. I lived 1. – 5. above everyday.

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It can be confronting when someone with whom you interact is brutally honest. “How are you?” garners a response that requires eye contact, nodding, involvement, listening, and offering some kind of response. You can either match their honesty, or shy away.

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I think of how I can come across when I answer questions. I offer funny stories that happened that day, as I see a lot of humor in my collection of moments. Sometimes I’m not fine and I don’t feel like lying about it to make someone more comfortable. Whether I respond with an emotion or a story, I make it personal. It’s me. I’m sharing me with you. Sometimes people don’t know how to handle honesty, simply because they are not used to it. Rules get bent, truth gets stretched, and a distorted mangled remnant of the truth can remain. Not to sound cliché, but some people can’t handle the truth…

I cherish those honest moments. They have an integrity to me. They’re important for me to connect with someone, and for someone to connect with me. Maybe it’s over a shitty morning commute or a funny bus character story, but I’d rather have that moment of truth than a hundred moments of dishonest imitation.

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I started this blog to tell my stories. You might be surprised what will come back to you if you do the same. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the responses I’ve received from people when I’m real with them. I’m connecting with people in a real way. In response, they are real with me and relate to me, almost immediately (or I get to them over time.) It doesn’t feel fake. Sometimes it feels forced, only if I’m just not in the mood for interaction or company. But that occurs rarely.

Share your stories in return, or pass them forward, but get them into the great wide open. Don’t withhold your stories. You know why.

 

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Life’s purpose

I came across an article in my Facebook feed not too long ago, http://markmanson.net/life-purpose/. It may help to read that 14-minute piece before you read this post, as it will provide context to both the original questions and how I’ve answered them. But don’t let me tell you how to read my blog posts.

The piece intrigued me. Since I’m facing the very root of what the 7 questions he proposes get at, a life’s purpose, I decided to “take the quiz”. Some people reason things out by writing, some by speaking to someone about it. Here’s a hybrid of the two, since I find I have epiphanies when I share with you, dear reader.

1. What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich and does it come with an olive?

On the whole, I’m not a huge fan of shit sandwiches. But, in theory, I totally agree with what this question is trying to get at. Everything sucks sometimes, no matter if you’re living your dream. You will have bad days even when you do what you love. There will always be aspects of your dream job that you may find to be tedious or straight up cruel and unusual punishment. What would I put up with, and what could I do that would be worth having to tolerate that sucky crap?

If I answer this question honestly for myself, I’d actually be willing to put up with quite a bit, provided my non-negotiables are covered. I want to add value, and have someone appreciate the work do, have that work make a difference to someone. I want to create, have something tangible to show for my time, even if it’s a freshly mowed lawn with all its perfect rows and a wifebeater sunburn on my shoulders from being out in the sunshine. Some kids will play on that grass, with their dog. Someone will come home from a long day of work to walk their dog, and take him to the park I mowed. Simple. I want to create art, stories, documents, thoughts, ideas, and inspire other people to do the same. I want to contribute to society in some meaningful way.

I don’t want to work late nights, as I want a work/life balance that allows me to go to the gym daily, and step out for a healthy lunch. I’d like to have a pet, so insane hours isn’t right for me at this point in my life. I hate commuting with a passion, with the exception of riding on a Google bus situation with wi-fi and not having to drive. More often than not though, I prefer to be home asap after I’m done with my workday.

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I want my shit sandwich to have extra pickles and pepperoncinis, no onions, thanks. If you could make it vegetarian as well, that’d be great…

2. What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?

I don’t have a treehouse, with a surfboard ride along a water channel to take me from room to room. I don’t have a ranch and nacho cheese dispenser in my kitchen. I don’t have a giant library of books with a ladder and comfy reading chairs surrounded by lots of wood and leather. I don’t play sports; I barely make it to the gym. My 8-year-old self liked to be outside, be active, and keep my mind active. I loved to read, watch movies, and my favorite TV shows.

I used to draw and paint, and try my hand at music and other artistic media. I sang and made up stories in my head with plot lines for my dolls. I decorated Barbie bedrooms, and drew floor plans. I always wanted to design a custom home, be it tree house, boat, or some other industrial building built for another purpose. I guess I thought about what my own home would be like.

My 8-year-old self was outgoing, didn’t care what she said to whom, and didn’t hold back. She didn’t have to. She wasn’t making life or death decisions, or decisions that would cost someone millions of dollars. I’d hate to be punished for speaking my mind, but very often I find I hold my tongue in certain situations.

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Also, I always pictured myself with a life partner – I think my 8-year-old self would be disappointed that I couldn’t find a stable partner in my life who is a good, kind person, by this point in my life. But it’s not like I’m not trying…

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3. What makes you forget to eat and poop?

Nothing. I thoroughly enjoy both, and when the urge arises for either, it’s immediate.

I guess I lose track of time when I’m talking to people. I could binge watch television series and go to the gym every day, if I could get paid for that.

In starting this blog, I’ve found I lose track of time when I write. Also when I read, for that matter. When I have an opinion, or am pontificating, I can easily lose 2 hours. I have a certain capacity for problem solving, organizing things efficiently and so they make sense, and teaching someone something.

4. How can you better embarrass yourself?

I do a pretty good job of this on a daily basis. I don’t know how I can embarrass myself more, somedays. Usually embarrassing myself means sticking my foot in my mouth and saying something inappropriate, in most cases.

I think I’d feel like a huge embarrassment to my family and friends if I lost all the money I’d worked so hard to save up over the years, and have to go back to being financially dependent on someone. I’ve only ever been dependent on my parents, but I got a job at 15 to start earning some cash, so I wouldn’t be entirely. I am fiercely independent, financially and otherwise today, so loss of that independence would be mortifying.

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5. How are you going to save the world?

I have no idea what problem I can solve on a global scale. When I graduated from college, I studied and had planned to become a financial advisor and certified financial planner. I wanted to help people wrangle their finances and come up with a plan that let them sleep at night to help them save to reach their financial goals. I wanted to serve a particular niche – gay people. At the time, navigating civil domestic partnerships, and the estate planning documents, as well as taxes, were quite murky. Most people don’t have a secure plan in place to let them sleep at night, and the market reactions to the GFC were a prime example that most people have no idea what they’re doing, when it comes to their money.

I guess if I wanted to save the world, I would help individual people, get more money and retain more money, so the bare minimum goes to the IRS, Franchise Tax Boards of each state, corporations, and the government. I’m for the people. But if I’m to truly save the world, first I need to finish my drinks.

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6. Gun to your head, if you had to leave the house all day, every day, where would you go and what would you do?

It is true. The couch is comfortable and the champagne is bubbly. I don’t think I could do the same thing all day every day. My interests and activities would be varied. Bike rides, walks, gym sessions (cardio and weights), restaurants, reading, writing, watching films, doing yoga, studying astronomy, take an existential physics/religion of science course, landscaping/gardening in my backyard (assuming I’m settled down in a home of some sort), taking photographs, and listening to people. I don’t think I’d do a lot of talking, but I wouldn’t mind listening and asking questions.

Basically, if you tell me there are nachos and pizza at the end of the rainbow that is my life’s purpose, you best believe I’ll walk across hot coals to get them.Food stop!!!

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7. If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?

As the odds stand now, I likely won’t leave a legacy of adorable lesbian prodigy progeny as a legacy of my time on this earth. I have no written works (save for the published posts on this blog), no art pieces made and sold.

I want to be known for my generosity, of money, time, and spirit. I want have a legacy of great family and friends who benefitted somehow from my existence, and remember some snorting laughing moments with me.

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What is my obituary going to say? Besides, “For rent” (see blog here), I want to be remembered for my individuality, personality, humor, bravery, and compassion. I was a pretty good person, I tried to be anyway.

If I imagine a world without myself, it would be full of people who only say what you want to hear. It would be full of people who merely mumble “fine” when you ask how they are. It would be a world of conformity and doing what is expected. It would be full of super motivated people who never stopped to take time to smell the roses and question what’s important in life before those things are gone. This world would be full of people who don’t travel, who don’t learn constantly, and who are comfortable in their little bubbles, not questioning the things they don’t know they don’t know. It would be full of people who never notice the beauty of the stars, the touch of a hand, or the scent of a flower.

A world with me in it hears it from me like it is. I give a somewhat educated view where and when I can. I’m supportive with just about anything someone I’m teaching wants to do; I’ve given them point B – wow me with how you choose to get from Point A to Point B. I take up space. I imagine my eulogy will be very much like words said about Joan Rivers, if my friends have any guts to tell me like I am. I take the world in, I observe, I learn, I share, I elbow for room, I explore, I cross the caution tape (without getting caught), and I try to inspire others to learn for themselves and cross their own predisposed boundaries.

So where did this exercise get me? I must admit – I’m nowhere closer to finding what it is I want to do that is important while I take up time on this earth. I know this much is true (wonderful Wally Lamb novel by this same name, but I digress): while my absence or presence may not have a material impact on this world, my absence or presence does make a difference in a few important people’s lives. My mother, my aunt, and my extended family. My best friend. Some of my present and past coworkers. My wider circle of friends. And maybe one of them knows their purpose wholeheartedly. I indirectly make a difference, at least for now. One day, I may find my inspiration for my artistic piece with a shaved head or mowed lawn featured with a written piece, covered in paint, that walks puppies and provides financial advice to gay people. Until then… just focus on the small stuff, live day to day doing the best I can. In aggregate, the way I spend my days will be the way I spend my life (indirectly paraphrasing a more famous Annie Dillard quote there, on purpose.)

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The receiver

Last week, I saw “The Giver” in a nearly empty movie theater. I haven’t re-read the novel in years, but I read it twice as a kid and it was one of my favorite books. It did a good job of putting into words things I was thinking and feeling. To me, this was the original dystopian novel, before Hunger Games, before Divergent/Insurgent/Allegiant, and technically before Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, and 1984, as I didn’t read those until high school. On an aside, Lois Lowry wrote another book that I also loved, called Number the Stars. She is a fantastic author in her own right. Kudos to her.

I remember when I first read the book in elementary school. I read it for fun, not even in class, as it was part of the book club that monthly fliers went out for. I begged my mom to buy it for me. My parents didn’t spoil me much, but they did keep me in books between frequent trips to the library and occasionally buying books here and there for me.

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First off, Meryl Streep was eerily creepy and effective. I was glad to see such a high profile, award-winning star cast in this film. A strong cast will play up the movie even more. But perhaps, that is the business/commercial side of me. True talent in the cast, proven talent, really does lend itself to bringing stories to life, and classic works of art into the light.

Secondly, the Dude abides in his role as the Giver. In my first readings of the Giver, I couldn’t quite discern the relationship between Jonas and the Giver. I wasn’t sure if the Giver was some creepy old man bordering on the edge of child molester. This movie did a great job of illustrating a “perfectly normal” connection between two people with a gift, burdened with the knowledge and emotion of “seeing b photo dude.gifeyond”. It was not an inappropriate relationship by any means, but served as a connection outside of any family, that the two felt in a world without passionate bonds.

I remember thinking when I was younger, that I was a lot like Jonas. I didn’t feel super great at any one thing. I felt like I was pretty good at a lot of things. I also had no idea what my future held for me, but I knew I had a depth of emotion unlike most people I encountered. I imagined myself as the Receiver of Memories, burdened with the pain and the knowing. I felt like I, too, saw and felt things, beyond. This was one of the first stories where I really identified with the protagonist. I saw all this happiness in other kids around me, but I don’t know that I felt it the same way they did. I was a bit of a loner, smaller than the other kids, and a bit of a runt. I got on fine with kids at the private school I attended up until 5th grade, but when I moved to a public school in the middle of 5th grade, it’s like I became the small fish in a big pond, and I realized how different I was.

I also thought what Jonas did to try to change the way things were and challenge the status quo were heroic and legendary. That capability of independent thought, because you can see things others can’t, is both a blessing and curse. Besides, would you really want a life lived in black in white? No color? No glorious smells, no emotions? Is that a life worth living? Further, perhaps we need things like fear, pain, and war, to remind us how wonderful comfort, health, and peace really are.

Some would argue pain is evil, and we must give up desire and self, our very uniqueness and individuality, to eliminate pain and suffering in our lives. We should give them up and join the “enlightenment” of cosmic oneness to find a utopia without pain. It reminds me of something Yoda said to Anakin Skywalker:

YODA: Careful you must be when sensing the future, Anakin. The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.

ANAKIN: I won’t let my visions come true, Master Yoda.

YODA: Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.

ANAKIN: What must I do, Master?

YODA: Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

Choice, love, desire, pleasure, and attachment are dangerous, as they can lead to pain, but without them, I maintain life has no purpose. Growing attached to someone or something could lead to the loss of that which we love, but life without love is empty. I repeat for effect: Life, without love, is empty.

Purpose comes from choice – what you choose to put your mind and life’s work to. Purpose comes from overcoming obstacles and conquering adversity. Yes, with choice, we are allowed to make mistakes, which means we have the power to choose poorly, and that could lead to pain. Choice is dangerous because we become accountable for our own choices, but without it, life has no meaning – it’s predetermined, colorless, and merely feels like going through the motions when we feel powerless to control our own destinies. Greatness in life is found by overcoming adversity, getting knocked down and getting back up again, not by the absence of adversity.

I also see this as a story of a child learning to see past the happy and safe confines of childhood into the bigger world from which he’s been previously protected, and realizing that the wonderful security of childhood, the rules and foundations of that world, no longer apply in the adult universe. People’s day-to-day lives are very different from what you perceive them to be when you’re a child. Neighbors, friends, family, who were the very core of your world, seem to drift away and become distant as you make your way through life. You will continue to form new unexpected and important connections that may overturn the world to which you’ve become accustomed.

The world is not the stable place you experienced as a child, with rules to ensure your safety and innocence through simplicity and predictability. The world is full of beautiful things and love, but it also has unbearable cruelty and pain. The absence of feeling in the midst of this growing up is the inner conflict Jonas faces. He realizes that his father kills babies for a living. He can’t talk to his parents or share his learnings with his sister once he begins sessions with the Giver, when all he wants to do is selflessly share the joy with people he cares about. What he goes through, I think everyone goes through this when growing up – an onslaught of overwhelming emotion, seeing what’s good and evil with a fresh pair of innocent eyes, the feeling of loneliness and no longer fitting in with the world you grew up in, and the sudden knowledge that your parents and the world is not what you thought it to be.

John Steinbeck captured that feeling perfectly when he wrote:

“You’re growing up. Maybe that’s it,” he said softly. “Sometimes I think the world tests us most sharply then, and we turn inward and watch ourselves with horror. But that’s not the worst. We think everybody is seeing into us. The dirt is very dirty and purity is shining white.”

In my life, I spent much of my life in a role as the Receiver. Mostly because I didn’t believe I had anything yet to give. As I grow older, I play both roles every day. I am a Giver when I teach people less experienced than myself, when I share my stories and experiences with those who haven’t had their own yet. I give when I share of myself; I share my pain and my joy. I receive pain and joy from my friends as they unburden their loads and trust me to share their ups and downs. A joy shared is doubled, and pain shared is halved. We were put on this earth not to see through each other, but to see each other through.

May your relationships be give and take as well; as one person cannot bear all the pain of the world by themselves, nor can one person contain all the happiness they feel. Give and Receive. Balance in the force, there must be.

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Quarterly report: iDiGres 10-Q

I’ve been blogging for 3 months or so, now. I’ve been back in the US for a whole financial quarter. Time for an in-depth assessment, methinks.

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Section 1 Registrant’s Business and Operations

Item 1.01 Entry into a Material Definitive Agreement

  • I signed a lease on a small but sufficient apartment in a great location. I love my place. My stuff fits, with room to spare, surprisingly.
  • The crotchety older lady next door slid a computer-printed nastygram under my door just after completing my last furniture assembly from IKEA just after I moved in. I responded with kindness to the letter, and have seen no effort from her to become friends or even amiable. She pounded on the wall once, demonstrating her territorial and primal reaction to challenge of her alpha status. Since she couldn’t be a decent human being and talk to me or call/text me on my mobile #, which I left in my response to her letter, I filed a complaint against her for pounding on the walls. I had the volume turned up on a good TV show, cause the actors were mumbling. It was temporary and she was unnecessary. Diana 1, Crotchety neighbor 0. Otherwise, upstairs neighbors are not elephants – most recent hypothesis is they are monkeys and hang from a jungle gym hung on the ceiling, as I never hear footsteps above. Much appreciated.

Item 1.02 Termination of a Material Definitive Agreement

  • I’ve not quit anything yet. I love my view. It can be quite loud overlooking Market Street, especially during warmer summer evenings when you have to leave the windows open for fresh air. No plans to terminate living here any time soon, though. I’m looking forward to the rainy season and cooler temperatures as autumn approaches.

Section 2 Financial Information

Item 2.01 Completion of Acquisition or Disposition of Assets

  • I acquired lots of new stuff for the apartment, my favorite being a new sofa, the most important feature of which is that it is not from IKEA. It’s upholstered in coffee-colored velvet and is so comfortable.
  • I’m still not 100% moved in as I still left some boxes with a friend who has yet to get them out of storage. I still don’t have my Krups combination espresso and timer coffee machine, which makes me sad inside. Reacquisition is hoped for soon, but there’s not much I can do about it til said friend makes it a priority, no point nagging her.
  • Also, I’m considering selling/getting rid of the papasan I’ve had since the early 2000’s. I may have to get a matching armchair to go with my luxurious couch… growing up and the furniture is coming with me.
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Item 2.02 Results of Operations and Financial Condition

  • Given the amount of stuff I brought back with me from Australia, I didn’t break the bank in furnishing my new apartment. Cash flows have been smooth, mostly because paychecks here come 2 times a month, instead of the monthly paychecks in Australia. Overall status is comfortable and not adding to stress. Strong quarter of performance at work, as well, earning some positive feedback already for the two non-profit jobs I’m managing at the moment.
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Item 2.03 Creation of a Direct Financial Obligation or an Obligation under an Off-Balance Sheet Arrangement of a Registrant

  • Not applicable. I’m allergic to commitment and have no off-balance sheet commitments (except to watching Season 3 of Orange is the New Black the second it’s released on Netflix.) But, if the right girl asked me…

Item 2.04 Material Impairments

  • I’ve had a few impaired nights. Nothing too damaging, though.
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  • I also seem to have caught a little case of the smitten kittens. I’ve had a houseguest for the past month from abroad, which is the first chance I’ve gotten to really test out having a guest stay over in the new apartment.
  • Getting to know someone new who has a lot in common with you by living together fairly soon after meeting in person really introduces you to a genuine person. I’m cautiously optimistic and have tried to dedicate a lot of attention to her while she is here. Liking someone can definitely impair your judgment, but I try not to let it. I’m generally happy these days. That is, until she has to leave at the end of September. I’ll be inconsolable and my best friend (who let me shave her head into a Mohawk last night) will be long gone on a 3-week trip in the Grand Canyon.
  • Looks like I’ll be due for a friend-tervention somewhere around early to mid-October without my two of my favorite people around.

Section 3 Securities and Trading Markets

Item 3.01 Material Modifications to my Investment Portfolio

  • The last three months, owning Apple stock has really paid off for me. I luckily got it for around $79/share, in 2009, before the first iPad ever hit the market in 2010. With the announcements in early September driving consumer demand and renewing faith in the CEO since the passing of Steve Jobs, and the stock split also driving up consumer demand of the stock itself, I’m sitting pretty. Thanks, Apple.
  • I also reacquired Netflix stock. I owned it once, for about 18 months after it IPO’ed and went down, I bought it at a low and sold for a mild gain. I decided I loved my wifi and my instant streaming subscription for $7.99 per month that Netflix was really doing right by its consumers. There, you have my independent financial advice – invest in companies that leave you happy as a consumer. That’s a derivation of Warren Buffet’s “invest in what you know” strategy. If you don’t understand it, don’t use it, and don’t buy it, you probably shouldn’t be holding its stock.

Section 4 Matters Related to Accountants and Financial Statements

Item 4.01 Changes in Registrant’s Certifying Accountant

  • All past-due bonuses and relocation allowances were paid, my Australia 457b visa was cancelled, and my accumulated superannuation (retirement savings money) has been deposited in my Australian checking account.
  • My final tax return in Australia was the 2014 return and my refund was deposited into my account this week, which means no more having to deal with foreign income tax and getting taken advantage of internationally.
  • Final task: convince National Australia Bank that they’ll never have me as a customer again and there is nothing they can do about it (except maybe waive the wire transfer fee before I move it to the US and close my accounts.) I’m quite happy to be back to one country’s banking system, and taxation system, for the time being. Nothing personal, NAB.

Section 5 Corporate Governance and Management

Item 5.01 Amendments to Articles of Incorporation or Bylaws; Change in Fiscal Year

  • I have been very successful in my attempts to be a weekday vegetarian (see previous blog post here – don’t have a cow). My new law of meat allowed only from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening has actually resulted in fewer calories per meal, as well as higher energy levels at midday. I look forward to weekends and don’t feel guilty about having meat on weekends, and I still consume less meat on weekends, because I don’t buy and eat a whole pack of bacon or sausage, I have one serving if I eat out.
  • This has also resulted, along with keeping up gym visits, in a loss of weight. Since I put on a lot of muscle the last year, I’ve switched gears to fat loss now that I have that base muscle to burn it. I’ve purposely cut back on weights at the gym, and have tried to do more cardio. It’s helping, but I’m also reaching a point where I need to do some maintenance on the muscle so I don’t lose it. The gym horizon is constantly changing, and that is a good thing.

Section 6

Item 6.01 Conclusion

  • All in all, I’ve had a good first three months landing back on my feet. I’m alive, resilient, and comfortable. My work schedule for the near future is somewhat unknown; schedules are being adjusted and needs are being created and filled. I’m optimistic about what the next quarter holds and hope to report good tidings around the holidays. Best to you and yours, dear reader.

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By idigres

Find your voice and learn to use it

I’d like to teach the world to sing, even though I can’t read sheet music.

Believe me, I’ve tried. I took keyboard lessons (don’t hate; it was the 80’s) at the tender age of 6 years old, and learned what the keys were. A-B-C-D-E-F-G. Doesn’t seem that hard. However, I didn’t have the attention span or talent to learn the black keys. I learned how to play random songs by ear (a little Kenny G, a little Heart & Soul, and the theme song to Miami Vice) but never made anything serious of it.

Instead, I found my musical inclination in the weirdest of ways. My mom liked to listen to the easy listening adult contemporary radio station when we would drive anywhere in the car. I memorized words as I heard them, as well as the melody. So now, I find myself a less than musically inclined random belter-outer of music. Even though sheet music just didn’t stick in my normally Velcro mind, I still found a way to learn songs through words and intonation. I saw myself as the poster child, the lead singer of the band who was just so good she couldn’t be bothered with any instrument but her vocal chords, given my only child Leo year of the rooster subliminal desire for attention.

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I couldn’t tell you what notes I’m singing out, nor do I know much about treble or bass or half notes. I can, however, sing an impromptu version of just about every mainstream song from the 80’s and 90’s. It was easy – all you had to do was listen for the words. Once you learned the words (or the sounds if you couldn’t figure out the words), you just had to sing along. For the longest time, basically until the invention of the internet and search engines, I thought Creedence Clearwater Revival was pretty helpful by telling me, “There’s the bathroom on the right.” No wonder I missed a heads up on all those bad moons on the rise.

I’ve always wanted to play some sort of musical instrument. If only I had talent, I could wow people without having to talk.

When I was 10, I was already quite the entrepreneur, opening a neighborhood maid service, countless lemonade and Kool-Aid stands, and then tried my hand at babysitting. I didn’t have any siblings, but I hadn’t managed to kill myself yet, so I figured that qualified me enough. After years of babysitting for a few families in the neighborhood, I gained a reputation as a reliable babysitter who had no social life when parents desperately needed “date night” to get out of the house.

When I was 15, I spent a whole summer babysitting 4 kids, from two families – 2 brothers and 2 sisters. I spent 10hrs a day on the clock, and it was a lot harder than the max 2 kids at a time I’d been used to. Hello, now taking applicants for the Preschool for the Blonde Village of the Damned Kids. Yes, all 5 of us blondies rode our bikes that summer to the neighborhood pool, the ice cream shop, the park and anywhere we could try to entertain ourselves during those long hot days. It really looked like something out of an M. Night Shyamalan Garbage Pail Kids family classic.

Anyway, the older brother was taking guitar lessons and needed to practice while I was there. He had a couple guitars – one electric and one acoustic. He much preferred the rocker style of the electric guitar and the attached speaker, so I’d grab the acoustic and do my best to accompany and learn from him. He loved Alanis Morissette, Jewel, the Wallflowers, and had sheet music showing finger placement on guitar chords. This was new to me – I could read where to put your fingers on a guitar! I was set! I just assumed every time a note appeared in between changing finger positions, just strum it. This musically dyslexic prodigy finally had her instrument!

I asked my parents for a guitar for my birthday that year – I got a no name cheap acoustic of my very own. By the time I had it in my position, I knew the chorus chords of Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me” and the Wallflowers “One Headlight” enough to sing along.

The more I played, the more I came to a horrible revelation: I have insanely small hands with short fingers. I’m double jointed, and thus, the chord positions wreaked havoc on my weaker left hand. If only my right hand could control the chords and my stupid left hand could strum awkwardly. No dice. I can be ambidextrous at writing things left handed and upside down, but I cannot play a left handed guitar. I tried. I got all the chords backward, and I still struggled a bit with finger strength and placement, as well as moving them quickly enough to make any kind of melody.

It was hard, but I eventually stopped playing my guitar. When I got to college, I ended up taking it to a pawn store, and I hacked it for beer money. Money well spent too. I’m sure it afforded me two or three 100-packs of Keystone Light or Natural Ice.

I discovered along my lifetime that whilst I reckoned myself a champion singer and comfortable in the spotlight, that I sing horribly when actually trying in front of people. I would get up on stage for karaoke and while I imagined a stunning performance hitting every note in my head, what eventuated was ultimately flat rubbish. Perhaps I wasn’t as comfortable in the spotlight as I thought. But you get in me the shower, or intoxicated walking down the street, and I can belt out in perfect pitch without batting an eyelash, regardless of whether I have an audience or not. It actually sounds like I can sing sometimes.

Singing is how I found my own rhythm and inner drumbeat. It’s different from everybody else, sometimes astonishingly so. When you can liberate inside of you, finally let it out, you find ways to harmonize with other people.

So yeah, I’d like to teach the world to sing the way I learned to sing. Because once you discover your voice, no one can shut you up.

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For rent

I remember taking practice exams and ultimately the pre-SAT’s and the SAT’s, and reading a piece about a nautilus. For you foreigners who are not familiar with testing and American school systems, those are the tests required to gain entrance to any university. The piece of writing likened the chambers of the nautilus to memory – how you can box up things you no longer need and stuff them into the previous chamber, as this mollusk only lives in the largest and outermost chamber of its shell. Mathematically, the nautilus demonstrates perfectly the naturally occurring Fibonacci sequence of numbers in its growth and proportions.

The empty chambers sealed off at the center of the spiral serve to aid in buoyancy as it navigates the seas. The nautilus still maintains chambers that hold its history, as it inhabited every single one of the chambers inside its shell at one point or another, but it outgrew each of them. It grew bigger and moved onward and upward.

I compare myself to the nautilus. The person I was at 18 was a discreet distinct person, who only knew what she knew then. So much of the world was undiscovered for me. I still hadn’t travelled internationally, and had only just entered college. I branched out on my own due to my fierce independence, separating from my parents, my hometown, and all the friends I’d made up until that point. I threw myself in the metaphorical deep end, and I didn’t sink nor did I drown. I swam, after I found my rhythm, my stroke, and my contribution to give.

I have since put so much that happened in the past into the sealed chambers of my shell, or if you will, in the file cabinet of my life that some religious being may want to peruse one day to judge me. There will be good; there will be bad. There will be noble and honorable; there will be selfish and petty. I try not to pull open the drawers or attempt to access the sealed chambers. What’s done is done, and wasting time regretting would be of no use. I admit that’s not the best approach, as one could argue learning from the past means you’re not necessarily doomed to repeat it. The way I see it, I have a whole life to live, and a whole lot of mistakes to make. I’d rather focus on the future and what that may bring.

It’s weird to think at death, some religious being may perform a reconciliation of our “account”, to use accounting terms as a metaphor. My cursing sailor mouth and my donation to charity may be weighed against each other. That time I snorted milk up my nose and out my eye is going to potentially be compared to some horribly risqué nun joke I told while inebriated at a work function.

Death seems like a final tally, a T account with debits and credits (you know you love accounting references). You build up a balance of good (hopefully), but every once in a while, you need to deduct the bad. I used to naively think as a kid I wouldn’t do anything bad, then I could be the best person. That’s no way to live. As Katharine Hepburn famously said, “If you follow all the rules, you miss all the fun,” or something to that effect (didn’t bother to google this one to correct myself, but I think I already quoted it in one of my blog posts once.)

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It happens to everyone, and I think every person must do their own reconciliation. I don’t know if some religious spiritual being is going to care enough to record my final tally. I may simply be in the “miscellaneous” suspense account. Until my life’s purpose is sorted and lived, who knows?

I may have mentioned in a previous blog a Dying, Death, and the Afterlife course I took at Chico State. It was technically a religious studies course, and we had a ton of really interesting books on the syllabus to satiate our hungry minds on the topic. At the time I took the course, I’d only lost one person somewhat close to me – a chemistry lab partner who got into a car accident just after his 16th birthday. So it would be fair to say I’d never experienced real loss before that course. Not that kind that fucks you up and knocks you sideways, anyway. Digression – Sideways is a great song by Citizen Cope – check it out here if you like:

One of the key takeaways I had from that class included the fact that Puritanical settlements in the early days of US history were founded on quite morbid principles. Death was such a common player in everyday life that Puritanical townships were actually constructed around a graveyard. That is to say, every town had a graveyard first, and the city then grew up around that graveyard. Puritanical life saw a much shorter life span for these adventurers and new world explorers. Society needed an institution to handle grief, before it needed any kind of government building or commercial business. Some family plots even had their own gravesites right on the property, and that tradition continues on many private pieces of land even today.

On our booklist in that course, in case you’re interested, were C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed, Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being (one of my favorites to this very day), and When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner, to mention a few.

Grief itself is almost a science. This institution, creating socially acceptable means to handle grief, is extensive and is a billion dollar industry, between funeral homes, cremation costs, world travels you sign up for when you realize life is just too damn short, and the like.

One of my favorite poems discovered in my high school advanced placement literature class (taught by a wealthy eccentric whose doctor husband kept her in a lifestyle to which she’d become accustomed so she had time to read and form her own interpretation of many literary pieces), was John Donne’s A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.

The poem uses metaphors and comparisons, each describing a way of looking at two lovers’ separation that will help them to avoid the mourning the loss of the other. If you have a significant other or loved one from whom you’ve been separated for any length of time, you can relate to the hearkening your heart feels towards them: how the sound of their voice plays in your head, you see them when they’re not there, you miss their smell, and your body actually aches in the absence of their touch. True yearning for just a moment with them.

The speaker in the poem declares that, since the lovers’ two souls are one, the departure of one of the lovers will simply expand the area of their unified soul, rather than cause a rift between them. So if my loved one is across the world, we live in that much bigger of a world. My favorite metaphor is that of a compass, where the two lovers’ souls are “two” instead of “one”, and one is the foot of the compass, holding steady, while the other circumnavigates and travels a circle around them, yet they know they’ll return to being side by side once the compass is done being used.

Not on our syllabus, but something I watched later in life I added to my so-called Contemplation About Death soup recipe is the likes of movies like Donnie Darko especially, and honorable mentions to Minority Report, The Butterfly Effect and Memento. Consideration of questions and all things death is key; but the impact of memory and our own brain deficiencies/gifts makes them that much better.

From the opening of the movie Donnie Darko, I was captivated. Tears for Fears. Drew Barrymore. A young Maggie Gyllenhaal (with real-life brother Jake). Deeply contemplative issues (like “how exactly does one suck a fuck?”). Some old lady with a silver 80’s pseudo mullet who loved checking her mailbox. A load of crap cult trying to brainwash people on love and fear led by a child pornographer. Mental illness vs. sanity, and the need for pills vs. the desire to not be on them, so you could know what’s real and what’s not. Consideration of other dimensions and time travel. Contemplation of impacts of choice versus fate, ripples in time, and escaped fatalies. I loved the concept of time travel and the globular clear gel goo that preceded character’s movements at one point in the film, and likened them to be a vision of what destiny or powers of prediction might look like to new eyes.

There is great cliff notes synopsis of the movie here in case you really want to break down Donnie Darko.

My favorite quote of the movie, to pursue a slight tangent (but I digress):

Donnie: [taking a cigarette] What happens if you tell Mom and Dad about this, Sam?

Samantha Darko: You’ll put Ariel in the garbage disposal.

Donnie: Goddamn right I will.

Spoiler alert, but Donnie has to die to amend the impacts of the ripple seen at the beginning of the film when he initially misses his death from the jet engine of an unknown plane falling into his bedroom. The countdown, the end of the world, is the end of his world. Of course it’s an important date worth counting down. I could argue that a smart person wouldn’t want to know the day they’re going to die though. Ruins the fun, adventure, and possibly the whole ride. We want to love the ride.

Like the institution of marriage, humans have created an institution to come to terms with death. We put infirm elderly people in homes because they require special care, and sometimes we don’t have the time or resources ourselves to care for them anymore. In my finance courses in college, Long Term Care is actually something people universally plan for now, assuming their families can’t/won’t take care of them. There’s insurance for that. You betcha.

It’s so much harder to deal with an unexpected death than it is to come to terms with one you knew was coming. It’s harder to deal with the death of a life cut too soon, perhaps a child, than it is to deal with the death of senior citizens. It’s easier to lay someone to rest properly and begin healing if you have a wake, a funeral pyre, a memorial service, or some kind of public forum where loved ones can express their grief. Let it out, don’t keep it in. This is all a part of the Institution of Grief.

What we don’t realize is that we carry grief with us all the time. When we cry at a funeral, we’re not done dealing with the death of a loved one. Oh no – it’s far from over. We ache and miss them every time we remember them. We feel all kinds of emotions – relief, anger, fear, sadness, depression, disconnection, insular, bargaining, loss. While we can find socially acceptable means of releasing that emotion, we worry about those who don’t “get over it” within a “reasonable” amount of time. There is something wrong if they can’t move on.

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We don’t understand, if we believe in God, how He (or She) could let such a horrible thing happen to someone He (She) created and loved. We may lose faith, our loved ones may isolate themselves from us while we trudge through all this emotional mud. If we’re lucky, we come out the other side, just a little bit stronger despite the loss.

Death should be the celebration of a life well-lived. It is merely a stage, yet it’s so foundational in our core. It still intrigues me, to the point of not wanting to know much about it. I don’t want to be an EMT first on the scene of a motorcycle crash, nor do I think I’m capable of handling a grief for that stranger I may find. I don’t want to be a doctor, and have someone’s fate lie in my shaky hands, when I may not believe in myself or get woozy at the sight of mangled flesh. I’m a feeler, not a thinker. In the Meyers-Briggs test I last took, I was an INFP – Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perception. Yes, I am, in fact, an idealist at heart.

  • I – Introversion preferred to extraversion: INFPs tend to be quiet and reserved. They generally prefer interacting with a few close friends rather than a wide circle of acquaintances, and they expend energy in social situations (whereas extraverts gain energy).
  • N – Intuition preferred to sensing: INFPs tend to be more abstract than concrete. They focus their attention on the big picture rather than the details, and on future possibilities rather than immediate realities.
  • F – Feeling preferred to thinking: INFPs tend to value personal considerations above objective criteria. When making decisions, they often give more weight to social implications than to logic.
  • P – Perception preferred to judgment: INFPs tend to withhold judgment and delay important decisions, preferring to “keep their options open” should circumstances change.

When my own father passed away on June 3, 2013, we didn’t have a formal funeral. My mom held a memorial a year later in the hometown where they met and married, and his and her friends from way back attended. I was across the country, and didn’t have any kind of ceremony to attend.

I was still living in Australia at the time. My father always asked me when I came home to visit if I’d been to Ayers Rock (Uluru) yet. The trip before he passed, I still hadn’t, so I booked the trip with my girlfriend in December to go in July. I didn’t even tell him I’d booked it. I was gonna tell him about it after I went.

I didn’t get to. I took some of his ashes – little known fact – you can transport ashes internationally, but they need to be in checked baggage if the amount you have represents more than 10% of a person. I took approximately 9.5% of my dad’s “person” as carry-on back to Sydney, along with a death certificate to shut up any TSA agent who gave me a hard time about it. No one did. I took his ashes with me to Uluru and found a spot to scatter them. Forever, a piece of him will rest at a lookout spot overlooking Uluru. I took a photo of the view, had it made into a canvas, and now I keep that canvas in my apartment, so I can see what he sees there.

I had no socially acceptable outlet to release my grief, so I made my own. I played the following playlist on my iphone speakers, then did a reading from a book my dad introduced me to:

  • Father and Son – Cat Stevens
  • Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
  • Landslide – Fleetwood Mac (live version Stevie dedicates to her daddy)

The book my father handed to me to learn about death as a child was Emir’s Education in the Proper Use of Magical Powers by Jane Roberts. The passages I read out loud to no one but my dad’s ashes, myself and my now ex-girlfriend that day was as follows:

“The spirits of people and creatures and plants don’t take up any room at all. But their bodies do. Bodies are like houses our spirits live in, only they’re far nicer, of course. There’s only room for so many bodies in the kingdom, whether they’re plant bodies or creature bodies or people bodies. After a while, we have to leave our body-houses to make room for new things.”

“When you leave your body, it just folds up and goes back into the ground or swamp or whatever, and it’s made into another one. Then somebody else moves into it. It comes out all brand-new. It has to be painted and remodeled.”

“Emir said: “This way everyone lives in a body of a kind for a while, and then leaves its body behind so that it can be remade for someone else. That’s a very simple explanation, but it will do for now. Then all new life has a chance to live, and lots of room. Then we each take turns, so we can come back on new bodies when there’s space available.”

So perhaps one day, my obituary may appear in the classified ads section of the newspaper, starting with, “For rent…” It was mine for a little while, but I learned how to share, and now, it’s your turn. Enjoy the ride.

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Survival of the cutest

I wanted to write a deeply meaningful blog today. I really did. Then I discovered the TV show, Too Cute, on Netflix. Binge-watching episodes of kittens and puppies eating, playing, sleeping, purring, meowing, barking, and wagging tails for hours on end? Sign me up. I’ve already mentally signed myself up for 4 golden retriever puppies and 3 orange tabby kittens one day, and I’m only two episodes in.

I’ve been a sucker for kittens and puppies since I was a kid. I mostly had cats growing up. I had a dog once, the runt of the litter black Labrador retriever, named Angel. She wasn’t very bright, and she preferred to dig giant holes to the neighbor’s house, so we ended up not being able to keep her. We gave her back to her mom’s owner and she grew up happily on a ranch.

I wholeheartedly believe the world would be a better place if we all talked in our puppy or kitty voice (the voice we use when we see cute animals). I think I just found the significant component necessary for world peace. That is, of course, after the human genome project is completed, and the twisted gene in Michael Vick and people like him who engage in animal cruelty can be destroyed/vaccinated against.

The benefits of having pets have been proven time and time again. Lowered blood pressure, prolonged exposure at early ages can reduce allergies, reduced anxiety in Alzheimer’s patients and those diagnosed with depression. If you have to walk a dog, you end up walking more than someone who doesn’t.

I have my most important cell phone alerts – text messages and emails – set to a customized ringtone. For text messages, I hear, “It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!” from Agnes in Despicable Me. For emails, I hear Agnes shake her unicorn and utter a guttural “It’s so fluffyyyyy!” I want to yell those at the screen of adorable kittens and puppies, in between my squeals of unbearable cuteness. For about the fortieth time.

This article poses an interesting finding, “Perhaps one reason we have so much pent-up aggression over cute pictures is that seeing something cute, like a baby, drives us to want to take care of it. But we can’t reach through a photograph to cuddle it, so we get frustrated — and then aggressive.” Like the crazy cat lady remix on youtube, where she’s sobbing, she just can’t hug all the cats.

One of the funniest movies I love to pop on every now and then is a Christopher Guest film, Best in Show. Jane Lynch portrays a wholly believable lesbian dog breeder character (shocking, I know), and the curious and competitive world of dog shows is opened up in all the glory that only Christopher Guest can illicit. However, I can’t say I remember a single dog from that movie – I’m more concerned with the amazing cast of characters who can display a full spectrum of crazy without blinking an eye.

I had a cat before I moved to Australia, who was truly my own, and I was her human. I picked her special from the SPCA – I’ll never forget the day I met Toby. She was in a cage at the pet store with two other kittens of a different, longer-haired breed, a brother and a sister. Toby already had the brother cowering in fear, hiding in the litterbox, while she battled it out with his sister. She was ferocious. I knew in an instant I loved her. Turns out, I got her home, and she was a blatant, unapologetic, sweet little love muffin. I wanted a merciless feral feline, and I got a nonstop kiss/cuddle/purr machine. Due to the quarantine laws in Australia, it would have been a huge hardship to bring her with me only to have her sit in a cage for 6 months after arriving, especially when I was only going to be there for 2 years originally. I found her a home with two wonderful loving daddies I met through work, who love her and spoil her to this day. They couldn’t bear to part with her, as I had difficulty doing, when I returned, so I agreed to let her stay with them. Sometimes loving someone, even a pet, means letting go and ensuring their complete happiness, even if you’re not the one to give it to them. *tear*

I’d love to get a pet now, now that I’m back stateside. However, I have an inner conflict to resolve. I don’t want to commit to another pet, as much as I would love them, as I don’t think I can bear to have to part with it again in an untimely early fashion. I want a lifelong pet. Toby was meant to be. Sometimes life throws you curveballs though. If you had told me when I chose her from the SPCA that she wouldn’t be mine til death do us part, I wouldn’t have believed you.

It really comes down to a feeling, an itch, a love of travel, and a failure to put down roots. I came to San Francisco to potentially use it as a landing zone and springboard to the next place, wherever that may be. In a year, or two or three, I could be living in a boat off the coast of Europe. I could be working on my first novel in Nicaragua at a hostel for people who hate hostels.

I love animals, and I want them in my life and in my home, without a doubt. Patience though, until I can 1) properly take care of her, 2) ensure I don’t need to part with her too soon, and 3) offer her unconditional stability to give her a happy, unforgettable life.

That doesn’t stop me from wanting all the puppies and kittens in the meantime though. I might just die of cuteness overload.

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People skills

I do have fucking people skills, goddamnit. I understand Tom Smykowski’s frustration in Office Space, I really do. If you haven’t seen this gem of a movie, I highly recommend you view it as soon as humanly possible, especially if you work in an office environment. It may be outdated and nearly 15 years old but it’s still as relevant today as when it was written.

My people skills were the reason I was given the challenges of a couple strained relationships with clients at work (see my post on being set up to fail here). Apparently, despite being an introvert, I have a reputation around the office of being outgoing, approachable, and contributory to a positive work environment. Little do they know, I’m actually a real asshole sometimes. I actually genuinely abhor dealing with people even on my best days. Let’s just keep that between you and me, OK?

When you dislike something so much, and when your natural inclination is toward comfortable solitude as a result of being an only child, you often get thrown into the deep end of the social pool and forced to interact with others. My mother would tell me to go call people and say hi. She supported my interaction in a youth group for girls to get to build friendships in my formative years. I was forced to learn to deal with neuroses and thus, developed “people skills” from a young age.

I really have to wonder what would qualify a legitimate selfish asshole to have wonderful people skills. So I did a little research to break it down. Let’s see what people skills really mean. By the way, I openly admit here to having to do research despite taking a communications course in college, as I have fried all the brain cells relevant to that class, which I can neither confirm nor deny showing up to drunk multiple times, including the final group presentation.

The first and possibly most important component of people skills is communication. This is the ability to take in information, clarify comments and participate in effective verbal and written exchanges. Communication isn’t just developing your own message and getting it across. It involves active listening to others and the messages they are sending. There are words, but there is also so much more: eye contact, body language, verbal and nonverbal cues, and facial expressions to name a few. The goal of the communication must be acknowledged between the parties – are they or you there to motivate, to persuade, or simply just to provide information?

Communication skills, written, verbal, and nonverbal, require a level of empathy to be effective. We are all human beings (unless you, like me, also engage in full two-sided conversations with your cats and dogs), and at the core of this humanity is our emotions, mental state, and the “space” we occupy at the time of the communication. Empathy, as opposed to sympathy, is the ability to have a visceral understanding of what another person is going through. Sympathy is not empathy – you can have sympathy for someone whose father passed away, as you can imagine, even if your own father has not passed away. Someone who is empathetic may have also had their father pass away, and gets it just that little bit more because they have shared in that experience. Empathy requires putting yourself in another person’s shoes and recognizing the thoughts, emotions and experiences that person is having. This is where the golden rule comes in – treat people how you’d like to be treated. If someone is having a hard day, maybe soften the communication a bit if you think it will land badly with the person with whom you’re speaking.

In my career, I’ve had some amazing examples at how to suck at giving hard feedback. There have been times I’ve been passed over for promotion, or really screwed up on a project, and I didn’t take the feedback very well as a result of the way it was communicated to me. When you think about the impact you want your feedback/constructive criticism to have, you want the person to take it on board, digest it, and then work hard to show improvement in this space. You need to word it and deliver it in a way that makes the person feel like righting that wrong is achievable, and that they feel supported to try again. If you really want your feedback to fall on deaf ears and come across as a douchebag, then you just go ahead and be blunt, don’t think about the head space that person is in, and just drop the bomb and run. Congratulations, you’ve learned how to be unsuccessful at managing people and “how to lose friends and alienate people” (that too, is a great movie).

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Some people are completely incapable of empathy. There is a level of emotional intelligence required to monitor not only other’s emotions, but your own. Have you ever met someone with a high EQ, or a great inclination toward emotional intelligence? They seem to know their own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals, and then take it a step further to recognize their impact on others.

If you work in management, as I do, a huge part of development and application of people skills means having a proclivity for conflict resolution. This is a HUGE part of my responsibility at work. Daily, I find myself mediating disputes and resolving conflict among customers and colleagues. This is where your internal lawyer/mediator needs to come out. You have to have the ability to clarify a specific dispute, not get emotional or take it personally, and listen in a non-judgmental manner to both perspectives. The whole point of conflict resolution is to offer suggestions for reaching an equitable compromise and demonstrate a willingness to work together to resolve the issue. Everyone wants the issue gone. Holding on to grudges, grievances, and getting emotionally invested to only get your way will never resolve the conflict, and simply wastes everyone’s time. The key here is while you may be burning, nay, fuming, on the inside, you can’t be aggressive, and for it to work, both sides need to win. While I may have a knack for conflict resolution from years of experience, it doesn’t mean I enjoy it. I’d rather have no conflict to resolve. Why can’t we all just get along?

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I think the biggest underlying skill necessary for conflict resolution is patience. Patience is something I still continue to struggle with today. My latest temper tantrum when I ran out of patience was not pretty. Let’s just say I got quite vocal and verbal about the fat neon white guy blocking my perfect Yosemite picture. I was incapable of maintaining an even temper, to repeat and explain information as necessary, and to control anger in even the most trying situations. The anger won, but hey, I got my shot. So I won too. Patience requires self-awareness and self-regulation – you need to adapt to changing circumstances whilst redirecting disruptive or unproductive emotions.

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Finally, people skills include tolerance. You must have the ability to accept differences, even when you don’t personally agree with or condone them. As an out and proud lesbian in the San Francisco community, tolerance is a dirty word, because to me, it means you don’t really embrace the person’s difference, you just put up with it. I’ve learned, though, that not everyone’s differences need to be embraced. When someone is wrong, I have learned to let it go and not feel the need to convince them they’re wrong. I just sit quietly and let them marinate in their wrongness. I tolerate their wrong point of view, and move on with my life. It’s not ideal, and I’d love to embrace them. They aren’t going to change though, or at least, I can’t change them. So it’s ok to just tolerate in this instance.

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In all of this, I would say people skills require building relationships built on honesty, comfort, familiarity, respect, and trust. While sometimes I’d love to live an insular life, impervious to idiots and difficult people, I simply can’t. Hrmph. People. Can’t live with ‘em. Can’t live without ‘em.

My 9/11 story

Everyone knows what they were doing on 9/11/01.

I had just started what-I-call CNN binge-watching. It was my 3rd year of college, and I finally had money to afford basic cable, after living all 20 of my years without cable up to that point. I enjoyed being on top of current events, and found conversation topics came easily when you educated yourself.

I had also gotten up at 5am that day, as I was also quite the morning person. I also had lots of papers to grade for the statistics class for which I was a teacher’s assistant.

I had CNN on in the background on my little 13-inch white Panasonic combination TV and VHS player. I was up to my eyeballs in p-curves and sample sizes at the ungodly hour of 5am. Suddenly, everything changed.

I saw the first plane crash into the World Trade Center when it happened – I think it was around 5:24am Pacific time that it occurred.

Then a second plane. Was this real? What. The. Hell. Black smoke billowed from the towers, and statistics was the very last thing on my mind.

I had an 8am California Geology course to get to, but I couldn’t bring myself to look away from the 13inch horror movie playing out in front of me.

I ended up riding my bike absent-mindedly to campus and made it in time for my class. Half the class didn’t bother showing up.

The professor was in the same state of shock as those of us who did show up, and knew what was happening. Some students had no clue and that was the first they’d heard of it.

My professor said, “I want to continue on with class if that’s ok. I don’t want to give the terrorists the satisfaction of winning. You can stay or go. But I won’t let them stop me.” He became a great man, in my opinion, that day.

We got through the hour and 15 minute class, and then the university (California State University, Chico in case you were wondering) made the announcement that classes were cancelled for the day, for all CSU campuses. No one could focus. People should be with loved ones if they could.

So I bailed on my second class that morning and the rest of the day. I rode my bike home, in that continued daze, and flicked on CNN again the moment I got home to my apartment.

After a while, I couldn’t handle CNN anymore. Two more planes – one crashing into the Pentagon, one into a field.

I felt like I needed to go crash into a field. I had to get out of my apartment to process what was happening. I jumped in my pickup truck, and drove to the most secluded place I could think of – an old swimming hole called Bear Hole in Bidwell Park. I took my truck off-roading deep into the park and just sat there with the wide open space in front of me. It was warm and sunny, but felt like it shouldn’t be.

In the aftermath, the stories all came together. I tried to read the 9/11 Commission Report to gather what facts I could and come to my own conclusion.

We had a Chico State alumnus who had been in Tower 2 with JP Morgan come and speak to the university (the honor society of which I was Treasurer set it up as he contacted us, and we felt compelled to allow the whole school to hear his story). He had been there for training with JPM, and was on approximately the 57th floor if I recall. He’d flown the day or two before, and left his wife in California while he was at training. In Tower 2, they of course were at work for the training prior to 8:30am, and he and his colleagues saw the first place hit Tower 1. They started to evacuate down the stairwells. This is what truly got me – he said there were people who could not walk, and the firemen carried them down. Everyone filed slowly, held doors open for each other, no one pushed each other or panicked, or tried to get out first, on the long descent down. It was polite, and displayed human decency at its finest. If you think New Yorkers can be cynical and hard, you are absolutely right. But not that day.

He told us when he could finally call his wife to let her know he was ok, she was sobbing. She had taken the sheets off their shared bed to wash them the morning he left, and she was upset at herself for losing his scent.

He told of the acrid smell of smoke, of dust everywhere, of stoic shock of a nation. People in disbelief, some crying. He told of bodies coming out of windows, choosing jumping rather than letting terrorists win. He told of our nation’s finest police officers and firefighters who proved themselves heroes that day.

He couldn’t travel back immediately, as you can imagine. He ended up having to drive across the US to get back to California and his wife.

Many New Yorkers (and other Americans across the nation) suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the number of prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications grew exponentially after that event.

As it turns out, a girl from my high school was on one of the flights, Flight 93, the one from Newark, NJ to San Francisco. Her name was Nicole Miller. Here’s the site for her memorial in case you’re interested, dear reader, and her high school senior photo.

http://www.voicesofseptember11.org/dev/memorial_biography.php?idbio=103

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She had been on the east coast visiting her boyfriend, Ryan, who’d also attended my high school. They got into a fight, and she decided to leave the east coast early. She didn’t make it home. It was her story, especially, that makes 9/11 the day where it’s so important to tell the people you care about you love them. Life is too short for arguments to last. You may not get another chance.

Mark Bingham, the man also on Flight 93 which landed in the field in Shankville, PA, is of special importance in San Francisco. Mark was on the San Francisco Fog Rugby Team, of which I have many friends who still play on this team. Every year since 9/11 at the Pilsner Inn, the team held a memorial in his honor. This year, was the first annual Bingham Cup in his honor held in Sydney, Australia, and some of my SF Fog rugby friends had the honor of attending and playing in this.

In comparison to other tragic events where lives are lost, this was small in comparison, but it struck a nation. It doesn’t matter how many lives are lost. Any life lost is a tragedy.

I can’t say I agree with how the George Bush administration handled our diplomatic affairs going forward with Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, and the Middle East. I don’t even agree with how he handled it the day of, when he was in a classroom full of children.

I do know that we are united as a nation by our grief of loss, and the stories everyone has of that day.

I remember, and in my remembrance, I offer music as my therapy.