Tree line

A tree line is the edge of a habitat, usually at high elevations, at which trees are capable of growing. It’s an unseen boundary; no one drew a real line on the ground. A tree line appears well-defined from a distance, but upon closer inspection, it’s a gradual transition. 

Beyond it, the conditions are too harsh to sustain life. Some trees were meant to cling tight to the rocks of a mountainside, while others were meant to overlook a river, comfortable in rich, clay soil. 

It becomes very obvious, when we step back and look at a mountainside, where the tree line is. After a certain point, there are no more trees; perhaps only grasses and rocks and dirt remain. From a distance, sometimes it’s easier to draw definitive lines.

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I was watching Wild Australia last night, missing my home of three years, and the show broached the subject of tree lines in the Australian environments. But tree lines can be anywhere with a mountain range, not just Australia. 

Some trees at the tree line are small; they might be young, or full grown but not able to get much larger due to the availability of nutrients. Some are quite tall. The conditions are on the verge of being harsh, or are harsh for intermittent periods at that boundary, so there are certainly fewer trees there overall.

It’s easy for trees to thrive in a valley – the sediment is rich with nutrients. It’s where water collects and settles. Water flows downhill, and the valleys provide great conditions for trees to mature. More trees thrive there, and trees have a “safety in numbers”, if you will. More trees mean more shade from harsh sunlight, and more mature, established trees provide protection for more young trees to grow.

But, to be a big, thriving tree at the tree line, well, that’s remarkable. To thrive in harsh conditions is worthy of respect and admiration.

These deep thoughts on trees and tree lines swirl in my brain as I’m still emerging from the election hangover nightmare, and the conditions of a Donald Trump America. He’ll create harsher conditions for people like me; the tree line will move. Some aren’t cut out for when the tree line moves, and those who can’t sustain the harsher conditions will suffer. 

How does one survive the harshest of landscapes, perhaps not meant for anyone? *gestures broadly*

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Seeking silver lining

Cheddar (my cat) threw up twice this morning. I wanted to do the same.

It’s raining in Seattle this morning. That, at least, feels right.

I made the conscious and mindful decision to wear black to work today. I am in mourning. I’m ashamed. I didn’t vote for the winner. What I feel can best be described as grief. I know it well. But, under my dark garb of grief, my underwear is still magenta. Inside, I’m still the same person, bright, unapologetic, magenta.

Yesterday, I had Demi Lovato’s “Confident” stuck in my head and began singing it out loud. “What’s wrong with being what’s wrong with being what’s wrong with being confident?” False confidence, that’s what, Demi.

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I recently finished a series on Netflix called Brain Games. It’s about how our brains deceive us, and how much of human behavior is predictive based on how we’re hard-wired. The series resurrected the truth I already knew from learning about confidence intervals in my statistics courses in college. In the show, people on the street are asked to give a range where they are 95% confident the answer to a question is within that range. For example, one question was “How many countries are there in Africa?” I would have to come up with a range, say 1-100 where I’m 95% confident the answer is within that range. What happened in the show, and to most people when they do this exercise? They made their range too small, and they ended up being incorrect most of the time. When the show was made, they counted 57 countries in Africa, whereas if I google it, there are 54. Either way, most people gave a range of, say, 20-50, and they were wrong. Lesson: we place too much confidence in a small range of outcomes which leads to greater disappointment when we are wrong.

Hillary exhibited what, in retrospect, is best described as false confidence in her debates. Hell, I had false confidence that Trump wouldn’t be elected. My fellow Americans were better than that. Even I succumbed to how I’m hard-wired. I misplaced my confidence in the American people. It didn’t feel like false confidence at the time. It felt like common fucking sense. I still had hope we would band together to prevent Trump from winning, so it seemed like Hillary had to be the answer.

Last night, as the events unfolded, so many people in my Facebook feed took this opportunity to spin things positively, make jokes, laugh their way out of a terrible situation. Most of them lived in Australia, given the time difference of the news breaking, just because I have many friends on there from my 3 years living there. But I only felt my cheeks flush, and I wasn’t laughing. I was embarrassed. I wanted to hide. I wanted them not to laugh at us.

This might be the first time in my life where I’m struggling to see the humor in all of this. I’m also struggling to be a bigger person, and accept the outcome with grace. It’s still just as difficult as I imagined it would be. It stopped being funny a long time ago, and as time progressed, it just got more shocking. That turtle on a stump on a deserted dirt road suddenly became reality last night. We don’t know how it got there or what’ll happen next. It doesn’t belong there. Yet there it is.

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I saw people comparing this election to the British BREXIT vote, with my favorite spoof on it being:

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A moving picture came across my news feed of Lady Liberty, her face covered by her hands, hiding from the shame, in shock too:

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I am on a mailing list for which I received an email from CEO of that capital management firm assuring me their portfolio was agnostic over the outcome of this election. I wish I could say the same for myself. It’s so very personal this time. It was personal in a good way when Obama won, and in a terrible way when George W. Bush won before that, too. I’m looking so hard for a silver lining right now. It seems nowhere to be found. I want so much to be a role model, to be someone I can be proud of, to be a bigger person. For 8 years, I’ve listened to “He’s not MY president,” about Obama. I want to shout the same thing from the rooftops, to the people on my bus, to anyone who will listen this morning. But saying it out loud means acknowledging that it’s not true. He is the president-elect of my chosen home. I have no intentions of leaving my home. I just bought my fucking condo. I can’t leave. I did manage to get myself closer to Canada though, just in case.

A place is only as good as the people you know in it. I’m at least lucky that I currently live in Seattle, in one of the bluest states. I grew up in a blue state, and have people around me who are in just as much shock, if not more. Maybe I didn’t think America needed to be made great again. Maybe I thought it already was pretty great, for giving me the right to be who I am without fear. That right feels like it’s been taken away from me. What fresh hell is this?

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I rub my eyes (metaphorically, because I stupidly wore mascara today) and reality is what it is. I wrote previously in Election that a plan B had been found whereby we could have a case for the impeachment of Trump before he ever even takes office. I worry more if his VP choice Pence ever becomes president when we impeach Trump.

I breathe deeply. The road is uphill, and we’ve fought so hard this far, and it feels like we’re losing ground. Our work is cut out for us. As a nation, and as individuals. These next 4 years may not be an easy A. They may be the hardest C I’ve ever worked for in my life. But I know I have to work.

As I waited for the bus into work this morning while it was still dark outside, I chose to listen to my playlist in iTunes called “End of the World.” It seemed right this morning, too. Here is what came through my earbuds when I shuffled that playlist:

  1. Take a Bow – Beyoncé
  2. Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad – Moby
  3. The Rose – Bette Midler
  4. Sideways – Citizen Cope
  5. Overcome – LIVE
  6. Train Wreck – Sarah McLachlan
  7. Dry Your Eyes – The Streets
  8. Mad World – Michael Andrews & Gary Jules
  9. That’s All – Genesis 
  10. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
  11. Still the Same – Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
  12. Ticking Bomb – Aloe Blacc

It expressed in melody and lyrics how my heart feels.

“There are millions of you ― of us ― searching for uneasy answers, trying not to breakdown on the subway, forcing ourselves to pull our shirts over our heads and attempt to somehow be useful in a country that seems to have no use for us, in a country that we are certain does not want us, that we worry will not keep us safe.” (Source: here)

Hope

I was watching the season finale of Supergirl on Netflix this week, and something from the show really resonated with me. Kara Zor-El gave the following speech to the residents of National City, the ones she protects on a daily basis:

“There is so much love in this world, out there for the taking. You let me be who I’m meant to me. You gave me back to myself. You made me stronger than I ever thought possible, and I love you for that. Now, in each and every one of you, there is a light, a spirit, that cannot be sniffed out, that won’t give up. I need you to hope… Hope, that you can all be heroes. Hope, that when faced with an enemy determined to destroy your spirit, you will fight back, and thrive. Hope, that those who once may have shunned you, will, in a moment of crisis, come to your aid. Hope, that you will see again the faces of those you have loved… and perhaps those you have lost.”

Supergirl had been in the midst of an identity crisis of sorts, and found that she was most herself when helping other people. There was so much gratitude in her heart for the people she worked to save. Those words above moved me. They could have been words I said about my own friends, when I was going through my own hard times. Those times are very much in the rear view mirror, and appear closer than they are. I loved her message of hope to them, sharing her strength with them so they might feel her appreciation of them for accepting her.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to go through is someone actively killing my hope – hope of the future with somebody, hope for all the good times that might have been. When someone tries squash your hope, and you have a grateful spirit like Supergirl, it’s one of the hardest things to bear. It’s like someone is trying to change the very soul of your being, who you are, your very reason for getting up out of bed every morning, your reason for putting one foot in front of the other, despite how futile it seems.

It’s funny because if I think about how much I needed that hope then versus how much I need hope now, it’s like night and day. During hard times, when your heart is hurting and you are most vulnerable, you need hope like you need air. Right now, I don’t need it so much. When I try to understand why I don’t need it so much now, it’s hard to put my finger on. I’m stronger, I’m away from those things and those people that caused me hurt. Time has healed many of the invisible wounds from the death of my father. I’m in a new city, new soil where I’ve planted myself, and my roots have taken hold. I’m blooming both because of and despite the rain.

Another passage that moved me in a similar frequency is from one of my favorite TV shows, Orange is the New Black:

“The garden is one of the two great metaphors for humanity. The garden is about life and beauty and the impermanence of all living things. The garden is about feeding your children, providing food for the tribe. It’s part of an urgent territorial drive that we can probably trace back to animals storing food. It’s a competitive display mechanism, like having a prize bull, this greed for the best tomatoes and English tea roses. It’s about winning, about providing society with superior things, and about proving that you have taste, and good values and you work hard. And what a wonderful relief, every so often, to know who the enemy is. Because in the garden, the enemy is everything. The aphids, the weather, time. And so you pour yourself into it, care so much, and see up close so much birth, and growth, and beauty, and danger, and triumph. And then everything dies anyway, right? But you just keep doing it.”

Whenever we’re up against something, we want to know who our enemy is. The enemy is everything that tries to feed off of you, to take your blooming away from you, to take away your hope. Whether you need it or not right now, you’ll need it at some point in your life. Don’t stand for those people or things who try to take it away from you. When someone gives you hope, it’s like Supergirl said, you’re giving the gift of giving someone back to themselves. You’re reclaiming yourself, as the gift you are. It’s amazing.

So my message to you on this last Friday of October before Halloween, before Election Day, is one of hope. Don’t lose it; share it if you’ve got it. Don’t try to take it away from anyone, even if you think they have no reason to hope. It is theirs; let it burn.

Pre-existing conditions

It’s been one helluva week, folks. My stress levels have quadrupled this week, and I’m looking forward to a most relaxing weekend to counterbalance what’s happened.

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Cheddar has been wheezing on and off for a little while, but I just assumed it was a cold, and it would pass, since it came and went without incident. Wrong.

I finally took him to the vet, because it wasn’t going away. The vet performed an x-ray to weed out the possibility of pneumonia, and luckily that came back negative. However, the rattling in his breathing was ominous. The vet said he probably had bronchitis, and he had a fever when they checked him out. Further, they thought that since he was having fits that looked like he was just trying to pass a hairball that never resulted in an actual hairball, that he may have feline asthma. It broke my heart, 1) that I had been a terrible cat mom and put off taking him in when he was clearly having trouble breathing, and 2) that he now had a chronic condition that could possibly never go away at just a tender age of 1.5 years old. He’s still just a kitten to me; this couldn’t possibly be affecting him at such a young age. He had been really miserable, and the vet’s findings confirmed it.

He’d been avoiding cuddling, love sessions, treats and even me, by sitting in another room entirely. That hurt. But I understand now just how miserable he’s been. The vet prescribed a child dosage albuterol inhaler, and recommended an aerokat device. It is an apparatus that fits over a cat’s nose and mouth, and connects to the inhaler to deliver a chamber to breathe in the medicine. He was also prescribed antibiotics as well as a steroid that served as an anti-inflammatory for his bronchial tubes and airways.

For the last few days, I’ve given him his medicine every 12 hours from two tiny syringes. I think I get more upset at having to give him his medicine than he actually does. To be clear, he hates it, wiggles, and generally is unhelpful by keeping his mouth locked shut so nothing can get in there. Half of it winds up on his face and me. Our twice a day regime is emotionally draining for me. I think he finally gets, though, that I’m trying to help him, and I bribe him with copious amounts of treats before and after medicine time.

His attitude is improving every day, touching and booping me more, rubbing against my legs, purring incessantly again (he hasn’t even been purring much because it makes it harder for him to breathe.) He’s not so anti-social, and while he’s still got a raspy breathing, he’s starting to feel better. I also spoiled him with a bit of kitty grass and new toys last weekend.

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The second wave of stress after the initial vet visit arrived when I picked up his prescription albuterol inhaler. Much to my chagrin, I don’t think my company will let me designate a cat as a beneficiary on my company health plan. Did you know inhalers not covered by insurance, just in a child dosage, are $80??? I sure didn’t. The aerokat apparatus was another $60. The vet bill was $500. I blew over $600 this week, and realized that I’ll have to possibly pick up $80 inhalers for the rest of his life.

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I beat myself up for not purchasing pet insurance sooner, to help defray future costs. He’s still just a kitten in my eyes, and he’s an indoor cat at that. What could I possibly need pet insurance for? And that’s when it hit me over the head that even if I acquired pet insurance, feline asthma was already in the vet’s records, which means two dirty little words in insurance speak: pre-existing conditions. Most insurers, for humans and pets alike, do not cover pre-existing conditions.

It’s the worst Catch-22 of the entire insurance industry: the whole reason one might sign up for insurance (receiving a diagnosis) cannot be covered by a new policy, if symptoms presented prior to coverage commencing. If someone you love gets diagnosed with lung cancer and doesn’t have health insurance, any subsequent treatments for lung cancer can’t be covered. It’s the heartbreaking paradox that I faced this week.

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When I first brought Cheddar into my life and home, my apartment complex in San Francisco wanted to charge me an additional pet deposit, and monthly pet rent (see my scathing posts about it here.) I managed to find a loophole and a happy ending in registering him as an emotional support animal, thus excluding him from the definition of a pet. I managed to dodge both the additional deposit and monthly rent to an already bloodsucking extortionist property management company. I contemplated reaching out to my GP to pretend like I needed an inhaler, so it would be covered under my insurance. Tried as I could this week, I refused to lie to insurers about his condition, and could find no insurance loophole to have his asthma covered by popular pet insurers. I hated to admit defeat, but it appeared I had no viable options.

Nearing the end of a rapidly fraying rope with which Cheddar would love to play, a glimmer of hope arrived in the form of an email from my vet suggesting an insurer I should look into who, get this, accepts all pre-existing conditions! Cue magical music. Even better, the premiums for just 1 animal under the plan were an extremely affordable $89/year, or $7.41/month! Relief! It fits; I sits.

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All’s well that ends well. I’m hard on myself as a cat mom, so I can’t imagine what human moms must go through every day. I understand now the threshold moms reach every day, where not a single fuck is given: That point of saturation when you simply cannot take anymore, but life’s tennis ball machine keeps launching neon shitstorms at you.

I didn’t birth this furry poop machine with talons, but I love him with all my butt (I’d say heart, but honestly, my butt is bigger.) I don’t care if he’s the only nerd cat with an inhaler. I’m so grateful he came into my life every day, no matter what I must endure and pay to keep him there. He’s my family. He ain’t heavy, he’s my 9.5lb purr factory and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now, I have the peace of mind that comes with knowing he’s insured and protected, should anything else unexpected arise.

Should any of you ever need pet insurance, and you only come to that conclusion after the neon shitstorm hits, I recommend Pet Assure. I haven’t used it yet, but I can only expect so much if they accept pre-existing conditions when all other insurers don’t.

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Election

I am so sick of hearing American voters whinging like they don’t have any good options for a presidential candidate in this election. I tend to stay fairly silent in discussions around politics and religion. I’ve only written one blog post in the past about politics – you can find it here, if you’d like some light reading. However, in the upcoming election the time to shit or get off the pot is here. People complaining about both candidates clearly don’t understand that a vote for neither of them is like a vote for Trump in this election.

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I am absolutely sickened that Donald Trump has even made it this far. I’m even more sickened that members of my family who live in rural New York not only keep saying that neither candidate is good, but some go even further posting photos of their guns and raging pro-Trump comments. Yeah, I’m related to that. Unfortunately.

There has never been an election, in my mind, that divides the American people so much. After last night’s debate, if you still stand up and say neither candidate is qualified, then you’re a fucking idiot. One candidate is not qualified, and that candidate is Donald Trump. It’s that simple.

In the election with George W. Bush, Al Gore, and Ralph Nader as candidates, we saw first-hand what a non-unified liberal view resulted in: votes that went to Nader detracted from Al Gore, resulting in not enough critical mass to beat out George W. Bush. I refuse to let that happen again. And I’m just sick and tired of people complaining.

Stop complaining and figure out what you can get behind. You may not 100% align with a candidate, but you don’t need to throw a hissy fit if your favorite person in the world doesn’t become the next President of the United States of America. Most importantly, regardless of who you vote for, you just need to get out there and vote. Ideally, I’d love it if you came to your senses and helped write history by electing the first female President. But really, eradicating complacency is really what I care about.

Recently, there was an article in the Onion, a publication known for farcical articles, called, “Precious Little Voter Needs To Feel Inspired By Candidate.” It made me literally laugh out loud. They are being precious. What we need is a leader in the midst of a tumultuous world. The article goes on to say, “the fragile, dainty buttercup feels he absolutely must vote for someone who is trustworthy and competent.” I have news for you, dainty buttercup: every politician lies. Every politician doesn’t 100% know what they are doing. Most people don’t, including those not in politics. The hope is that they have a good enough head on their shoulders to hire the right people with which to surround themselves, to help them. The hope is that they listen to the counsel of wise people, and never stop learning. That they know enough to know when to ask for help, or when to lie and bluff, ultimately for the greater good.

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We need a leader who can peacefully navigate the growing tensions between cops and African Americans, escalating nuclear threats from North Korea, tell Russia to shut the hell up and basically cease relations with them while their ruble shits the bed. A leader who can help the situation in Venezuela, but at the same time, help people at home. We don’t need handouts, but we need parks, jobs, roads, and a cleaner path forward before we lose this earth to our own idiocy. Those are my personal views, and may not agree with yours 100%. I pay my taxes, and I hope you do, too. However, they’re just a few of the priorities on which we need a leader to focus. But I digress.

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I just invested in a home, and I don’t want to have to up and move if Trump gets elected. I took a quiz online, and apparently, I should move to Switzerland if Trump is elected as the people there are most closely aligned with my ideals. That’s a big move, and I heard it gets quite cold there. But I do love me some of their cheese, though.

What gives me hope is there may actually be a plan B, should the worst happen, and Trump is elected. I recently read an article (here for reference purposes) that indicates someone has found a way to build a case to have Trump impeached before he ever gets inaugurated into the oval office if he is elected. Music to my ears…

Beyond being a lesbian woman, and thus, most hated by the Trump regime (second only to if I was an immigrant or Muslim lesbian woman, of course), there is no way I feel I can get behind him as a leader. He is just a horrible person. Plain and simple. Hillary is no prize either, but she has experiences, and most importantly in my eyes, the desire to do this job. She has the passion. She is still here, after being knocked down and swatted away so many times. She has been preparing for this role all her life. Even when Amy Poehler was impersonating Hillary in a skit alongside Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, Hillary can never be guilty of not wanting it enough. In the skit, Poehler’s Clinton struggles to mask her annoyance when Fey’s Palin says “it’s time for a woman to make it to the White House” and “anyone can be president…all you have to do is want it.” After delivering her high-pitched laugh, Poehler’s Clinton says, “You know, Sarah, looking back, if I could change one thing, I probably should have wanted it more.”

If I truly had my way, we’d have an unprecedented third term from Obama. He wasn’t perfect either, but he managed to clean up after a gigantic mess George W. Bush left in his wake. I took an online quiz that most aligned my ideals with Bernie Sanders, actually. I view Sanders as the Ralph Nader in this election, and I can’t have Trump win because the democrats are not unified behind one candidate. So while I may most align with Bernie, I have a little more faith that the better candidate is actually Hillary.

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If I could be 100% honest, my message to you is not only to get out there and vote this November, but don’t vote for Donald Trump. I can’t envision a future where he’s President because all of his rhetoric just alienates people further – rhetoric against Muslims, immigrants, women, and other demographics that make up our American people. Children who grow up hearing a leader say their family is bad without knowing them can only go so long before they begin living the stereotype that leader has created for them, so they pick up guns or begin performing acts of terror, as that’s what they’re expected to do. They don’t feel represented by a leader that tells them their religion or color of their skin or sex is wrong.

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OK OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now. During last night’s debate, I saw friends utilizing filters in Snapchat to upload videos to Facebook with noses and bunny ears on the candidates, making their voices high pitched. They said things like if they had been playing a drinking game where they drink every time a candidate lied, they’d have alcohol poisoning within the first 20 minutes. Stephen Colbert gave Hillary my favorite nickname thus far regarding yesterday’s debate… “Hillary Clinton was so prepared, my new nickname for her is Preparation H.” For the record, no, I didn’t watch the debate last night. I didn’t need to. I’m with her.

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Restore and update

My world fell apart yesterday. No, I’m not just using hyperbole for fun. I saw in my FB feed a screenshot someone had taken on their iPhone of the new iOS 10 update. I thought, what the hell, and figured I’d get it over and done with in the background as I settled in to do some work. I went into my phone’s settings, and began the process to download and install the update.

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Worst. Mistake. Ever. I was one of those unlucky few who encountered the bug prior to a fix being released. My phone screen was black, with an iTunes icon in the middle and a picture of a dongle cord, begging me to plug my phone into iTunes to continue. It was basically a brick. This, of course, happened in the middle of the work day, and I had plans after work.

My boss was kind enough to let me leave from work a little early to plug my phone into iTunes, and in a perfect world, receive my update without any further hitches. Alas, this is not a perfect world. I waited over an hour for the software to download in iTunes, to at least revert back to the latest iOS before my phone shat the bed. I installed that on my phone, only to find the backup I’d performed this weekend was not accepted by the installation process. All my photos, contacts, music, apps – deleted. I had a factory restored phone, a blank slate, where my life had been. Years of saving important phone numbers and emails, photos with an infinite intrinsic value, a life organized – gone.

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Following a massive breakdown last night when I was inconsolable for a good 3 hours, I’m slowly accepting that, despite making an appointment for Friday evening at the Apple Genius Bar, I may never get that stuff back. While I diligently backed up using Time Machine and an external hard drive, I didn’t specifically back up my phone into iTunes or the Cloud. This especially pains me because this weekend, I was uber-productive and performed a system backup – so had I backed up to the Cloud or iTunes, the loss would not be so devastating. I had to go and make it complicated by backing up to an external drive. I’m going to see if they can salvage anything Friday night on my date with an Apple “genius”, but I’m not holding my breath. I’ve begun reaching out to friends to get phone numbers and addresses, downloading apps I used with any regularity, and clicking “Forgot password?” so many times in the last 24 hours, I’ve begun to question how many I truly know. Finally getting logged in, only to find some profiles/user interfaces completely wiped out, has left me completely wiped out.

I had mentally prepared myself for the massive change in my Apple experience this new iOS was supposed to bring, and instead found myself utterly repulsed by any and all Apple products. What a turn of events. I have zero desire to update my operating system, and am thankful for the prior version which solidly works on my phone right now. I don’t want to upset that fragile balance for fear I’ll lose what I’ve managed to recapture in 24 hours.

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So, a word to wise, who proceed with the new iOS update: back that shit up before you go gentle into that good night. Better suggestion – just don’t update to the new operating system. Be old school. Rage, rage against the dying of the light… And have some pity on me – if you haven’t heard from me personally in the last 24 hours, it’s very possible I don’t know your number to ask you what your number is. Help a sister out and make sure I have your digits, if you truly want to hear from me. Approach me with caution, as there is still some residual fragility after the whole experience. Tell me I’m pretty and throw food at me if I start growling/crying, while you back away slowly. Have a little empathy/sympathy for the ordeal I’ve been through, the hardest part of which is usually being that smart person who backs up their stuff, only to find the backup didn’t work.

Decimated. Heartbroken. Shattered. Picking up the pieces, slowly, but surely in my own technologically-challenged way.

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Nearly impossible

The Microsoft Office suite of products offers a fantastic functionality that I sometimes wish applied to life: Undo. Undo your last action. Just pretend it never happened. Easier said than done, in most cases. It’s easy, in the context of typing or formatting, to just cancel your last action. In life, however, there always seem to be consequences to actions that include trying to undo prior actions.

The final episode of Orange is the New Black’s 4th Season is entitled “Toast Can’t Never Be Bread Again”; it’s poetic, and aptly named given what happens in the episode – no spoilers here, though. That saying illustrates that some things, once done, can’t ever be undone. Once the physical change occurs to bread to make it toast, the burning, there is no going back. Mistake or not, it has been done. It has been written. When I think about interactions with people in life, it’s nearly impossible to leave people the way you found them. We almost always leave an impression, make a difference (for better or for worse) in someone’s life. There is always an impact. And if there isn’t, you’re doing it wrong.

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A butterfly can’t ever go back to being a caterpillar. Toothpaste is nearly impossible to get back into the tube, once squeezed out (believe me, as a kid, I tried.) Or in one of the greatest Lady Gaga/Beyoncé music videos, “Trust is like a mirror – you can fix it if it’s broken, but you can still see the crack in that motherfucker’s reflection.” Change happens. Once you crumple a piece of paper, even if you smooth it out, you can still see the wrinkles. Some things just can’t be 100% undone.

I wrote a previous blog post on mulligans, or do overs, in real life. In life, rarely does anyone get out without desperately wishing some things would have happened differently. There are mistakes you can make up for, but there are some things, no matter how desperately you wish for it, will never change. Maybe you lied; maybe you caused an accident; maybe there was some course of action you set in motion you wish you could take back.

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Humans are the only animals who punish themselves multiple times for an act of transgression. It just keeps circling and coming back for some people, or they never let themselves forget it.

I look back over the last 6 months, as that’s how long I’ve lived in Seattle now, as of August 12, 2016. I turned 35 this month. There are some things that happened I wish I could change. I try not to live with regrets, but some are unavoidable. I do not regret my decision to move here, change jobs, or buy a condo.

It would be nearly impossible to get me to move back to San Francisco. It would be even more impossibler (I’m making it a word; get over it) to get me to move back to Sydney. I’m toast now, and I’ll never be bread again. People in my life have had profound impacts on me – some positively, some not so positive.

Sometimes toast doesn’t want to be bread again. Presumably, being toast is infinitely better than being the bread you used to be. For me, I’m proud of the woman I am today, because I went through one hell of a time becoming her. I may not be perfect toast, but I’m alright.

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So, I propose a toast to the last 6 months changing me for the better, and for the months to come, hoping I continue to grow into something else. No going back, only finding the best way forward.

Stranger things

I made one of the best decisions of my adult life last night: I began the new Netflix series, Stranger Things. Holy nostalgia, Batman! For me, that TV show echoed some of my favorite pieces: the artful confusion of the Upside Down/World Between Worlds in Twin Peaks (sans creepy dancing midget and garbled dialogue), the impeccable soundtrack and concept of alternate/parallel universes in Donnie Darko, the sense of adventure and fearlessness for the pursuit of good in the Goonies, the band of brotherhood in Stand By Me, the bonding of a group of kids over a common enemy monster in It, and, in fact, every Stephen King novel ever written.

I was reeling for days after first seeing Donnie Darko, so much so, that I had to watch it a few times to absorb everything I could, and then I researched the meaning and context afterward. I love pieces of art/film like that. Things that make you question everything you think you know, the essence of your presence, and your very existence. Films which had a similar impact, but which I don’t see as presenting in Stranger Things include Memento and the Butterfly Effect. Give me a good cerebral thriller; that’s my jam, dawg.

Luckily, I also recently completed the TV series Twin Peaks (wrote about it here, in case you’re interested). The pensive aftertaste Twin Peaks left in my mouth rivalled my nearly obsessive reaction to Donnie Darko (and Mulholland Drive, for that matter), and focused on the presence of another parallel universe, and time travel, space wrinkles, and the science of strange occurrences. That same theme occurs in Stranger Things, and I love that train of thinking. I could ride that train all day long, wondering what life would be like in a parallel universe or other astral plane.

Here are a couple pieces (in my mind) of required reading which I think will help one process what they are seeing while they watch the show:

1) Article written by an employee of the Energy Department, the very setting for the TV series, debunking what the Energy Department’s actual role is in real life: http://energy.gov/articles/what-stranger-things-didn-t-get-quite-so-right-about-energy-department

2) A great read on the inspiration for the writing/storyline of the show basically stating what I felt all along, the ties this series has with everything we love about the 80’s: http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2016/07/finished-stranger-things-now-watch-these-50-things-that-inspired-the-show/

Not only do I maintain that the girl in the TV series found in the woods, Eleven, has a striking resemblance to a baby-faced Wil Wheaton in Stand By Me, but (in my best Romy & Michele viewing Pretty Woman voice) I also just really love when they finally let Winona shop (shopping on credit, of course, cause we know she has a history of not paying for things.) Winona’s use of old school big-bulb Christmas lights in her décor and as means of communication with her lost son are second only to my own love of Christmas lights as a year-round provider of ambiance. Much like the scene in Girl, Interrupted, when Winona responds to chasing a bottle of aspirin with a bottle of vodka, with an essential, “I had a headache,” she attacked the wall of her house in Stranger Things with an axe like, “It needed a window.” Love, love, love. Way to make a comeback, Winona.

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The TV series wasn’t so scary for me after reading article #1 above on the Energy Department. After reading that, the show was simply… delicious. I devoured the episodes I’ve seen so far and I’m contemplating skipping the gym tonight so I can continue on my binge session to finish all episodes.

Yes, keep in mind as I write this, that I have not yet finished the entire series yet, so there are many ways I could be surprised. But I do agree with one of the first pearls dropped in the show:

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If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend binging on this series over some red vines and crystal pepsi, now that it’s been re-released. Don’t mind me; I’ll be nerding out, devouring more episodes of that series tonight. And I do plan on using the best insult ever as often as I can:

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Right in the feelers

Every 4 years, the Olympics enchant me. I think for at least a few days, like I did when I was 16, that if I just stuck to a regimented gym program, started doing handstands on the daily, that I, too, could be an Olympic gymnast, or diver, or archer, if I wanted to be. The formula for Olympic television is: emotional backstory of how the athlete overcame adversity, injuries, the road to the Olympics, teary musical montage, and ultimately we watch as they walk away with some medal.

This year, I have no delusions of grandeur of ever being an Olympian. I’d get a medal if there was an event where you fall over things without spilling your beer, though. Gold. You bet your ass.

While I sympathize for the French gymnast with the horrific broken leg flopped to the side, and for the Dutch cyclist with a spine broken in 3 places, that is not front of mind this week. Instead, what has punched me right in the feels is empathy and compassion. A relatively quiet coworker, a man of virtually no words, unexpectedly lost his father this week. I gave him some words of encouragement via that always awkward email after management tells the staff what’s up. But a bouquet of clumsy words is better than silence, in my book.

Let’s get one thing very clear – perhaps on the outside, I looked okay when my dad passed away. On the inside, I was a fucking mess. I went through a shitty trifecta around the same time that included my dad passing away and going through a breakup, as well as some work stuff. I was living in another country and on antidepressants. I went to the gym, as that was my chosen escape from reality. I’d work out for at least an hour, every single day, and hard. I dropped 17kg, or 37.5lbs. I barely ate, and when I did, I couldn’t keep it in very long. That was one of the less pleasant side effects of Zoloft.

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Another coworker has organized a calendar for us to sign up for bringing in a dinner, drinks, or dessert for him to take home to his wife and their 3 kids. It brought tears to my eyes, that I work at a place with such thoughtful people who want to do something at times like this. My friends who had the unfortunate task of hanging out with me while I was going through the hardest time in my life probably could have used something like that. I could have used something like that. I didn’t take care of myself very well. My flatmate at the time told me one night, he half expected to come home at night and find me curled up in the fetal position on the floor because the gravity of what I was going through was so much.

Thankfully, I didn’t have a spouse, or even a girlfriend anymore, when I went through the worst of it. I didn’t have children to worry about. It made letting myself go very, very easy. Without those friends of mine in another country, I may very well have fallen into that dark abyss never to return. I don’t know what would have happened, and I don’t want to think about it.

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I will say, as someone who’s been through what he’s going through now, that losing someone you love feels like an incredible loss, sometimes too great to bear. Having people express care and interest in your well-being, when it’s not even at the forefront of your own mind, means more than anything. That emptiness left in the world by your loss gets filled up a little by love and compassion. The world’s not such a horrible place anymore. Someone you didn’t even know is thinking about you, and sending you well-wishes. In the great balance of the universe, it doesn’t bring your loved one back, nor do you magically feel 100% better. But there is a little more love in the world.

Now I’m not the best cook, but goddamnit, I’m gonna bring that man wine for the adults and something sweet for the kids to get they drank on (Sprites, g-rated, nothing illegal). I wouldn’t wish my cooking on anyone, so I’ll leave that to the Betty Crockers and Papa Johns out there.

I’ll make drinking jokes til the cows come home, but I actually stopped drinking, for the most part, during the hardest time in my life. I don’t recommend overdosing on a depressant when actively taking antidepressants, because it just makes the medication have to work harder. But sometimes, when you’re dealing with tough shit, it helps to blow off a little steam. Won’t fix anything, but it gives you something else to focus on besides how much it hurts. Then, in the morning, you’ll hurt on the outside how much it hurts on the inside.

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Be thoughtful and sympathetic (if you can’t be empathetic due to circumstances) to what others are going through. Think of someone besides yourself today. Do something nice for someone, unexpectedly. Put more of that love into the universe. I would ask that you carry that same thinking forward into your own life. Bring that someone some wine. Bitches love wine.

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Summertime

I only just closed the purchase of my new condo in Seattle on February 29, 2016. Due to volatility in the markets after the United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union (commonly known as “Brexit”), I received a call this week from the lending agent for my mortgage. Turns out Brexit has brought mortgage rates to new lows since my financing was locked in. For no cost at all, he offered to help me refinance and reduce my monthly payment by $110. That represents a rate change from 4.5% to 4.125% interest on my loan. Not too shabby.

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I may have owned a home once previously before this one, but I’ve never gone through the refinancing process before. Now, I’m not entirely dumb at finance and money things. But the refinancing logistics left me with many questions, especially when I’ve been paying off principal on my home for nearly 6 months now, yet my new loan would be for $2,000 more than my original loan amount as if I’d not paid any principal. How the hell does that work?

So I swallowed any pride I might have and had my lending agent explain the ins and outs to a CPA like I was 4. It was humbling, but helpful. And I’d highly recommend that if you own your home, you look into whether refinancing post Brexit could help you reduce your monthly payments as well.

I have many projects I want to complete in my home: new floors, changing all light fixtures from energy wasting halogen to energy efficient LED, a new paint job throughout, additional landscaping on the patio, and a bit of a birthday for the bathroom and kitchen finishes. I’ll soon have an additional $110 a month to put aside for those upgrades. Thanks, United Kingdom.

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In other news, I spent last weekend in Denver, visiting a friend and a new town I’d never properly been to before. I’d only ever spent 1 or 2 hour layovers in Denver airport. I went to a Colorado Rockies game (they won), had a fabulous massage, ate some great food, and made it up into Arapaho National Forest to a little ski town comparable to Breckenridge, called Winter Park. The ski lift is used in the summertime to transport mountain bikes and people alike to the top of the mountain. They then did some extreme biking clad in elbow pads, knee pads, and helmets, back down the mountain. This allows ski retreat locations to function not just in the winter time. I took no part in the extreme sportsing; I much preferred to enjoy as a spectator, while I enjoyed the most amazing watermelon caprese salad.

It was a nice getaway, but I’m happy to be back home. Summer has settled on Seattle, with temps in high 70’s/low 80’s. This past week has seen some mid 80’s/low 90’s action even. It’s a little warmer than I’m used to and prefer, but I can’t complain. If it gets unbearable, I do have an air conditioner.

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I beta-tested my first batch of Jell-O shots since living in Sydney last night: watermelon Jell-O, made with Malibu Rum and Triple Sec, my own twist on the recipe. I plan to sit in the Adirondacks in the sunshine after the gym both days this weekend. I sprung for a house-cleaner to spend 3 hours on my place today, to give myself a break from chores. I get to come home to a clean house this afternoon. It’ll be delightful. Time to really enjoy my first summer in Washington, now that the warm weather has arrived. I’m gonna kick back and let my home work for me for a change. I hope you enjoy the last weekend of July and get your summer on.