April 18, 2019

Gadgets, silly challenges, and lucks of the draw

I have been reasonably active for the past fifteen years, ever since my friend Cherie got me into biking and running. It peaked in 2012 and 2013 with some accomplishments that when I look back on them, rather amaze me. Three marathons in November of 2012, two of them on back to back days. and in the summer of 2013 a one-day STP followed a week and a half later with the Ride Around Mount Rainier (Ramrod).

But since then...

Sure there have been a few marathons, another STP and another Ramrod (fortunately in different years this time around) in the meantime, but the last couple of years have felt decidedly lazy. As I have mentioned before, I really need an event to aim for to get my body out on the road. This even when I know how much good it does me. When I don't have this outlet, my mental and emotional states suffer, and things can spiral (another post).

Anyway, I needed something to change so I bought a new toy and set myself a silly challenge.

The new toy was an upgraded GPS watch. Though my previous version was three generations old, it still worked fine, and I rarely replace something that still works even partially. I still use this 25 year-old broken mirror when I cut my hair, and I still have the backpack that I bought for college in the late 80's (though it has been downgraded to carrying running gear and/or work files during snowstorms).



But this time I bought the thing that I wanted, if not exactly needed. I bought it because I knew it would make me happy, and it would make me go out on a run to play with it. Along with a better GPS receiver, it has more bells and whistles and you can even download custom watch faces. I found one that lets you put an event countdown timer front and center. Gotta keep that motivating event in front of you.


And I love it.

To kick start my running again, and maybe justify the purchase a little bit, I set myself the challenge to run every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas. This would reinforce the habit, create a bit of a fitness base for the marathon training on the horizon, and maybe stave off a few pounds during the holiday season. The only requirement was that I run at least a mile each day.

It started with a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving and ended with a three mile run around my parent's neighborhood Christmas morning. Thirty four days on the calendar, thirty four days of me running with questioning it, and I felt better than I had in a while. Marathon training started just a few days later. I had low expectations this time around since training would be entirely during tax season, but at least I was starting off on the right foot.

January went well, but sickness and snow took me out for a week and a half in February. Then in early March I threw out my back and missed another two weeks. In the time since I have had to ease my way back, pitting getting the training in against the possibility of making my back worse. The hours at work were ramping up as well, so that was another balancing act, and plantar fasciitis has been a pretty constant companion through it all.

I was very lucky to get this lottery slot into Big Sur, a marathon that has been near the top of my bucket list since I started running. A few breaks went the other way during training, but this marathon was always going to be a bit different. This one was about the experience - more about moments than minutes. I will be stopping to take pictures along the coast and doing my best to remain present, running the mile that I am in. My last marathon went rather sideways, but it made for an experience I have never had before. As I did on that day more than a year ago, I hope to embrace the day, whatever it brings.

Only a few more days to go.


March 23, 2019

Spring


This barrel was here when I moved in. In four years I have done nothing to it but watch it fall apart.

Yet every spring, the flowers appear. Planted by someone else, they return each year, reborn.

You never know all the beauty you leave in your wake, or who it may help when you've long forgotten the small seeds you dropped.

March 3, 2019

Relationship rewind

I have been meaning to get back here. Meaning to talk about a silly running challenge I set for myself over the holidays. Meaning to talk about what the new year looked like as it was approaching. Meaning to just write for crying out loud.

Then I met somebody.

Our first date was at the end of November and December was a whirlwind. Getting to know each other, learning each other's stories, reminding ourselves what it is like to have someone else in our lives Along with our other dates, we also went to several gatherings with friends and family throughout the Christmas season. It may have seemed odd to introduce someone to your friends and family within the first few weeks of dating, but it really didn't feel odd at all. I have never started out a relationship where we so immediately connected and freely shared our beauty and baggage. It was refreshing how open we were. Maybe it is a stage of life where you just put your cards on the table and say "this is who I am", and it felt great.

We kept joking that January would be so boring after such a busy December, but I felt no let down. Of course our schedules were back to the normal work hours with some late nights, but we managed to fit in seeing each other as a priority. We went on a wonderful Mount Rainier adventure together over the new year, and made several plans for the months ahead. Plane tickets were purchased, event fees were paid, etc.

I meant to come back here to write about this exciting turn of events. Maybe part of the reason I put it off was that I knew she read this blog, so it added a bit of pressure to what I would say. Too much, too little? As a side note, it is an interesting experience to date someone where they have access to twelve years of your life to read about online, as well as to a book you wrote that is also deeply personal. Like I said, cards on the table.

Another reason I didn't return to the blog is that I often turn to writing to sort through my feelings and I guess I just didn't feel like I needed it at that point. Mainly I think I didn't write because I was just busy being happy.

Unfortunately, she broke up with me last weekend. No real explanation, just that it was over.

To say that I was surprised would be an understatement. Again, I felt we really connected, and my friends and family loved her too. I hadn't seen any red flags, hardly any even in washed out shades of pink. But now I am rewinding through the past three months, reviewing things that I may have missed in the moment that now take on a different meaning. Was it this or that small moment where things took a turn. When we kissed goodnight after our Valentine's dinner a week earlier, did she know then that it would be our last? I won't write about any guesses here because they are just that, guesses.

It is strange now to look at the last post I wrote here, all about the damage it did to my recovery to not know why my marriage ended, and to now have this post backed up against it about another breakup where I feel clueless. Before she left last Saturday I asked her that even if she couldn't tell me right now the "why", I  hoped that she would sometime soon, and she agreed to try. The not-telling may feel like you are sparing someone's feelings, but at least for me it means spiraling thoughts of doubt and endless questions. If it is something that I am unable or unwilling to change, then that would be something, understandable. Beyond the not knowing, I guess it just pains me that she couldn't trust me to have a conversation about what was on her mind.

I went out on a ten mile run last weekend an hour or so after the breakup happened. I have to say that the run did me a lot of good in starting to sort things out. It gave me a chance to be alone and in motion, feel a little less helpless, swap a little emotional pain with the physical. In the intervening week, friends have been very supportive, sitting in the moment while I take my time working through this. I remain lucky.

I don't know what the future holds for either of us. Will our paths remain separate or intertwine again in some way in the future. What will be the thing(s) that I learn this time around. Is it a good or bad thing that a three month relationship means so much. Will I fall back on the bad habit of trying to protect my heart, or will I risk it by remaining open. When will there be fewer questions.


December 3, 2018

The pain of deferred maintenance

I was at the dentist three times last week.

Two of the appointments were to scrape away years of build up, and one was to replace a filling that was partially failing. As I sat in the chair, I let my mind wander. Because of conversations I had with someone recently, and for the mind's ability for free-association and metaphor, I thought about my marriage and the counseling we attended as it unraveled, while the technician dug in and occasionally touched a nerve.

We went to a marriage counselor for four months. The counselor was legitimately terrible, at one point saying "we are not here to save your marriage." Even so, there was some benefit into digging into the issues and neglect in our relationship. I have never been so raw and exposed as I was then. I can credit that time for changing who I am and how I approach relationships, romantic or otherwise. I can still be a somewhat private person, but I am leaps and bounds more open about my fears, feelings, failings and fractures.

I saved this some time ago. Sometimes you see a meme or quote that speaks to you and expresses something you've been feeling but couldn't quite distill. You see it and and think "yeah, that is it".



Then you read it the next day and think, "well it isn't that simple but this totally explains part of it."

Even after months of counseling and painful digging into the neglected parts of our hearts and feelings, I never got an answer as to why she felt our marriage was not salvageable. Because of this, and my propensity to self-analyze/blame, I tore into the wounds opened in counseling before they could scab over. I desperately wanted a 'why' and I could only examine myself at that point. On the one hand, the lack of an answer made me question everything about myself, and there was some growth as a result. On the other, it definitely delayed my recovery.

I was asked the other day if I missed that relationship. I didn't have a particularly satisfying answer.  As I have written before, I do not know if that was my one or best chance or not, but contrary to the meme I do not think, "I am not over her." I suppose I miss the promise that it held, and mourn the way I/we let it fail. That said, I recognize that relationship is long gone, we are both very different people now, and I do not think on its loss much anymore.

At one time I imagined that my ex and I would sit down over coffee or wine some day and speak freely about the 'why' once sufficient time had passed. I am actually seeing her in person for the first time in nine years in just a day or two. I do not know what to expect, except that this meeting is just perfunctory. There will be little time to do anything but awkwardly chat, and no revelations will be forthcoming.

With the time that has passed, I feel less and less that I need a 'why' in order to fully heal and close that chapter. I so desperately needed it back then, but I don't know that it would help me as much now.

But damned if I am not still curious.

Much like my dental care, my mental health care cannot be a once-a-decade check in. Massive healing can happen if you choose to sit in the chair with professionals after avoiding them for so long, but a lot less blood is shed with regular maintenance and upkeep.

As I look to the possibility of new relationships, I must maintain my desire to improve, and trust that healing is the result of all the work that was done.

And don't forget to floss.


November 19, 2018

IRL

Scrolling...

Scrolling...

Scrolling...

At home, at work, online when standing in line. Always checking to see the latest update whenever there is a slight pause in life. Memory and attention continues to fracture, and we keep clicking it away willingly, myself included. 

I first logged into Facebook sometime in 2008 so I guess we are celebrating our aluminum anniversary this year. Can of beer it is. What began as something recommended to help my real estate/mortgage lending connections has now grown to occupy more time than I thought I had at my disposal. 

When I moved to San Diego, I came to really appreciate the online connection with my Washington friends. I would get to see the things great and small that would have certainly been forgotten when we saw each other on my semi-annual visits. More often these days though, the feed is jammed with endless links and stories, and it takes a great deal of sifting through the dirt to find the occasional nugget of gold.

It is time to scale back on all that gets shoved into the feed, but every so often something will pop up that makes me hesitate to clear out all the non-friend things. Because I had "liked" the Big Sur Marathon, and because I check my feed so often, I found out about the last minute chance to get an entry to one of the few races on my bucket list. Still, I doubt these rare finds make up for all extra time scrolling.

When I was down in Utah for the St George Marathon two years ago, the other Sean mentioned he had quit Facebook and was now on Instagram. If I wanted to keep up him and his family (in the somewhat lazy online way), I need to sign up. I hesitated to add another site to scroll through, but he convinced me it was a better place to hang out online.

Instagram is all about the pictures. There are still some sponsored things that show up in your feed to pay the advertising bills, but there isn't an endless set of links that are shared back and forth. It is just pictures, and maybe a quote or thought to go along with it. It isn't totally disconnected with the issues of the day, but the things that appear in my feed are about saving the National Parks, cleaning up the trails, and what effect Instagram (and the endless pursuit of the perfect photo) is having on our wilder areas. These issues are more prevalent in my feed since I follow a lot of hikers. Your experience may vary.

One difference between Instagram and Facebook is that more strangers seem to come in contact with each other on Instagram. While a number of people I follow (or who follow me) are people I know, many more are people I found only online and have never met. Of course there are people I follow on Facebook that I will never meet, but they are most likely to be people in bands I like, speakers and authors I enjoy, etc. The strangers on Instagram are mostly just random people who had a picture that caught my eye, which led me to check out their other work and adventures.

Then I ran into one of the people I follow IRL (in real life).

Izzy and I were on a hike to Rattlesnake Ledge last weekend. It is a popular and busy hike, but it is my default these days since it is reasonably close, has some climbing but is not punishing, and there is a nice view at the end. We were not up early enough to beat the crowds, but at least early enough to get a parking space. I loaded up the backpack (forgetting water for either of us) and headed over to take a few pictures at the lake before starting.




The hike starts at the end of a gated access road that is about a quarter of a mile long. Just as we reached the end of the road and were turning onto the trail head, I ran into one of the hikers I follow on Instagram. She was with a group of four people and they were already finished with their hike (earlier risers). She had stopped to meet a little dog and I stopped as well, it taking a second or two to place how I knew her.  It felt like she understood the slightly confused/recognition look on my face, and we exchanged a smile and a small wave.

It was cool and sort of weird to run into someone you have only seen in pictures. She is not traditionally famous, but with the number of people who follow her she may get recognized semi-regularly. I am not positive I would have recognized her if we passed on the streets, but crossing paths on a trail provided eventual context. If we weren't headed in opposite directions it would have been nice to chat and tell her how much I like her photos, and appreciate that she does not tell anyone where they are taken. Several hikers do this in hopes of not having the places overrun.

The last three days have been filled with meeting up with friends in real life, and with the Thanksgiving week ahead there are more plans to gather, catch up and be present. I plan to dial back the online time, and keep the phone in the pocket more often (unless there is a photo to capture), but scrolling through the online life still brings a surprise now and then.






November 6, 2018

Time change

It is still dark when I open my eyes. I hear an eagle chittering in some neighboring tree, and the pup is walking around in the living room, dog tags lightly clinking together. It is the second day I have woken up before my alarm, and the second day I could not simply roll over and fall back asleep. The switch in and out of Daylight Saving Time does not usually affect me, but it looks like I am still adjusting.

I do not look at the clock. Growing up I would look at the time when I woke up mid-sleep, relishing it if I had even 30 minutes before my alarm. If it was only three in the morning, I was strangely psyched. More sleep! More sleep! These days, if it is within an hour or two of time to get up, my brain fires up and follows rabbits down holes, so I no longer check the time.

I drift in and out without really going all the way out. Soon I hear the ticking noise of the baseboard heat firing up, so I know it is close. The alarm finally goes off and the pup rushes in, so excited to start the day (read, get fed). When I swing my feet to the floor, my right ankle screams at me. I can barely stand, and the pup keeps circling, telling me to hurry. 

I had packed my running gear the night before so I could run at lunch the following day.  I have been slowly trying to get back out there, but this morning it feels like my ankle is telling me, "forget your plans, just keep being lazy." I stumble my way to the back door, let the dog out, and try to release whatever tension has built up in my muscles. 

After breakfast, still limping a bit, I take the dog for her morning walk. With the fall back of the clock, it is now fully light again when we hit the driveway. Our driveway is steep so I don't fault the dog for pulling on her leash this particular morning. The length of the morning walk ends up being determined by how many times she stops to sniff and mark. Today we weren't going to travel very far.

For some reason she especially loves to mark pine branches, and with the winds of the last few days the streets are filled with them. My place is small enough that I have not had room to put up a Christmas tree since moving here, and now I can add "dog peeing on tree" as a reason for it not to happen. We make our way through the neighborhood and pine boughs, not traveling fast, not getting very far. 

I make it to work later than usual. With the decreased work load, this is not much of an issue, but I am sort of leaning into it, adding a few minutes each day to my arrival time. I do manage to get out for a run, chalking up a bit over two miles but they continue to be painful. Ankle stiffness joined Plantar Fasciitis, but it was my lungs that bothered me the most. I don't know if it is all due to lack of fitness, or if some sickness is coming on, but either way it feels like something is gumming up the works. You are encouraged to listen to your body, but I think I need to ignore it for the first few weeks when all it keeps doing is telling me to stop. 

My workload that started out light is filled with little projects and small fires and soon it is time to go. When the day started I had one more issue to research before dropping off my ballot, but that is done and I am off to the library. Washington is all mail-in ballots these days, but I still like dropping it off in one of the ballot boxes. I guess it just feels more official that way. 

I park a couple blocks away knowing that there will likely be a line of cars waiting their turn. As I walked up to the library, there was also a line of people inside. It turns out there was an Accessible Polling Station there where people could fill out their ballot in person. The line of people snaked around the lobby, and it didn't seem to be moving. Stories from around the country are already telling of people waiting for hours in line to vote. I admire the determination of the people who waited, while wondering why more states don't use the mail-in and early voting system we have here. I am anxious for our country right now. It feels like we are on a precipice, and I am no longer confident that this is just swings of a pendulum, that we will step back from the void.

With the time change it is dark when I get home, and it is also raining. Two more excuses to add to the pain in my feet for not taking the dog on a walk tonight. But after we each have our dinner and I sit here for a bit to share my day, we rally, grab a light, and make our way out into the darkness. 


November 2, 2018

Flying solo

I'm in the habit of being alone
I try hard to break it I can't on my own
I'm glad no one's here just me by the sea
I'm glad no one's here to mess it up for me
I'm glad no one's here just me by the sea
But man, I wish I had a hand to hold
~ "Me by the Sea" by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
After packing up the car with all the various planned activities, rain gear, dog stuff and other random things that would fit, I made sure the iPod was fully charged so I could catch up on the backlog of podcasts waiting to be heard. With a four hour drive each way, and lots of planned roaming on the beach, I figured I could at least start to catch up. The list of podcasts seems to grow as quickly as the stack of unread books these days. C'mon Day, turn off that damn TV!

Just before heading out, I decided to grab a couple of CDs. In the era before Spotify playlists or even mp3s, I would create my own mix tapes, even as far back as when they were still tapes. I grabbed a couple of road trip CDs I made for a drive to Santa Barbara more than ten years ago. I purposely did not look at what songs were on them, wanting to have a little surprise as one song lead to the next.

I listened to podcasts until I hit the Astoria Bridge and then popped in the first CD. I crossed into Oregon listening to "Blister in the Sun" and "Who Needs Sleep" and some songs I hadn't heard in a long time. It was fun to hear the weird mashup of songs I decided sounded good together so long ago.

Once headed home, I popped the second CD into the player after hitting the quieter roads between Ocean Shores and Olympia. The horns and twangy bass of "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" was a peppy start to the soundtrack that would carry me through the the last rural bits before returning to civilization. Unfortunately, the CD started skipping by song five and stopped playing altogether after that. Back to the iPod.

But it was still time for music. Switchfoot's album "Where the Light Shines Through" was already queued up and that suited me just fine. They are a recent favorite and made me OK with missing out on the mystery songs on the CD.

When the fifth song, "If the House Burns Down Tonight" came on, we were rolling through an open bit of country south of Raymond. It is a great song about focusing on what is important, and was inspired by the singer and his family having to flee their home when wildfires were encroaching.
I see the smoke piling up in the rear view mirror
Yeah but I ain't ever seen it any clearer
If the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need when I got you by my side
And let the rest burn
As I turned to see my dog sitting in the seat beside me, the lyrics landed a little harder than normal. This is not who should be riding shotgun.

This was not my first trip alone. It was not even my first trip to the Oregon Coast alone. For many years now I have traveled alone, dined alone, gone to movies and concerts alone, and of course lived alone. I have another trip planned in April to travel to Big Sur to run a marathon, and again I will be flying solo. If I ever get a permit to hike The Wonderland Trail, I will probably be hiking alone.

On one hand, I am good about not waiting around for someone else before going out and doing the things I want to do. I get to choose the time, place and pace of the trip. No worrying about the other person being bored if I just want to hike around looking at viewpoints. I also have this strange fear of disappointing someone if a trip/meal/movie that I choose doesn't live up to expectation. When flying solo, if things go sideways, it is just me who has to be disappointed. Stupid, I know.

At this point, I am a little too good at being alone though. Inertia, fear and comfort zone are building up barriers, and they are only getting stronger with age. It has been a number of years since I have dated anyone. Habits ingrain, and it just becomes easier/safer not to challenge them.

I went out on a couple of dates earlier in the year, and I thought they went pretty well. It was nice to meet someone new, and the conversations flowed easily, making me feel a bit less socially awkward  than I always feel. Unfortunately, she stopped responding when I reached out, "ghosting" me as they say.

My first try at online dating was not great*, but it may be time to try again. With my lack of real dating experience, ease at being alone, and tendency to stay firmly planted in the comfort zone, I am not adept at putting myself out there, but that needs to change. My excuse lately has been that I haven't been feeling that great about myself, would like to lose some weight, generally get my shit together, etc. I reasoned that I might not be my best self, but I am just overthinking it at this point. Bad habit. Makes inaction easy.

Tonight I am headed out to see a band (flying solo). Tomorrow will be about finding some flattering pictures and coming up with a catchy profile.

Must love dogs, but don't let the pup call shotgun.


*Side note, I just checked prior posts and my try at online dating was over two years ago. Damn.


November 1, 2018

A quick revisit, and maybe some changes

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea."
   ~ Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)

My work comes in waves, as predictable as the seasons. Like many, it is deadline oriented, but with the knowledge that the deadlines (almost) never change from year to year. As such, November and December are when things go from frantic activity, to trying to fill your day with work. Naturally, this is when it is easiest to take time off.

Even knowing it was coming, I didn't plan a vacation. Then last week when I found out the two partners at work were taking much of November off, it became clear that it was now or wait and take two weeks in December.

Last November I just stayed at home, "staycation" mixed with chores ignored during the busy season. This year I figured I would take a couple of days at home, but I was a bit twitchy to get out of town for at least part of the week. In a few hours I cycled through some possibilities within driving distance: State park yurt or cabin...Orcas Island...Mount Rainier...Crescent Lake... All sounded tempting, but with weather and dog considerations, none quite fit.

This time instead of the mountains calling, it was the ocean.

I am not sure if it is the endless horizon, the timeless waves, the symbolic washing away of cares, but the ocean has always drawn me in. The Oregon Coast in particular holds a special place in my heart. I have been there as a kid with family, made trips with girlfriends, spent time there alone, and of course rode my bike down its length some ten years ago. I looked at the map, paged through memories, and settled in on Cannon Beach.

Cannon Beach offered the perfect blend of seclusion with a nearby crowd. There is a town filled with little shops, but you could spend all your time walking the beach and hiking in nearby parks. Though it was an impromptu, unscheduled trip, I was soon packing my car with lots of possibilities: Running gear, hiking gear, books to read, ukulele to play, and a shinny new laptop since I was out of excuses to write. Mostly though, I was looking for a little Vacation Bubble to step away, reset, take a look at things anew. 

I had a dog in tow this time so there would be lots of walking and less time looking in shops or going out for a nice meal. I did find a few dog-friendly patios, but the options would definitely been more plentiful with nicer weather (he says already making excuses to go back).

Sort of at the last minute I threw my own book in with the luggage. It had been a few years since I had read it, and I reasoned that since I would be driving the roads and hanging out in the backdrop of the story, it might be fun to revisit.

And I brought a pen.



I do not plan to re-write the story, but I did mark some things up this time through. If I wrote it today, it would be different, but I am still happy with it and proud to have put it out there. Still, there are a couple of typos I would like to fix, some repeated words too close to each other, and a part of one scene I would like to change.

Most history can't be rewritten, but with print-on-demand, my book can. There is no stack of books ready to be sold, so if I upload a new master file, any new copies sold would be missing those things I circled in my copy. I think with the Kindle versions, people who previously bought the book could actually get an updated copy for free (in case they ran out of other books and wanted to re-read it).

Of course I should be writing something new and not trying to rewrite what is in the past, especially since NaNoWriMo kicked off today, but I am going to take some baby steps to get back at writing.

The running gear was not used, the ukulele stayed in its case, but there was lots of beach combing, viewpoint scouting, coffee and beer sipping on patios, and a book and more read during the brief getaway.

Not planned, not perfect, but pretty nice.




















October 31, 2018

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today...



It was the day before Christmas last year and I was over at my friend's house. His daughter, also my great friend, had gotten engaged just days before, to someone who is also a great friend (so many interconnected friends). These three have all brought me in like family, and this was one of several times they have included me in holiday celebrations. 

We were toasting the newly engaged and listening to the proposal story. After a bit, the couple pulled me aside in the kitchen to talk. They said they had something to ask, but then hesitated a bit, looking at each other. The soon-to-be-bride had some tears welling up and told the groom-to-be to do the asking. I had been in weddings before so I thought maybe they were going to ask me to be one of the groomsmen. 

They surprised me by asking me to perform the ceremony.

I was stunned, confused, honored, touched, and even mildly freaking out, all in the span of a couple of seconds. They continued by saying that when they had previously talked about hypothetically getting married, that for at least a couple of years they had known they wanted me to perform the ceremony. At hearing this, I was beyond moved. After some hugs and excited chatter, I half joked that I would need to have a stiff drink before the ceremony to be able to speak in front of a crowd. Whenever I have had to do a speech or make a presentation, I have spoken too fast and stumbled over words in a rush to get off stage. But that was the problem for ten months-from-now-Sean. 

Over the next several months, I would jot down thoughts as they came to me - "Shower Thoughts" as one of the bridesmaids called them.  I would copy down good turns of phrase from videos or books, save pictures from Instagram that had thoughts about love and relationships, and bookmark web pages with good wedding poems. Themes appeared but it was nothing close to coherent writing, much less a wedding ceremony. 

A month or two before the wedding, Matt, Jenica and I went away for a weekend. We took the dogs and stayed in a family cabin on Vashon Island. There was good food, drink and conversation. We talked about the ceremony in general terms, but what I would say was pretty much up to me. They did not want to hear it ahead of time. They trusted me, which was awesome, but again a little scary being the only one who would shape it. 

We also took a trip to Bellingham a few weeks out to check out some vendors and so I could see the venue. Like previous road trips with these two it was a fun adventure, but like the cabin trip before, it was just so wonderful to be part of the process. I had been to a wedding back in April. It was a wonderful ceremony and a joy to be there to witness the excitement and possibility of this new beginning for a friend. Matt and Jenica's wedding was always going to be different though.

Of course both the bride and groom were very important to me, but I had forgotten how different the experience is when you are a member of the wedding party. You are sort of in the inner circle, getting to help with all the behind the scene details, witness the small moments, and maybe lend a voice or ear when needed. As honored as I was to be asked, the actual experience of being a part of it was that much better. 

Now the wedding was a week away and for all the note taking, I had yet to put pen to paper on the actual ceremony. Part of it was my normal procrastination habit, but I think an even greater part was the feeling that I can never quite adequately translate the thoughts in my head to the word on the page. There is always a disconnect. While the thoughts remain only in my head, they are perfect, so I hesitated to shatter that illusion. 

But you can't re-write a blank page.

I combed through the snippets and phrases. Certain ones worked, others felt important but I couldn't get them to fit. Once I got going though I re-discovered a bit of love for writing. The past year or so has been one of malaise and stagnation, but in this wedding and writing the ceremony I found excitement again. It was the first thing I had written in years that I cared so much about getting right. Not since finishing my book really, and at one point I realized that what I was writing for the wedding would probably be heard by more people than had read my book. 

I revised each day, cutting and pasting, winnowing and sharpening. Many versions were saved. A few days out, I was randomly scrolling through my Instagram saves and found a forgotten piece that helped tie together part of what I was trying to say. The day before and the day of there were multiple trips to coffee shops to write, and to Fed Ex/Kinkos to print out the latest version. Even an hour before the ceremony when I was sitting in my car rehearsing, things were being crossed out and moved. Given the chance I would endlessly keep re-writing, but it is never really done, you just run into a deadline. 

But what a beautiful deadline. 

Though I was still re-writing an hour before the ceremony, I was pretty happy with what I had written. It was heartfelt, at times personal but it also touched on love and connection in general. I felt reasonably comfortable up in front of everyone and did my best to speak slowly and be in the moment. Mostly I focused on the happy couple and pretended it was just them I was talking to. 

People were very kind after the ceremony, complementing me on what I had written and several were surprised this was my first time. I don't know if I will ever perform another ceremony, but you never know.

At any rate, with this being my first, and for my connection to the couple, this one would be a tough one to top.












April 22, 2018

Wedding Presents

I was recently at a wedding. The groom was the son of a friend of mine. Though the groom and I don't hang out independent of the rest of his family, I would consider him a friend as well. He is one of the people I go with on the annual four day backpacking trip, and we figured out that I have known him since he was three years old. His mom, then a single mom with multiple jobs and school on her schedule, would sometimes bring him to our work where he would sit and color until his grandparents came to pick him up. Many of the restaurant staff got to see this young boy grow into a wonderful man, and some were there to celebrate his step into a new life with his wife. Beautiful, wonderful.

A week ahead of the wedding (cause I like to procrastinate) I was shopping for the traditional wedding present online. So easy these days. The present could even be shipped directly to them so they wouldn't have to gather them all up after the wedding. One less moving part on the day of the ceremony.

They are in their mid-twenties, creating a brand new home so every dish and fork is a piece of that. Though I am sure everything is greatly appreciated and all one small piece of the whole, it is always odd to buy a single dish, place setting or towel. I opted for a divided sauté pan that I had not seen before, if only because I thought it was cool.

My own wedding was more than seventeen years ago. We have now been apart for about as much time as we were together, and it is hard to wrap my head around the amount of time that has passed. All these years later I am still eating off our dishes, brewing coffee in our coffee pot, and having pancakes stick on our Teflon weary pan. They were long ago left to me so they are no longer "our" things. There are plenty of talismans that remind me of our marriage, but the kitchen things are now just kitchen things. I had a hand in picking them out and I still quite like them.

I am sorry to say that I don't remember who was nice enough to give us each item on that September day, but know that your gifts are still being used and appreciated almost two decades later.

Before the recent wedding I had been thinking about wedding presents in a different way. You bring not only yourself to each new relationship, but also your friends, family and all the history you have created together. Jennifer and I had a few mutual friends when we began, and over the years many more became "our" friends. I would say that most of mine became ours, but for some reason there were a few that remained distinctly hers. I don't know why this was, but not everyone is going to like you.

When we split, friends could have been caught in the middle. I am sure many divorcing couples try to avoid this, but I feel that we made a special effort to try and prevent it from happening. Ultimately I don't know how successful we were, and I honestly don't know what the relationships with our friends and Jennifer have been like in the intervening years. However I have the sense that I was left with most of the friends, as I was with the household goods.

Something sort of odd but wonderful has happened in these post-marriage days. I have become good friends with a few of "her" friends. Some I know better now than I did then, and I am blessed that the failure in one relationship did not take out another. For a while I felt the oddity of this gift, but now I am only reminded of it when someone asks, "so how do you know each other?"

The event that started this rambling train of thoughts was an invitation from a friend who was coming to town. She began as a friend of Jenn, then she was ours, but then I hadn't seen her much recently. She now lives in another state so our connection is very Facebook dependent. Anyway, she was going to be in town and rather than trying to coordinate multiple meetings, she planned a gathering at a local brewery and invited a bunch of people. Tax season was not in its full abusive mode yet, and thankfully the brewery was near work, so I was able to join them for an hour and a half. It was wonderful seeing her, meeting her new(ish) husband, and catching up on things awesome and trivial.

There was another couple there that I had met a couple of times but didn't know all that well. When the guy said, "I think the last time I saw you was at your wedding," elephants were acknowledged, so initial connections could be recognized and forgotten. We settled in for a great evening and sort met for the first time, for the second time. It was one of those evenings where I just sat back and enjoyed the mystery and beauty of it all.

Since that evening, and while this post has been rattling around in my head when I was too busy/tired to put pen to paper, I found out that Jennifer re-married. She had reached out to me previously to let me know she was engaged, but I didn't know when the wedding was, and last weekend I noticed her last name had changed on Facebook. Though I knew it was coming, and we have been a long time apart, I was still hit with a deep sadness. A reminder of all that I lost when the thing that was Us came to an end.

It was great seeing Dalton getting married earlier this month - to see the love in the room and to bear witness the start of a new life. I don't know if this is strange or not, but I continue to say (and believe) that my wedding day was one of the best days of my life. So many friends and family brought together in a single place to celebrate hope, love and community. Even all these years later, after all that has changed, I am reminded of the gifts that it brought, and occasionally still get to open a present.


March 4, 2018

Turning another page

The last year or so has been a bit of a struggle mentally and physically. No big events that triggered it, and I don't think it has reached the point of depression, but I have just felt unmotivated, uninspired, unworthy. Very "un" I guess.

I have slipped into the feeling of wanting to have done something, rather than actually doing it.

There are things that have been part of my life that I know would help, but I just can't seem to muster the energy to do them. I suppose they fall into their own poor alphabet of the three 'R's, reading, writing and running. I have slipped into that terrible hole that many of us fall into that leads to never really accomplishing what we wish. I want to have run, rather than to actually run. I want to have written, but now feel that I have nothing to say. I know that reading will help spark the writing, but I can't push away the distractions well enough to fall into a story.

I was not a reader growing up, though both of my parents have always been avid readers. I managed to avoid both parental and scholastic encouragement toward reading, once producing a book report by only reading the book jacket. I came to reading in my mid-twenties when Lightning struck (pun intended). Up until the past couple of years, I would always have a book at my bedside and took one with me nearly everywhere I went. I would easily fall into the story, shutting out the chatter and noise of the coffee shop.

I still love to read in coffee shops. To be alone in a crowd, with a nice cup of coffee and hopefully a comfy chair. Now however, I find it so much more difficult to shut out the noise, both real and imagined. The background world of conversation around me is a part of it, but these days it is more the distraction of the world behind the small screen in my coat pocket.

The lack of actual reading did not stop me from aspiring to have read so many books though. There are a couple of piles of books around the house and my list of "To Be Read" books on Goodreads stands at one hundred and twenty. I started using the Goodreads website almost ten years ago mostly to keep track of what I had read. More than once I would return to a series that I had stepped away from, picking up where I thought I had left off, only realizing three chapters in that I had already read this one. The past few years though, Goodreads has been more of a website of neglect (kinda like this blog). Whenever I saw an interesting book, I would add it to the reading list, and there it would sit gathering virtual dust.

I have been in a book club for many years, so that rather forces me to read at least a few books during the year, but it felt like more of an assignment than something I enjoyed doing. I tried to turn things around last year with partial success. According to my Goodreads tally, I read twenty books last year, but to be fair a few of those were shorter books on hiking. Twenty may sound like a decent number, but I have friends that managed to fit closer to fifty into their plenty busy lives. My mom may have pushed closer to triple digits on number of books read last year.

It is not about numbers though. It is how I choose to spend my time, and how I choose to take care of myself both mentally and physically. There is far too much screen time these days. Much of the screen time is not only time basically wasted, I think it is also chipping away at my ability to concentrate bit by bit (or byte by byte).

So, while I am still struggling to get running and writing out of the future tense and into the present, reading is making its way back into my life. I have been better about shutting off the TV, setting aside the phone, and diving into another world page by page. I just finished my seventh book of the year, and have really enjoyed losing myself in a book again. There have been some great books and I will try and pass them along in another post.

2017 feels like it was a year written off, like a year that I couldn't be bothered to care, which is a terrible way to live. I don't know if there will be better results in 2018, but I am focusing on effort this year. I don't know that it makes much sense to try and improve your life by regularly escaping to another through books, but it somehow makes sense to me right now.


February 5, 2018

Chuck

I have always been blessed by my family. We not only love each other, we actually like spending time together. Growing up, all the cousins, aunts and uncles gathered each month to celebrate one of our birthdays. As the family moved into another generation, and the number of children and birthdays grew, we found less time to be able to gather. But as the visits became less frequent, and probably as I grew older to know better, they became more important.

And there was always the week together in the summer. For a couple of decades the annual trip was to Sun Lakes, and now it has been about as long in Crescent Bar along the Columbia River. Thirty or so of family and friends carving out a week to spend with each other. Because we wanted to.

As time passed, less time was spent skiing on the water and more time sitting on the shore just talking. Since we saw each other less often, that was just about perfect. 

Chuck was sort of my third brother growing up. Chuck was just a couple of months older than me, and my own brother was just a year younger. Our other siblings were a good five years older or more (a chasm at that age) so it was always us three hanging out together when the family gathered. I can remember playing pool in his basement, hoops in our backyard, or playing on our bitchin' Atari 2600. I suppose what I see now looking back is that he was guy that allowed my brother and I to get along for a brief period. 

Chuck also gave me my family nickname, "Na" when he couldn't pronounce Sean as a toddler. The name has stuck and my Dad or brothers will still occasionally call me Na fifty years later. When I was younger and my friends would hear this nickname, they would begin to tease as kids often do. I liked the name and when I told them so, the teasing stopped when they saw they couldn't get a rise out of me. I suppose Chuck's nickname taught me an early and valuable lesson.

Though he was just a couple of months older, Chuck seemed to always be more together in high school and a step or two ahead of me on life's schedule. He got married, had three boys and got a responsible job with adult things like health insurance and retirement benefits. His boys are now grown and it has been nice getting to know them as adults the past few years, and not just as Chuck's kids. 

Chuck found out he had lung cancer not long after our Crescent Bar trip last summer. The cancer had progressed quite far, and though he fought it with all he had, Chuck passed away yesterday. He leaves behind his three boys now men, but all too young to have to say goodbye to their father. He leaves behind his four siblings, their closeness I have always admired and have tried my best to emulate, and their spouses who are just so much Chuck's brothers and sisters as well. And he leaves behind his extended family and other friends who will feel this loss and hole in their heart and lives in a hundred different ways great and small.

I know there will be more specific memories popping up in the days and years to come that will remind me of Chuck and what his loss means, but this morning it is just tears on the keyboard. 

Na




November 23, 2017

Brotherhood 2.0

Though I don't have cable, my tv is still on for a number of hours in the evening. Through the magic (science) of apps and the little Roku box, I get to watch a lot of internet content on the big screen. There is of course Netflix and Hulu for movies and shows, but I now spend as much or more time watching YouTube videos. Some of the YouTube content is actually tv (nightly check-ins with Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers) so this is all starting to loop in on itself and the distinctions are sort of meaningless.

Much of the YouTube stuff is from individual creators though. Some people take me along while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (Homemade Wanderlust, Whimsical Woman), while others are random people who had an idea that found an audience for a goofy show (My Drunk Kitchen, for example). That is the brilliance of an open internet and net neutrality. People can get their quirky, funny, brilliant, creative ideas out there without going through network executives or slipping Comcast some money so that people are allowed to find you. Call your congressman/woman.

The one YouTube channel that I enjoy the most is The Vlogbrothers. The channel was originally inspired by two brothers (John and Hank) wanting to get to know each other better. Yes, they grew up in the same household, but there was enough of an age gap that they didn't really grow up "together". They also now lived in different parts of the country, so they didn't see each other all that much.

The channel was created with the challenge to send each other a short video on alternate days on whatever topic crossed their mind. Each video opened with "Good morning Hank/John" and ended with "I'll see you on Tuesday, etc." Through daily contact, they wanted to create a better relationship while stretching their creative legs. The channel was originally titled "Brotherhood 2.0".

The channel is now ten years old. They are down to two videos a week, but they have kept building on this relationship while entertaining us along the way. Their videos are at turns funny, educational, deeply personal and nearly always worth the entire time spent watching them. I have spent many an evening falling down the rabbit hole of the internet as one video led to another.

I have two brothers of my own, one just a year younger and the other nine years my senior. I obviously grew up side by side with my younger brother, but I think he would agree that we did not like each other that much, or probably more accurately, we did not at all understand each other. Once grown and out of the house, we discovered /created a new relationship as adults. We have at times actually chosen to live with each other, and we've found some common ground that escaped us as children.

My older brother and I grew up in different eras under the same roof. Nine years is a chasm at those early ages, and he was more an occasional reluctant baby-sitter than a compatriot. However, that age gap enabled an ability to teach and he definitely sparked an interest in working with my hands, particularly in fixing cars while flipping through a Chilton Auto Repair Manual with greasy thumbs.

Time passes and relationships change. My younger brother has lived at times on the other side of the country or on the other side of the world, and my older brother has been off in marriage and raising two daughters. I am blessed with a family that enjoys time together, but occasional holiday dinners are often not enough to sustain or build strong connections.

At fifty, I seem to be pre-senile so I don't recall whose idea it was, but someone started the habit of the brothers meeting for dinner and drinks every month or so. It has been going on for about a year now, and it has been a great thing. We discuss things great and small, but most importantly just spend time together. It has been wonderful getting to know each of them better, in particular my older brother. He is no longer married, and he is a much happier human being. and I feel like I am just getting to really know him. The nine year gap so massive in youth is barely noticeable now.

We are experiencing our own Brotherhood 2.0, and this is one of the things I am very thankful for this year.

Happy Thanksgiving.



November 7, 2017

Lessons from dog

After finding her online and in Texas, I first met Izzy in person on May 10th. Baggage claim is not the most warm and welcoming place to meet, but such are the things with internet relationships becoming real. As such, it was and understandably awkward first meeting. It had to be very confusing for her to be shipped to find her new home and person, locked up in a crate in the cargo hold. We wandered around the parking lot to stretch her legs and see if she needed to take care of any business. She was tentative and nervous.

She was much more relaxed in the car.



I took the next few days off to help her get settled in and us acquainted. She seemed to be a pretty happy pup, but we did not bond right away. The ladies at the rescue organization warned that she may be more hesitant with men in general. She had been around only women for the last few months, and of course they had no real idea of her history. She may have been abused in the past. I tried to just let her take her time and figure out that I was her person now.

There were adjustments and hiccups in the first few weeks. Wanting to go back inside as soon as we stepped out back. Howling and crying if I left for more than a minute or two. Accidents in the house and at the office, some not seeming so accidental. Over time she has settled in, but she still has separation anxiety. She seems just fine if I leave her in her crate, but if she is loose in the house, she freaks out as soon as I leave.

Fortunately, my office has been very welcoming of Izzy, so she goes to work with me most days. It is now to the point that if I show up without her, they are disappointed. We are both very lucky, and she is rather spoiled in this right. She gets lots of attention and plenty of outdoor time with walks throughout the day. I have tried to give her the best life I can, spending time, taking her places, introducing her to lots of people and dogs.

If I had written this a few months ago while we were still in the honeymoon period, it would have been a thousand cute pictures and stories about how happy I was to have a dog back in my life. Now reality has set in. At risk of tarnishing my reputation as a dog lover and a patient man, this dog drives me freaking crazy.

She is incredibly needy. She is much like a toddler with a short attention span, constantly poking me and demanding attention - but only on her terms. When I am working, she will put her chin on my lap or hop up to put her paws on my leg. When I pet her, she will look off into the distance, barely interested that I am there, but if I stop, she nudges me to continue. If however I offer her to hop up to get attention when I actually have a pause in work, she can't be bothered. Maybe she is actually a cat in dog's clothing.

For all the time we spend together and the worrying over when I am away, I still don't feel much like we have bonded. It feels more like I am the caretaker in a co-dependent relationship than anything else. The running not-so-joke is that someday I hope that someday Izzy loves me half as much as my friend's dog Macy does.

A book was recommended to me called "When Pigs Fly! Training Success With Impossible Dogs" and wouldn't you know that her main breed (Bull Terrier) is the dog on the cover. One of the things it talks about is that these breeds are less interested in checking in with their human for instruction, reassurance or connection. I suppose in my ignorance, I believed that dogs inherently want this connection.The fact that Izzy may never connect with me like other dogs have is one of many lessons I have resisted/started to accept over the past few months.

Others include:
  • I am not nearly as patient as I thought I was. I have always felt empathetic and able to put frustrations in perspective. Izzy gets to me like only a faulty machine could before, and I find myself snapping out of proportion.
  • Out on walks, I leave the headphones at home more often these days, and I feel more present.
  • We try and find new places for walks whenever possible, and it has led to discovering many new and forgotten parks. We live in a beautiful state, and I am so glad that we have set aside these bits of wilderness among the concrete.
  • Izzy is the ultimate ice breaker. People will let other people walk by with hardly a glance, but when I am out with Izzy, blinders come off and smiles come more easily.
  • Though I do not often make plans at the last minute, I have found that I really appreciate having this flexibility, and having a dog mostly takes this away.
  • I really value my alone time. I did not think that a dog would really encroach on that, but it turns out she does. Apparently I don't do well in clingy relationships. 
  • Izzy can go from pain in the ass to adorable in a blink of an eye. The reverse is also true.
  • Izzy may make it easier to meet someone new, at the same time making it more difficult to bring them into my life.
  • Sunrises are a nice reward for getting up early to walk the dog.
  • Overall, Izzy is a good dog. Daily frustrations can add up, but they do not equal the whole. There will always be good days and bad days. I am re-learning perspective.
As I fight against getting crusty and impatient, there a definitely places where I have softened. The couch rules were immediately relaxed with this new pup (but the bed remains a human(s)-only space).






October 27, 2017

Another heartbeat in the house

There is a dog in my life once again. She came with the name Isabella, but you can call her Izzy.

I have been without a dog of my own since Sierra passed away four years ago. I waited two years to try again, but the dog I found (Annie) was a definite mismatch and the adoption turned into a foster until we found a home where she could be happy. I waited another two years before trying again, mostly to figure out if there was anything I could do better. Sort of a pattern in my failed relationships.

I waited until after the April work/tax deadline before really looking, but wasn't officially considering it until I knew I wasn't getting a permit to hike the Wonderland Trail this year. Being gone for almost two weeks would not be good for the new pup. Izzy is also why I stopped considering a walk up permit to hike this year. Life isn't quite as flexible these days.

I started surfing Petfinder.com regularly. This website lists available pets in local, and not so local shelters. I had found previously that when you search in the Seattle area, the website mixes in lots of pups from all over the country, and you don't see that they are in Massachusetts until you read the fine print. After some time, I found that on the website you could go to direct links to the local shelters to see which dogs were actually in the area.

I was a bit better at reading the descriptions this time around. With Annie, I found that "Needs to be the only dog in the house" really meant "I will lunge and try to attack any dog I see." I wanted my next dog to be able to not only go many places with me, but to also play well with the other dogs in my life (hi Macy!). I wanted a dog I could hike and camp with, hang out at dog-friendly breweries, take on road trips - basically share in as much of my life as possible.

So I surfed the local shelters and didn't find any dogs that seemed like a good match. After coming up empty for a couple of weeks, I went back to the general search and there were lots of dogs in Texas waiting to be adopted. I had a friend adopt a dog from Texas a year or so ago,and I swore I would never adopt a dog I didn't have a chance to meet and interact with.

I was wrong.

I found Izzy's profile and she sounded pretty great.

One of Izzy's profile pictures
Meet your new adventure buddy! Isabella is a super sweet 2 year old girl looking for a loving forever family! She is a gentle, loving spirit and absolutely loves people. She deserves an amazing home where she will be treated like a princess! She is very social and loves meeting new people and gets along great with other dogs. Her ideal playmate would be of a larger size dog. She lives in a foster home with a 10 year old child and she is gentle with him. She would be great to take to the dog park or to go on long walks, hikes, or jogs! She rides well in the car and enjoys puppuccinos at Starbucks as well as belly rubs!  (video too)
I contacted the rescue organization and they were very helpful and forthcoming. Izzy had been dropped off at a Houston area pound right after having a litter of puppies. The previous owners kept the puppies, dumped the mom. There is an over-population of dogs in Texas and it sounds like there are many irresponsible owners. As such, I was told Texas pounds only keep dogs for seven days before euthanizing them. The rescue organization (K9Kare) rescued Izzy on day seven and took her to their ranch. The spayed her and got her otherwise healthy before offering her for adoption.

Along with the emails and phone calls, they were nice enough to send some videos so I could see Izzy interacting with other dogs. This one seem to show that she "played well with others", and of course made her look pretty cute in the process.


They also sent me some references for other people in Washington who had adopted through this organization. Apparently K9Kare tries to get as many pups out of Texas as possible due to the over-population/owner problem down there. All the people I spoke to had only good things to say about their experience.

After a few more phone calls, emails and paperwork exchanges, we had a flight reservation to fly her up. I figured that they would send Izzy to a local shelter that they partnered with, but actually I would be meeting her for the first time in baggage claim.

How that meeting went and our first five months together in the next post.