Halloween trouble

Happy Halloween, all. I know Australia doesn’t make a big deal of it, nor does Germany as I found out from a friend. I think America makes way too much of a big deal about it. As America tends to do with most holidays, we lose sight of the origin of what we’re celebrating and it becomes about consumerism, food, drinking, and an excuse for mass stupidity.

I went out to the Castro one Halloween a few years ago, before I moved to Sydney. I don’t recall having a costume, but I do remember two things about that night.

  1. The streets were closed off, and a bar on Market Street known at the time as Trigger was selling gigantic alcoholic drinks served in sandcastle buckets for $15. That is how you spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
  2. I was walking around with said sandcastle bucket beverage through a massive crowd through which one could barely maneuver. I heard gunshots, and the next morning, I found out someone had been shot less than 1 block from where I’d been hanging out.

People in San Francisco are generally not that rude. Not as rude as most of the population of Sydney, in my opinion. Sorry Aussies, but people in Sydney make simply walking down George Street anything but pleasant. People in San Francisco look you in the eye, smile, help out tourists with maps who seem lost, and chat up the local barista or bartender. We’re friendly.

So when I hear about the riots, fires, cops hit on the head by broken beer bottles, and toilet-papered muni lines after the Giants won the “world” series in 2010, 2012, and 2014, I am actually embarrassed. People who generally hang out in the Castro are lovers, not fighters. They’re defenders of human rights, not enders of human life. I think it’s the people who come from out of town to the Castro on Halloween who end up causing the most trouble. It’s drunken idiots with a penchant for destruction who, on most days, don’t care about baseball who end up trashing the city when the Giants win. It’s people who wanted to trash buses and buildings anyway, and they use the groupthink mentality as an excuse to get their way.

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The businesses along Market Street in some areas are already struggling. Many have gone through revivals, a Market Street renaissance of sorts. Storefronts have closed, buildings are being upgraded, all in the hopes of removing the shady people from the shady parts of town. If you look at Market Street between Van Ness and Powell Streets, it’s not that glorious. There are homeless people, cracked out crazies, dirty people sleeping on the ground, fewer teeth per person than in all of Kentucky, and pungent aromas that involuntarily induce your latent gag reflex.

On Halloween this year, San Francisco is quadruple the trouble, unfortunately, and I have the joy of missing out on the mess this year. Here’s an article that highlights what a clusterfuck, I mean,huge party, San Francisco will be today: http://sfist.com/2014/10/30/brace_for_friday_sf_giants_paradeha.php

  1. Halloween – everyone in costumes, celebrating a holiday with, you guessed it, booze and bad decisions.
  2. The Giants celebratory parade is happening down Market Street today, completely disrupting public transportation, and bringing thousands of people into the city who may be hell-bent on destroying it.
  3. Critical Mass happens on the 4th Friday of every month. You won’t know what it is until you get caught in the middle of it, when you have to be somewhere at a certain time, and you’re delayed while a bunch of people of bicycles overtake the roads meant for cars. It ruins any chances of getting where you need to be using the car/taxi alternative.
  4. The weather forecast today is rain. While I’d love to isolate the poor driving to Southern California, the fact is that most Californians lose all ability to drive safely within seconds of the first raindrops. Eerie phenomenon. It’s like an ant collecting food for winter, that’s lost the line when the rain comes. But if you’ve ever been to San Francisco when it’s raining, then you know that everything becomes increasingly difficult the second it gets wet.

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So there you have it: today is the perfect storm for San Francisco. I’m actually really glad I chose to fly down to Southern California on Wednesday to get away for a long weekend to visit my aunt. I’m staying with her in her newly remodeled house about 10 minutes from Disneyland. Every night we can hear the fireworks from her living room.

Today, I’m grateful for the accidental vacation I have from the city on the biggest Clusterfuck Day in the city in a long time. I have no shame in my joy of missing out. I feel for my colleagues and friends who were not so lucky to get out of the city today. Don’t get me wrong, San Franciscans love their Giants, and love their bicycles. With the drought in California, we love the rain, and we love holidays and basically any reason to party and have a good time. It’ll be an epic weekend in San Francisco… I’m just experiencing the joy of missing out. Hashtag JOMO, y’all.

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Audit lyfe chose me

This came across my Facebook feed recently, from a Big 4 colleague I met in Sydney who is now in my firm’s Singapore office. It truly does reflect my life on any given day. The glue of the team, caught in the middle on big issues, and very often days leave you feeling like the tennis ball, and not so much like the tennis racquet.

I sort of accidentally fell into accounting. I took my required Intro to Accounting college course that every business major must take, and got 196/200 on the final. I thought I was a natural and just added the second major of accounting on based on how easy it came. In my business statistics course, I didn’t even need to take the final because I’d gotten an A on everything else, the teacher knew I’d pass the final, and I’d get an A. In college, my primary major and interest was finance (see my post about this here), but at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances, I found myself looking for a post-graduation job later than my peers since my original plans fell through. Plan B suddenly came to fruition.

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Back to the article, though. I concur; I do spend a huge chunk of my time in meetings, conference calls, fielding questions from my teams and partners alike, and constantly discussing anything and everything. No wonder at the end of the day, I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to call anyone on the phone. I avoid eye contact and try to stay lost in my world. It’s me time. I need it.*

What the article doesn’t cover in any detail is the toll the CPA exam takes on your life. The exam has 4 sections: audit, business economics, financial reporting, and regulation, then an ethics exam to cap it off. It’s not easy, by any means. Often, you are balancing your more than full time day job, with its stress and long hours, so the last thing you want to do after a long day at work is crack open a CPA book and study. I failed 2 of the sections before I passed them on the 2nd go, and I passed 2 of the sections on the 3rd go. Ethics was a no brainer and a slam dunk, but still not easy. It’s not black and white that this is good and this is bad. You definitely feel like you conquered a huge mountain when you earn that designation to put on your CV.

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The bit of the article about work being an extension of college life was very true in the beginning. The friends you made at work in your “start class” became your friends with whom you’d hit that town, right in the gut. You go out to dinner, drinking, playing poker, bowling, and they become your social circle as well as your work colleagues. But it’s a bit of a stretch now. There is a rude awakening that occurs when you get promoted to manager. You break that barrier or that ceiling and suddenly you’re a boss and managing teams. Sort of makes you responsible, a role model, and much more careful about your words and actions.

I’ve been doing financial statement audits for more than 10 years now. I still feel like there is so much I don’t know. While I’ve now a bit of international experience under my belt from my 3-year stint in Australia, I’ve had a steep learning curve coming back to the US. I’m way outside my comfort every day. It is the nature of the beast.

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One key thing about my job I do enjoy is the flexibility. There will be time when I will be crunched – take my last 3 weeks for example. Not too much flexibility to enjoy there, and you find yourself working til midnight, not having spare time to clip fingernails or sleep or eat. Basic life functions. However, at other times, it’s amazingly slow so you can work from home, go to the gym, and have a much more manageable schedule. It just depends on your luck of the draw with clients and deadlines.

I also like the infrastructure of my firm – it’s big enough and culturally competent enough to have an Office of Diversity. I actually feel safe bringing my full self to work, more so than I did in Australia. I’m a very open person – genuine and down to earth, no matter if I’m talking to my client’s CEO or a partner’s executive assistant. I believe in not only diversity in common dimensions, like orientation, age, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, and such, but I also believe in a broader diversity of ways people think, or emotional intelligence, diligence, logic, common sense, and lots of other ways. For example, I have a team out at a client right now: one guy is brand new to our firm from Montana, one guy worked on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and is a little older than your typical associate, and one guy is Hindu and from Nepal. On the first day, the guy who worked on the Mitt Romney campaign didn’t want us to hold that against him. I told them I was gay and said I wouldn’t hold Mitt Romney against him if he didn’t hold being gay against me. Great foot to start off on. I think the diversity on that team is great.

The not-so-great part of the job is whole weight issue. With an unpredictable schedule, and period of extreme fatigue, it’s easy to eat bad food, not sleep well, and cope with stress by drinking. The weight gain associated with being suddenly sedentary for your career… The neck and general joint pain from tiny working spaces while at your client bent over a laptop on the less than ergonomically correct desk chairs. The inability to commit to a trainer when issues come up on the fly makes it difficult to stick to a workout regimen. When you finally do get some time to possibly go to the gym, you’re usually so sleep deprived, you’d rather veg on the couch and order a pizza than actually move. Add to that unnecessary levels of stress, and you have a recipe for the unhealthiest of lifestyles. It takes active management to not let yourself go in this job.

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In my job, we have a concept called materiality. My job, and the job of the teams I manage, is basically to gather evidence that those financial statements are not “materially misstated”. This is a very abstract idea – but in its simplest form, something is material to a user of financial statements if it could potentially make a difference in their decision making regarding the company, i.e. whether to buy it, sell it, give it a loan, etc. Something would be materially misstated if it crossed a certain threshold, quantitatively or qualitatively whereby that error would make a difference in someone’s decision. That means there is a margin for error. Accounting isn’t required to be that precise, when you think about it. Those financial statements could be totally wrong – I mean many businesses don’t necessarily record things in general ledgers in cents. Often things are rounded to the nearest dollar, $100, $1,000 or $1million.

With my personal finances, if I go buy a coffee and get some change, I usually give it to the tip jar for the baristas. Those leftover cents don’t matter to me; they’re below de minimis and immaterial to my life taken as a whole. However, sometimes I do keep my change, and put it in my piggy bank(s) when I get home. I have a Little Mermaid plastic coin bank I got at Disneyland in my teenage years. I have no regrets when it comes to that investment. I keep pennies, nickels and dimes in Ariel. And I have a cowboy boot plastic mug courtesy of a friend who served drinks in them at a party in Sydney. I keep my laundry quarters in there because I can get at them easily to do my favorite “chore” in the world. But I digress…

The concept of materiality can best be described in the lyrics to the song “Mr. Wendel” by Arrested Development:

“Here have a dollar, in fact, naw brother-man, here have two. Two dollars means a snack to me, but it means a big deal to you.”

To me, change is often immaterial. It doesn’t make a difference to me either way. That’s a key concept – what is material to someone at any given time changes. Pretty much every day, $1,000 is material to me. Some days, I’m happy to give my change away (but now I have become a bit of a quarter-hoarder.)

There are mutual funds out there with audited financial statements where the materiality set by the auditors is millions of dollars. In my job, the bigger the materiality, the bigger that margin of error. The bigger that materiality threshold, the larger an error can go through those financial statements undetected. If I was an investor in a big mutual fund, there could be an error in those financial
statements that is millions of dollars, and there could be scenarios when no one would think it would be important to me as an investor to know that. That is kind of scary.

As a result of my chosen profession, I do have an uncanny knack for professional skepticism. I can usually tell when someone isn’t being honest, or when they don’t know when they’re talking about something. You can’t bullshit the bullshitter. So something might be fucky, it almost always is, but the real question is, “Do I care? Is it materially fucky? Or below the threshold of fucky so I don’t care?” That is my thought process whenever I encounter an issue.

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Audit lyfe (note: white collar thug spelling) is not for everyone. As people come up the ranks in an audit firm, challenges compete and surpass what you lived through the previous year, which is more than you ever dealt with the year before that. It ain’t easy. And the remuneration doesn’t always cover everything you think you deserve for navigating strong neuroses/personalities. Luckily, we do get thank-you’s sometimes. We are a stone-cold pack of weirdos, and these are my people. Even if they did help out Mitt Romney.

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In summation, I don’t think I grew up as a kid wanting to be an accountant. I did choose the audit lyfe, but in a way, the audit lyfe chose me. Don’t hate the player – hate the game.

* Auditors love tickmarks more than they love long lunches. Refer to my post here about getting in some much needed “me time”.

The gardens of Kensington Palace

In yesterday’s post, I shared with you my ultimate dream landscape from my former residence in San Francisco. However, the great thing about landscaping, is that when you live in different countries, you find different plants that thrive or are indigenous to each region. Today, I’d like to share with you my landscaping of my home when I was in Sydney. I love stuff like this, and I’m totally nerding out just recounting it.

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My gardens are my happy places. I love outdoor spaces, but given my chosen profession of auditor/accountant, I need shaded areas to maintain my fluorescent lighting tan. So when I got to Sydney, and saw that just about every home had its own outdoor living space (it’s just part of the culture), I tried to take full advantage.

In Sydney, there is a noticeably different climate from California, all around. There is this phenomenon I learned about, and I don’t know what it’s called, where the west coast of a country is dry and warm, but the east coast is humid and green. So in Perth, Australia, located on the west coast near the Indian Ocean, I felt right at home, with its western facing sunsets over the ocean (like they should be.) Perth was dry, arid, had brown grass and was not humid when I visited. It was November though, which is like the May time frame in California when it’s in the southern hemisphere – it’s quite beautiful actually.) Sydney is a lot more like maybe Atlanta? Or Florida? It doesn’t snow during winter as it doesn’t really get that cold. It does get downpours, thunder and lightning (it’s really beautiful – I’ve never seen lightning storms like the ones that hit Australia’s east coast,) and occasional hail. Most days it’s mild, and not as chilly/cold as San Francisco can get in the winter.

First off, my living situation in Sydney was much healthier than buying a house with a soon-to-be ex and living there post-breakup. I met my flatmate through a mutual friend. He’d been living with someone less than ideal and was looking to move just around the same time I landed. I quickly called the real estate agent (Australia is a bit backward this way – I needed an agent to secure a rental, but people go full throttle without an agent to buy a home), and let her know my preference was for a 2 bedroom not a 1 bedroom, and that was that. I wanted a place in the gayborhood, similar to San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood. The equivalent of the Castro in Sydney is Oxford Street, so I chose a 2 bedroom 2 bath in Darlinghurst, which was a 10 minute walk from Oxford Street.

He and I got on amazingly well, but for the occasional tiffs. All in all, if I had to live with anyone after having lived alone, we did as well as I could hope for. Living with him was a close second, and it was kinda nice not to be alone in a new country. He is a lovely guy, and we had fun together. Peas in a very drunk pod, we were.

Our apartment was beautiful. It was a tri-level apartment, on the top floor. The elevator had weird buttons, though. The lowest level was Lower Parking, or LP. Then there was Upper Parking (UP), where our unit actually had an allocated parking spot, but neither of us kept a car. Then C was the courtyard level. 2 was the street level, and 5 was the top floor. So you could hit the UP button, and technically go down. So if you hit the 5 button, you’d get to our floor. From our apartment door, the door opened to a small umbrella area on the right, and had about 8 steps immediately to get to the first level of the apartment. We had in unit laundry (so spoiled for the likes of San Francisco, where you’re lucky to have coin-operated laundry in your basement), a nice open floor plan with a living room, dining room, and dining room balcony (sliding glass door to the outside) all visible from the kitchen. In Australia, your apartment does not come with a fridge, which was odd to me, but it’s standard there. And our apartment came with a wall mounted dryer, but we had to buy a washing machine. My flatmate did a great job finding a cheap $60 washing machine on eBay (we named it Homer; it was a Simpson brand appliance.) I bought the fridge outright, as I couldn’t make a case for a fridge rental with monthly fees.

Anyway, the dining room balcony was the first of our 3 outdoor spaces. It was great for watching rainstorms, having parties, and general lazing about. We put some potted plants out there – agapanthus was a big player in our gardens at Kensington Palace. That was what we called our apartment. We had some smaller plants on that dining room balcony – the star jasmine featured in yesterday’s post, as well as some smaller agapanthus plants. At one point, my flatmate had a nice white rose topiary on that balcony, before he took it as a gift to one of his family members. I had a conifer tree on that balcony, as well as some dwarf bamboo (that too was in my San Francisco backyard plant selection.)

View from the dining room balcony in April (fall):
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From that level, you’d go up another half flight of stairs onto the 2nd floor landing. This floor had our two bedrooms. I had the master with a walk through closet on the way into the ensuite bathroom. I also had a balcony with a sliding glass door of my room. My flatmate had his bedroom and separate bathroom on that floor too, as well as a small linen closet.

The balcony off my room had two wooden patio chairs, and my flatmate let me keep his little table out there. I liked to sit on my balcony to watch the bats fly west to Hyde Park in the summertime, every night around 8pm. I also loved to watch rainstorms from my balcony, or bring the bottle of wine out there and just relax. I had a view from my balcony to the northeast, nothing special to look at, but lots of trees and building and wide open space as far as you looked. It was definitely nice. On that balcony, because it stayed shady during winter and way too sunny on summer mornings, being east facing, I kept usually shade plants. I had some ferns out there, a peace lily, dianthus, and two mini white gardenia bushes. They smelled wonderful when they bloomed. That balcony was also a favorite for birds to land on, and crap all over. So I did my fair share of guarding it with my nerf gun and even got a bird once with the foam dart (don’t worry, it was more shocked than hurt), and managed not to lose the dart. I even once had a bird fly into my room, walk across the carpet and under the bed, crapping all over the rug, and under the bed. That was why I guarded with a nerf gun in the first place. I don’t pay rent for a bird bathroom. But I digress…

Birds on my balcony off my room:
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From our second floor landing, you ascended the stairs up to the 3rd level. We used the 3rd floor landing as a place for small storage, and for a twin size mattress guests would sleep on while visiting. From that landing was a glass door that opened onto our own private roof deck. It was a city dwelling gardener’s dreams come true.

My flatmate found us a great deal for a used patio set for $35 off eBay, and it had a table and 4 chairs. It was a bit ratty and used, but it was great because we weren’t worried about ruining it. The set held up to the rain and the scorching sun.

Patio furniture:
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We also made trips to Bunnings (equivalent in the US: Home Depot) throughout our three years there for various fun stuff to put on that roof. At one point, we had a marquee, but eventually the winds took that right off the roof. We had fairy lights on the modern fence enclosure, and solar LED lamps interspersed throughout. We had a BBQ and we even had a hose with spray nozzle to make watering easy and pretty fun (I would also let people spray me in the warm summer months to keep me cool.) One year, I had a paddle pool for the roof.

Paddle pool and fairy lights:
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And, ohhhhhh, the plants. My flatmate loved that agapanthus, so we had quite a few of those. He also got some cuts of two different kinds of frangipani (for you ‘Muricans, that’s plumeria, found throughout Hawaii). Or as I like to call it, frangi-panties.

Agapanthus:
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Frangipani:
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We had a pink frangipani that smelled like vanilla, and white one that smelled like heaven. He also got a bird of paradise plant, a large beautiful white gardenia, and he swiped some rain lilies from somewhere too.

Our frangipani and bird of paradise:
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My contributions to the upstairs roof deck were more pink jasmine, more bamboo, and an after dark (this had dark leaves and when you ran the leaves between your fingers and in your hand, it smelled like eucalyptus).

After dark:
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I also had quite the array of hibiscus: I had a tangelo (orange with a different petal set, looked a bit more like a rose), cotton candy (white with pink center as a gift from my flatmate), yellow hibiscus, and an orange hibiscus with a red center. By far, my favorite was the orange with a red center.

Hibiscus:
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I eventually moved the star jasmine from the lower balcony to the roof for better light. I had a nice palm up there as well. I even planted stargazer lily bulbs, and had one grow – I was pretty proud of that. It wasn’t a perfect shape, but I succeeded at getting it to flower.

My one stargazer lily in full bloom:
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We had many good memories of parties, and just simple everyday weekends at that apartment, and made sure to make use of the outdoor spaces whenever possible. If you could get over the cockroaches (despite how clean we were, they always surfaced) and spiders, it wasn’t so bad.

I did manage to do some growing in Sydney, as did the plants. I couldn’t possibly hope to bring a frangipani, or hibiscus, back to the San Francisco and hope for success in blooming. Too cold. But it was great to learn about them, and have them around, while I could. As it is with good friends, or most things in life, for that matter. My flatmate and I entrusted our friends and his family with the remnants of our gardens, and our plants continue to thrive in their gardens. I left a small legacy in Australia. Somewhere there is a peace lily wilting in the sun. And like her mama, when you give her a drink, she brightens right up and comes back to life.

Night blooming jasmine

One of my favorite flowers is night blooming jasmine. The first time I was exposed to it, I actually bought it at Home Depot (equivalent of Bunnings for my Australian mates) in the garden department, along with a beautiful teal glazed pot to plant it in. I was 27, and I’d just bought a condo in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley/Lower Haight with my now-ex. I’d always wanted to own my own home, and while things weren’t going well with her, I convinced myself to move forward because I was “fulfilling a lifelong dream.” I began at once, determined to make that place a home, come hell or high water. Our relationship was broken, but I could make the investment my home. Let’s not get into the baggage and the extent of how bad of an idea that was in hindsight. I did gain a great experience of owning a home, and that part, I certainly don’t regret. I got great experience going through a bidding war, the GFC hitting after we’d put the offer in on our home. I understand mortgages with an intimacy of someone who’s felt the unbearable weight of their responsibility.

One of the first projects I took on was landscaping the backyard to my own tastes. To this day, that is on my list of top accomplishments. I don’t know why. Perhaps I could pontificate on that and build to a crescendo as I find some deep and meaningful purpose, but I’m not really feeling that right now.

It was a bottom floor Victorian style railroad flat built in the 1800’s with another condo on the level above belonging to a great couple. There was a very rare, nearly new, spacious deck for both levels, and stairs that went all the way down to a simply designed backyard. I obtained the permission of the couple who owned the condo above to design the landscape in the backyard as well as our private lower level deck. I knew what I wanted to do to that space from the very moment I saw it.

The condo, from the front:
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You can’t tell by looking at that photo, but across the street, from the point of view of the photographer, was actually low income housing, or what-I-call “the projects.” It was the nicest condo on the worst block – kind of backwards from the way you’re supposed to do it. But, it had a stoop, and once you were away from the front door, it was truly an oasis inside.

I wish I had a picture to show you what it looked like, as I don’t know that I can do it justice with words. This was a stage of my life before digital cameras, and I never thought at that time that I wouldn’t be around it, so I didn’t need photos. It was beautiful to me.

First, I focused on our private deck out the back door, which was just off a kitten bedroom/sunroom and laundry room, another rare feature in San Francisco real estate. On our private deck, I wanted a great table, 2-seater bench, and 2 chairs, to enjoy food or drinks. I loved potted plants and chose quite a few to go in our area too. Side bar: hilarious New Zealand deck commercial. With their accent, it just sounds so dirty.

The Pièce de résistance was a slate water feature along with fairy lights. Here’s the closest I can find to what exists out there today for the fountain – but imagine copper edging around the base and a vertical grain for the slate, rather than horizontal.

Water feature:
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I stained the wooden deck furniture myself. I guess part of why I loved this backyard so much was because 1) I put in the sweat equity, and 2) it was my aesthetic; it was me. I put myself into that space. And I never knew my aesthetic was so beautiful. It makes me want to redesign my very own backyard right now, again.

Included in the potted plants on our private deck was a star jasmine plant, a Douglas fir I used as a Christmas tree in a pot that I would recycle and reuse every Christmas, rather than cutting a tree down every year, or using a horrible plastic one. I had a ficus, some ferns which flourished on our shady deck that hardly received any sun due to the wonderful San Francisco fog.

Star jasmine:
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After our private deck was sorted, I moved on to the area down a half flight of stairs and on the ground, under the stairwell of the deck. There, I wanted to lay pavers down, sealed and glossy of course, and put a fire pit with places to sit.

Our firepit most closely resembled this model that’s out now:
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If you can imagine under a massive two story reddish brown deck off of a Victorian building painted a soft lemon butter yellow, there would be space under the stairs as well as the landing sort of mid stair which had its own supports, it sort of created “rooms” on that ground floor level. In the room adjacent to our bottom deck, was the fire pit room, but the supports for the landing above created a sort of pathway down the far corner of the backyard and around the back behind our deck. Our private deck did not extend all the way back to the edge of our property, which left a yard down below our deck as well.

So the walkway under the deck stairs led to that back patch of yard. I completely redid everything. The pathway started like a hallway next to the firepit room. On either side of the entrance of the walkway is where I put the night blooming jasmine in their large teal and slightly distressed vertical pots.

Night blooming jasmine:
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Funny story: the firepit room had pavers for flooring. My ex and I had rented a Zipcar truck (if you’ve never heard of them, it’s basically a city car share, or a GoGet in Sydney) and brought home all the pavers from Home Depot. The second we got onto the freeway and upped the speed, the truck started fishtailing… we’d loaded the bed of the truck with too many pavers and the truck didn’t have that kind of towing capacity. I’m a lesbian. It’s a truck. We’re supposed to go together. So we ended up pulling over to the side of a very busy freeway on-ramp and had to call a tow-truck. Because our truck didn’t technically breakdown, we basically paid the tow truck driver $100 to tow our truck, pavers loaded, to our condo in the city. Brilliant. When life throws you pavers, make lemonade. We unloaded the Zipcar truck, returned it, and carried on our merry way sealing the pavers to lay them the next day. Boom.

I had redwood planter boxes along our fence on the left and the fire pit room was on the right. I laid large slate stepping stones, with a fill of black volcanic igneous landscaping rocks. I ensured I laid a plastic liner under the rocks to prevent weeds, or at least keep them from rooting allowing for easy upkeep. So imagine following the footpath of slate stepping stones toward the back left corner of the yard. Along your left were the redwood planter boxes of rain lilies and dwarf bamboo.

Dwarf bamboo:
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Then in the back left corner were smaller pots of ferns (shady area) around a large Japanese maple in a half-wine barrel planter. It was beautiful as it was fall when I took on this project, so the maple started green, but I got to see it change colors to a beautiful red with yellow hues.

Japanese maple:
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As you viewed the beautiful Japanese maple, the path curved to the right, putting you past the fire pit room, past a giant bushy pant with pink flowers. In this wide open backyard space (by San Francisco “wide-open” standards that is, probably 12 feet wide), we put in a redwood deck to support a custom 2 person spa.

The model of spa we got, but with a redwood finish frame and a black interior:
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My father built (at my request) a set of redwood stairs so we could climb into the hot tub easily, since I have bad knees. I hung hooks on the deck so we could hang our bathrobes there when we used the hot tub. On the deck, just next to the hot tub, I put a giant climbing pink jasmine with a trellis about 7 feet high in another half-wine barrel planter.

Pink jasmine:
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If you kept walking past the hot tub, to the back right corner of the yard, and turned right at our deck, we had another 3 feet of space to the fence. There, I put bamboo, the kind that grows quite tall and can get out of control easily, in more half-wine barrels. Those grew tall to provide some privacy from the neighbors.

Bamboo:
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It was truly a peaceful oasis for me. Two kinds of bamboo, 3 kinds of jasmine, water, earth, air, fire, wood, metal. I was truly in a northern California, redwood, Asian, fragrant, zen place. It was me. My as-secret-as-it-gets-in-San-Francisco garden.

I would get up early on weekends, after it was finished. I would make espresso at home, take my canvases and paints outside, and paint on the back deck. I’d turn the water feature on, put on my favorite music, and feel inspired to create in that space. That was my favorite place in our whole condo, and I could just breathe and be there. It was my happy place.

More recently, when I was going through my own personal shitstorm last year, I felt like night blooming jasmine was me. It only opens and blooms at night, when times are darkest. Then you know how strong and beautiful it really is. It’s a weed, so it can become invasive easily. I will get to you if you let me in. Night blooming jasmine doesn’t really photograph well; it’s definitely a better experience in person. Just like me.

Be careful though, as it’s poisonous for pets and humans, so you have to be careful if you have pets or a partner with a voraciously vegan diet. Some people get headaches just from its fragrance. Luckily, our kittens were indoor kitties, though they loved looking out their sunroom window and watching the happenings of birds, flying by, or other cats coming to our yard (only to find rocks and not soft grass to poop on.)

I bought two kinds of jasmine for my apartment when I moved back from Sydney to San Francisco – pink jasmine and night blooming jasmine. The downside to the night blooming jasmine in that wonderful backyard years ago was that because it was so shady, it never bloomed. In my apartment now, I only have a tiny plant. It’s just a baby compared to the huge, mature, full grown 4-foot plant in that backyard. But my tiny night blooming jasmine is getting its first round of blooms, just being potted in the coffee cup it is in.

So while that backyard was designed to my every specification, to every desire and aesthetic that made me happy, I didn’t bloom there, nor did the jasmine, not even at night. But now, here, it grows and blooms, though it is small. As do I.

This is my night blooming jasmine, enjoying this morning’s sun, growing hard (I named it Sultan, after Jasmine’s father in Aladdin), and yes, that is my south-facing view of the Mission District and in the distance, beyond the hill, SFO:
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A better idiot

So, of the items I was reunited with in my previous post here, two of those items I’ve been waiting on for a long time to enhance my writing in this blog.

One is a binder of poetry I wrote when I was very young. The ones that aren’t completely embarrassing I’d like to include on a new page as part of this blog, for Poetry. I’ve already got pages for About Me, Copyright, Creations, and Quotes. Ultimately, I’d like this blog to be the go-to spot for anything in my head… sort of like that Tenacious D song, this is not the greatest mind in the world, this is just a tribute.

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Another item finding its way back to me was my journal from my angsty, formative teenage years. Material for daaaaaaaays. I hope to do a lot of self-reflection upon re-reading some entries. I was a very naïve kid, and knowing what I know at the ripe age of 33, coming out as a lesbian, becoming an accountant, is nothing I could have predicted at a tender 16 going on 17.

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Let’s just say I had a different world view at 16 than I do now at 33. I probably learned most of my life lessons in the 2nd 16 years, that’s for sure. On second thought, naïve is a little bit of an understatement. I grew up in the suburbs, sheltered, with risk averse overprotective parents. Somehow, I’ve managed to come out of the sausage maker on the other side as a semi-functional adult. Emphasis on the “semi-“.

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I would always imagine that eventually, the boy-crazy would strike me, and I’d end up married, with kids, mostly because that’s what everyone did. You got a house in the suburbs too, probably in the same city in which you grew up. Compared to the goals I set for myself as a teenager, I’m an utter failure. According to my goals as a 10yr old, I should have a treehouse requiring the secret password, a porch swing, bunk beds, surfing luge to get around the hallways, and a nacho cheese/ranch/red licorice dispenser in the kitchen. My 16yr old goals were getting a car, losing weight, and having a steady boyfriend. Ha! Add to that my 33yr old goals of a having a wine fountain, hot tub, and indoor plumbing in my treehouse, and I’d be the epitome of success.

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I overthought everything when I didn’t need to, and judged people when I had no right. Quite harshly, I might add. I had this self-actualized vision of myself as a martyr… though I’m not sure why. I felt so misunderstood. I felt like I felt things and saw things and knew things that no one else. It’s true, in a sense. I guess you could say it was my sense of self developing. With 20/20 hindsight, my self was quite simply an idiot. I can make that judgment, because with age comes wisdom. Or so I’ve heard…

Anyway, I hope to develop myself more and take you on my journey through my blog posts analyzing what an idiot I was and how I’m a better and slightly different idiot now.

In the meantime, thank F**K it’s Friday. Today was meant to be deadline day… turns out most of those deadlines have now been extended into next week because we’re just not able to get across the finish line. Looks like those cockroaches from the rocks we turned over yesterday won’t die. That’s alright – their time will come.

A reunion of sorts

Tomorrow is a deadline for a couple of my clients at work. My teams and I have been working tirelessly, trying to get things done on time. So while I’d love to say this is a one-off experience, I can’t. It’s my job.

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We’ve had mini-explosions pop up, and it seems everytime we turned over a rock, we found about 30 cockroaches… not literally, but figuratively speaking, of course. I don’t do cockroaches, especially after the big ones in Australia that jump and fly and generally gross me out. My clients have volumes, not issues. The second we start down the rabbit hole to close an issue off, we ask questions and it becomes a Pandora’s box of all the worst case scenarios. I’ve been lucky enough to experience many of these complex issues and sensitive judgments. It was a “learning opportunity.” Yeah…

It’s a thankless job, and I’ve had to absorb my share of the hard knocks and the fires popping up since returning to San Francisco. I’ve been pretty stressed the last 3 weeks, sleep and gym have gone out the window, as has breakfast and even lunch on a daily basis. A headache fills most of my days.

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Pretty soon, I hope to have things calm down and get to a reasonable level again. In the meantime, I don’t intend to make this about work. So let’s not.

Breathe.

Yesterday, my best friend and I went to Napa to pick up some boxes a friend was keeping in storage for me while I was in Australia – the last of my stuff, stuff I haven’t seen in almost 4 years, found its way back to me. While I think I’m still missing one box somewhere along in the shuffle, it’s amazing having this stuff back. They’re only things, material possessions, a couple of lamps, a figurine, a lot of my books and old VHS tapes, a VCR (still with remote!), a Wii, and my combination coffee/espresso maker. Having these things around is like having relics of my past unearthed. It’s like unlocking a time capsule of the person I was before I left Australia, and the things I kept around me that made me feel more like me.

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If you looked at my apartment now, I think you’d see I have a certain style. I’m neat and tidy, I like comfort and casual, but minimalistic with some creature comforts. I like to surround myself with art and beautiful things. I have candles… oh so many candles. In a way, these things ground me and remind me who I am, and show me that some things never change. Unless of course, they do. Then they change in a major way.

Right now, I’ve been reunited with myself. Those little pieces of me I kept safe in a box were impervious to the array of shit that’s happened in the last 3.5 years. I feel stronger, just having them out and in my new place. They don’t let me forget the woman I once was – she was both better and not quite as good as the woman I am now. She wasn’t jaded by loss, love, and career. She hadn’t yet tried international living, pomegranate, and had no idea how much her family really meant to her. She was adventurous and strong, striking out on a course fraught with uncertainty and growth.

I told myself unpacking the last of these boxes would be my weekend project, but I just couldn’t live with those boxes around. Now, it’s just stacks of books on the floor. There is a joy the books bring me, simply in their being. In the memory of reading them, learning new things, thinking interesting thoughts, lost in the clouds. Those books are part of me.

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In unpacking those boxes of books, I realized one box seems to have gone missing. Figures… still forever incomplete. There were some great books in there – East of Eden, The Richest Man in Babylon, She’s Come Undone (brilliant early novel from Wally Lamb), and so many more. However, on the flip side, the ones that made it back to me are treasured, too: Beyond Greed and Fear, Rent Girl, and A History of the World in Six Glasses, to name only a few.

I imagine I’m not the only one who feels whole having her stuff around. This is the stuff that doesn’t own me. It cannot be owned. It’s felt inside. Someday, I hope my dream home will have a library. It will be my own personal place to retreat into myself and be perfectly comfortable.

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Until then, my library shall be on my floor and in my heart and mind. It is humble, but it is me.

Forever young

I must admit, in all my dreams these days, as they were in this post, my dad is still alive. Every morning I wake up and wonder why the hell he did that in my dream, or where he went. Sometimes he’s familiar. Sometimes I feel like I don’t even know him.

Then, I have that awful moment when I have to remember all over again that he’s not on earth anymore. Seeing him again wasn’t real. He’ll always be there, in my heart and in my memory, I think. Sort of like that phenomenon, how you always feel like you’re still 18, or 21, and your level of maturity and sense of self can still be forever young, though you may be creeping up in years.

I may have mentioned previously that my best friend and I often play Youtube Roulette. Her latest new music introduction to me: Sons of Anarchy soundtrack songs. One in particular is a cover of that previously performed by Bob Dylan. For your immediate enjoyment:

“Forever Young”

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

Those lyrics in bold resounded quite deeply in me. You know that feeling when you read words composed in a certain order, a thought articulated just so… a spotlight shines on the brilliance of that point. You couldn’t have said it better yourself, and there is a glittery comet trail behind it that leaves a lingering twinkling star effect long after it’s hit you. That’s how I feel about the bolded lyrics above.

I’ve mentioned in a number of blogs (too lazy to link you to them here – if you really care, go digging in the archives) that famous quote that goes something like, “We were not put on this earth to see through each other, but to see each other through.” I’ve always found even when I get down on things, if I pretend I’m in the Abnegation faction from Divergent (that’s my one allotted dork reference of the day, and I’ll take it), I don’t focus on my own problems so much. There is a joy in doing for others.

The other side of that coin is to accept the help of others when it’s offered. It can be hard, humbling, embarrassing even, to have to rely on others. Sometimes, letting someone do for you actually helps them too. Being grateful and selfless can really get you through some tough times, and accepting the light of others when yours has gone out will regenerate your spirit.

I like that the lyrics mention building your own ladder. While those who came before may have paved the way, it’s really about the steps you take and your personal journey on your personal ladder. I like to think of it less as a ladder to the stars, and more like a rock climbing wall to the stars. We may use different grips and wall holds, take different paths up there, but you’ve got to choose and build on each previous achievement as you ascend.

Climb every rung. Really, climb it. Climb the hell out of it. Hold on to each grip as long as you can – feel it in your fingers – but always keep moving toward the stars. Feel the muscles all over your body tense with strength, and hoist yourself ever higher. Enjoy that rung, the challenge it offers, the other grips and wall holds you can now access because of the last one you surpassed. It doesn’t matter whether you take the direct route or the scenic route, as long as you enjoy yourself.

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Take out the Amyloid β trash

Every weekend, I admit, I actually enjoy doing some chores and cleaning. Clean linens. Recycling taken out, rubbish taken to the bins, electronics dusted, kitchen cleaned, rugs vacuumed, bathroom sparkling. I do get a bit of a sick pleasure of living in a clean space. I am not dirty, nor do I think I could tolerate living with someone exceptionally dirty. Or even remotely dirty. I’d like to think I’ll never be on an episode of Hoarders…

When I was young, I always enjoyed staying up late, reading a library book under the covers in the bed with a flashlight. I would have to listen for my parents’ footfalls up and down the hall, and switch my flashlight off really fast whenever they walked by my room, so as to not be caught. My parents were on completely opposite schedules – my mother awoke early every morning and was out the door by 6:30am to go to work, so she could come home at 3pm and watch me. My dad would sometimes stay up til 4am, and then not rouse himself til noon. Add to that my parents not tolerating a closed door, and that led to having to be stealth to hide my late-night love of reading.

When I was a kid, I didn’t worry too much about getting enough sleep – staying up late was awesome. The first time I ever thought sleep was important was when I wasn’t getting any (same goes for air, food, and sex, but I digress…) I once slept 14 hours in one go to recuperate after a weeklong trip of many nights of being up past midnight. The longest amount of time I’ve slept in one go was 20 hours. It had been a long flight(s) from San Francisco, to New York City, to Athens, to Mykonos. I landed at 3pm after 27 hours of travel, at the hotel by 4pm, and was nodding off into the food I’d ordered to keep me awake. I went to bed after that meal, and woke up at noon the next day. No joke. The longest I’ve stayed up in one go was 41 hours for a monopoly marathon. Yeah, the game. We got sponsors to donate by the hour for playing the board game Monopoly, and gave the money to a non-profit.

I watched this TED talk recently – One More Reason To Get A Good Night’s Sleep.

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What captivated me about this talk is some of recent results of research on the brain and what happens when we sleep. It makes me realize just how important sleep really is. Sleep is the elegant endocrine system to rid the brain of built-up waste. Like digesting food, circulating blood, and all those other bodily functions are a design solution to carry out a process. So when you don’t sleep, excess toxins and waste don’t get cleared from your brain.

I haven’t slept as much I need to lately, and it has indeed left my mind murky. After watching this TED talk, I appreciated even more the need for me to catch up on my sleep. I’ve been stressed, working late, my mind racing late at night. I’ve also had to get up earlier and earlier to fit everything I need to do into my day, and that doesn’t even include eating, which lately isn’t happening til 5pm some days, or going to the gym.

It’s like I feel the poison residue in my brain. It kept me from writing most of today, as I felt uninspired. I took a nap, apparently a much needed one, and I feel a lot better. You know how it is – you clear your mind, you rest your head, and by golly, the next thing you know, you’re jerking awake to the sound of a siren going by, or an alert on your phone. Studies even suggest that power naps, disco naps, and a cat naps during the day can actually help enhance your performance. Think about it; it makes sense. Remove the accumulated waste in your brain, take out the garbage, clean the surfaces, spray some Febreeze, and you’re fresh and ready to go.

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His discussion about the buildup of amyloid beta proteins in the brain gave me an “a-ha!” moment. Especially when he linked his discussion to Alzheimer’s disease. Makes total sense – if you don’t take out the trash in your brain, it can impair your cognitive function. Flash forward to an episode of Hoarders – only this time it’s not some old lady with a dead cat under the bed and tons of garbage in her tiny apartment. No, the pig sty is your mind, and the months old pizza boxes and blue cheese that shouldn’t be blue just clutters up everything. It’s unhealthy, a literal health hazard, to reside in such conditions. Same goes for one’s mind.

This weekend I tried to take out my garbage in my brain. I have a massive accumulated sleep deficit and I need to budget for restoration to previous levels of sleep. I used to think I could sleep when I was dead, but my brain has suddenly become important to me. I don’t want it to go soft. I don’t want my brain to look like the worst episode of Hoarders ever. I want it to look like a simple, minimalistic, architecturally sound and culturally rich place where I seek solace and dream big dreams and think big things.

I went on a nice walk somewhere I’ve never been before yesterday – Berkeley Marina. It’s not the most beautiful waterfront I’ve ever seen, but it was approachable, nay, beckoning. The sun was hot, the publicly accessible floating dock lay before me, teasing me to walk to the very edge. A kayaker who just came in off the water said hi, and went on about his business. He, too, had enjoyed that floating dock. I was with my best friend and her girlfriend, after many weeks of not seeing them. I was talkative, yet content in silence as well, happy to be with company.

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Today, I didn’t want company. That much needed me-time needed to happen to recharge and take out my mental garbage, any way I could find how. I did more cleaning around my apartment, did laundry, and got some groceries. I’ve tried to be good to myself all afternoon. That nap helped my brain clear out some excess toxins, and it was wonderful.

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I bought a Himalayan rock salt lamp on Amazon recently, too. Supposedly, it works as “nature’s air purifier”. The salt emits negative ions, which is basically oxygen ions with an extra electron. In fresh country air, it is common to find up to 4,000 negative ions per cubic centimeter. The number of negative ions at rush hour in a big city can be less than 100. These negative ions cause harmful microscopic particles in the air to clump together and fall to the floor, leaving them to be easily cleaned up. Scientists recommend a rough rule of thumb of 2lbs of rock salt for every 10 square feet. Now, my apartment is a measly 419 square feet, but I’m not bringing 80lbs of salt into my apartment. A simple little lamp will help just a little. I’m not sure I buy into it, but what the hell? The lamp emits a nice glow, anyway. I do like my mood lighting.

I definitely won’t underestimate how much I need sleep ever again. Your body is a wonderful machine – it lets you know what it needs when it needs it, and takes care of itself. Take care of yourself too, and take out your garbage.

I’m going to take my own advice. I’m putting everything from work into a garbage bag, and putting it in the bin to go out with the trash pick-up tomorrow. Goodbye and good riddance. Once the mess (physical and mental) is cleaned out, I can rest easy.

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Me time

You know that feeling right after you clip your fingernails? You’ve been exceptionally busy as of late, haven’t even thought about how unkempt and unruly you’ve become from lack of sleep. You skip the fingernail maintenance in your morning routine everyday because all you have time or mental capacity for pre-coffee is a shower with one eye open (or maybe both closed). You barely manage to put the shampoo on first, instead of the conditioner. You purposely use bars of soap instead of bottles of shower gel so you don’t do a full body wash with conditioner by accident. You don’t need your soft bodily peach fuzz to have extra volume, thanks. You walk out the door of your apartment realizing your shoes don’t match, or you forget your earbuds for that commute into work and your day is just beginning.

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You actually feel bad taking the two minutes for self-hygiene to prevent that always unexpected moment you bend a long fingernail backwards. Plus, having some fingernail length assists with back scratching, nose picking, and tooth flossing on the go. You took two minutes for yourself, and you’ve cleaned yourself up. It’s like the day you get a new haircut.

You’ve been a bit numb or insensitive to the extent to which you’ve been letting yourself go. Your hair is shaggy; you’re long past the days of wearing makeup and trying. Your fingernails grow longer and get a bit dirty underneath. Your cuticles start to grow, and maybe they shred or rip as mine are sometimes prone to do.

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But, ohhhh. When you finally take that two minutes to clip your fingernails, when you finally get that haircut, when you can finally stop doing things for other people or for clients or for coworkers just long enough to do something little for yourself – oh man.

Suddenly, you realize a new sensitivity in your fingertips. Skin that had previously been protected by your talons is now exposed to the world. You can feel again. You remember your incredibly human and magnificent sense of touch.

When you get your hair cut, especially if you keep it short like the previously classic lesbian ‘do I used to rock, the hair feels blunt. Thick. Shaped.

I love when the stylist first washes your hair, with a luxurious salon quality shampoo. The latest trend in shampoos I’ve noticed: Moroccan Argan oil. I think it’s made from Argonauts. My stylist in Sydney would work in the conditioner with another amazing smell, somehow better than the shampoo.

Then, if you’re lucky, you would experience something better than chocolate, better than air conditioning on a hot and muggy summer Sydney Valentine’s Day: a scalp massage to work in the conditioner and rub out the muscles you forget you have all over your head. *insert thumping foot reflex here, wipe drool off mouth*

My favorite part of the dyke-cut is the shaved head portion, or that short bit over the ears and at the nape of the neck. The even-better-than-that best? When you run your hand with your newly trimmed fingernails through your freshly cut hair. Or shaved heads *purrrrrrr, kitten paw dance*

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Maybe, you’re wearing cologne that smells like freshly cut grass. In the spirit of one of my favorite quotes, “and also, you’re drunk.”

“Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful, beautiful flamingo, flying across in front of a beautiful sunset? And he’s carrying a beautiful rose in his beak, and also he’s carrying a very beautiful painting with his feet. And also, you’re drunk.” – Jack Handey

Did you know that the scent of freshly cut grass is actually a defense mechanism of the plant? It secretes a scented liquid as a panic response when it is cut, kind of like when humans get an adrenalin rush when we’re in danger. So that smell people love so much? It’s grass, screaming in terror from being cut in half. But I digress…

Life sometimes gets so busy. It has for me lately, starting with the week before last. I worked till midnight twice this week, and it’s not even busy season yet. Last night I was up til midnight with my brain racing, so I may as well have been working. It’s truly become like pushing a rock up a hill with a smile on my face.

I feel pressure to not show the pressure I feel immensely everyday – the baseline pressure that I need to do my job well and I should really be striving to be exceptional at every turn, with the time constraint of having no time to focus long enough to do something well.

Depression and anxiety exacerbate that baseline pressure as one has to climb Mt. Fuji (elevation 12,388’) before one climbs Mt. Everest (elevation 29,029’) – that is to say, you need the willpower, motivation, and perhaps arguably, ego, to make you get out of bed before you can focus on something productive that contributes to society like a challenging job.

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My insomnia is coming back in bouts, and it’s highly correlated with anxiety for me. My gym sessions have dwindled to mostly just weekends again. It’s horrid and I hate it. I’m not drinking, which is positive. Not motivated, not even to drink by myself without a bra or pants on, like the good old days. Too tired. Or one could argue that perhaps I’ve outgrown that coping mechanism.

I need more me time, not to drink, but just to relax. I have a deadline at the end of this week, 2 more next week, and I start a new client next week. Not to mention juggling mandatory training, being our Google Champion for our change in business operating platform at work, and performing interviews for recruiting events at work. I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t brain right now. I have the dumb.

I got my flu shot yesterday as well. I’m so tired… And fatigue is amplified as it’s one of the key side effects of the vaccine. Yet I wrote most of this last night, close to midnight, despite desperately attempting to amend my jacked-up sleeping schedule.

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At least there is an end in sight.

I really need those little moments right now, when I finally get to clip my nails. I did that, and yes I did actually feel guilty. I haven’t gotten a haircut yet. I need to. However, I’m going to hold off until my uncle can trim it when I’m in NY again next month. He likes to do my hair. I oblige.

Soon, self, soon.

Realized losses and unrealized gains

Yesterday, I had a typical knee jerk reaction, and with 20/20 hindsight, it was stupid. Hello old friend, good to be reminded of my humanity again. Nothing like admitting your own idiocy every once in awhile to trim back the tall poppy. I previously wrote a post on this here.

I love traveling. It’s been on my mind a lot lately, as I find myself itching to get out and be free again.

Generally, people are averse to change. They don’t like it; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I am generally all about change. No day is like the one before it for me, despite desperate attempts to even cling to a weekly regimen. It comes down to a fundamental fear of the unknown.

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I’ve been considering my options for my next destination, and for how long I need to be there. Is it a smaller vacation to dash away and recharge the battery? Or is the prescription a much longer period of time in a far away land? Methinks it’s closer to the latter. Let’s shake things up. Go big or go home, right?

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I considered what I needed to make another jump, and immediately my financial independence and wellbeing were my first priority. How would I pay to live there? Do they even have jobs there I could do? Do those jobs have comparable salaries? Well, what if I redeploy through work? I don’t want to eat through all my savings, but at the same time, I’m in the fortunate position to have savings. I can lean on that crutch if I need to. I’m relatively young, and I have time to save more after spending it on achieving my dreams.

My fallibility reared its ugly head when, of all things to consider in my mental list of pros and cons, I looked up whether my firm had an office in that location. Holy shit. I just had my first change averse reaction. Can I move there and keep my job? Pretty please can I stay in the rat race I have come to loathe? How embarrassing.

Pause. No, stop. A full stop is required. I forgot the most basic rule of travel. The whole point of picking up and moving is to do things differently. I want the life change that uprooting myself would bring. In a way, it’s what I need. Hit the reset button, don’t just recharge.

By my own nature, I’m one of those cold turkey change people. I will be change resistant to an extent, until I hit “Fuck It Street” and cruise right into “Why Not? Who Gives A Shitville”. Once I set my mind to it and make that decision, it’s done. If I don’t want to do something, I simply won’t make the decision. When I decide, no one can sway me from my purpose.

So when I thought yesterday about the very real possibility of changing careers at the same time as changing locations, I’m fairly sure my bank account and credit cards (which I swear must have had drone insects implant SIM cards in my ears while I was sleeping) utilized the direct feed into my brain. I had to take an antacid; I got heartburn. I worried about giving up my career, my creature comforts, my new couch, my bed, and the lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed. I thought about losing the great apartment I have here, my best friend (she may just kill me if I move again), and missing the city I missed for 3 years while I lived down undah. I would have to miss that city again. Absence of San Francisco does makes my heart grow fonder.

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My dad knew me in San Jose, where I was born and raised. He knew me in San Francisco. He knew me in Sydney. He’s never known me in the location I thought about moving to yesterday. This would be something I conceived and executed post-humously in my process of moving on and forward with life after his passing. He wouldn’t know me there. That’s a weird thought.

More importantly, what the hell was I thinking when I had this kneejerk reaction??? I am almost ashamed to admit the momentary lapse of sanity I experienced, despite it supposedly being “normal”. Why would I want to perpetuate the very cycle I’m trying to extricate myself from?

I want to live with reckless abandon. I thought about what I was giving up and losing, when I should have been thinking about everything I’d be gaining from an experience like moving and trying something new. Again.

Maybe that’s just the kick in the arse I need to break out of my hamster wheel. Try something new, grow, develop, and do something pretty amazing. Again.

I kinda sorta love not having kids and not being married because I’m free to pick up and move. I don’t need to think about anyone’s wellbeing but my own. That’s a weird feeling too. Growing up as a kid, I sometimes felt like I had to take care of my parents. To me, they often acted more like children than I did (well, children that swore, drank and smoked.) It’s weird to finally get to be that kid. Do the things I want to do when I want to do them. Nothing is holding me down (well, in due course and after some reasonable planning.)

When I think about what I could be gaining, perhaps what tips the scales and makes all the difference is developing a relationship with a special someone who has endeared themselves to me. This is as much an adventure for my heart, as it is for my spirit and soul. Plus, it’s living and experiencing a new place. A place with a lot of history, beauty, and a slower pace than Sydney and San Francisco.

I would stand to grow a new branch in a new direction, and perhaps find a reborn faith or joy in simple things. No board meetings (or as I like to call them, bored meetings.) No alarm clock. Fresh air. Exercise. Time. Space.

It’s not the biggest paycheck, if there will be one at all. No guarantees. It’s starting from scratch and having to work my way up again. Finding a renewed sense of self and the strength you find in unexpected places when you start over.

I guess everyone reaches a point where no one can put a price tag on individual happiness. We have a finite time on this earth, and I’m pretty sure there’s scientific proof that no one who’s died has confessed to wishing they had spent more time working while they were alive. Or something like that.

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So along the lines of the pearl of wisdom Charles Darwin shared above, the evolution of the species is based on adaptability to change and flexibility to handle those changes positively. Not change aversion. I’m better than that.