November 27, 2014

Sisters and Brothers From a Different Mother

I recently received a congratulations email from LinkedIn. It was marking the two-year anniversary of when I started working for the CPA firm. I had in the back of my mind that I moved back up here in November, but really hadn’t connected the dots that it has already been two years.

When I decided to leave California, the main factor was to be close to my family again. As the decision came in late summer/early fall, the target became to be back by Thanksgiving. I see Thanksgiving as that perfect family holiday. There are no cursory traditions that seem like requirements. No presents to buy, cards to exchange, services to attend – it is just a day to spend with family and give thanks for all the wonderful (and even not so wonderful) things and people in your life.

It was difficult to say goodbye to everyone in San Diego. People I knew before moving down became deeper friends, and friends became family. What would it be like now that we couldn’t just meet for a drink or share an impromptu dinner? Well, it would be like what happened when I moved away from my set of Washington friends, and I knew how hard that had become.

For all the knocks against Facebook and other social media, it does give you a tether into the lives of those that you care about. Even if they are just a few towns over, lives can get so busy that it is difficult to coordinate a meeting in person. For those that are too far away for a quick visit, it can feel like a lifeline.

But of course, it can be and feel superficial. Lost are the deeper discussions about the sort of things that don’t make the highlight reel. One friend over Facebook suggested making every tenth posting about something you’re less likely to share. A problem that crept up, a struggle that has been nagging, or just a feeling of sadness that you can’t trace to its source. Most find it difficult to reach out in this way in person, so doing it online is that much more of a barrier.

Now that I am back, in some ways it feels like I was never gone. I don’t know how common it is, but I feel very fortunate to have friends that I can sort of pick up where I left off. Many I have known for the better part of twenty years, and most can be traced back to one of two restaurants – McDonald’s or The Keg. I assign this closeness and longevity to working together in that sort of job. My mom recently commented how fortunate it is that I had these kinds of friends. She thought it was because of the type of person I am, but she may be a bit biased.

Of course I was gone, and I feel like I was a bit different when I returned, but my friends welcomed me back with few questions asked. It is a true blessing. It may be presumptuous, but I feel like my California friends would be the same way. They are those sorts of cherished people as well, friends that are family.

I met up with some friends over the weekend. On Friday it was with some in the twenty-year class that I don’t get to see nearly enough. There was so much to catch up on, but much of the feeling was communicated in the long hugs of greeting. On Saturday and Sunday, it was with people I have known for only a couple of years, but we already consider ourselves a biking “family”.

My actual family (you know, those that I am related to) is amazing. Growing up, we saw our extended family almost every month, to gather for a birthday or some other occasion. As time passed and the kids were having their own kids, we reached some sort of critical mass, and the monthly gatherings fell to a few times during the year. We still gather for a week in eastern Washington, though we missed out for the first time in decades this summer when the river ran dry.

A couple weeks ago, we came together to celebrate an 80th birthday, and it was a room filled love and conversation. Sure there is a little familial obligation anchored by holidays, but there was no question that we all were excited to see each other after too long a drought. We not only love each other, but we really like each other as well.

I have tried to see friends this week to extend the Thanksgiving holiday. I miss seeing everyone face-to-face for those deeper moments and connections. I need to find a way to get down to San Diego for a visit. To grab that drink, to walk the beach, or run that race. To connect like family.

Family that are friends, and friends that are like family. For this I am truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

November 11, 2014

Subtraction and addition

Sort of last minute, I had the whole week off. One benefit of working all the crazy hours of tax season (which seems to stretch out to nine months) is getting to bank a little comp time for when it slows down. I have a few weeks saved up, and to work around other people's vacations, I was told to take last week off.

Since I was short on planning time (and disposable vacation money), I didn't go anywhere. It became a week to take care of projects that have fallen by the wayside. Cleaning the apartment, reading the stack of articles set aside, finishing reading a book, etc. I did get to see my brother and niece in a play, ran a 5k with friends, watched a couple of football games with different friends, and hosted some biking/brewing buddies for a brew day. Writing it all out it seems busier and less solitary than it felt. Brain probably isn't focusing on what it should.

The major project though was whittling down the stuff in storage to see if I could downsize. When we sold the house, I threw much of my stuff in storage, temporarily I thought. Then a couple months later, I moved to San Diego for a few years. So everything just sat. After I moved back and into my own place again, the big pieces came back out. It was an interesting and almost fun experience rediscovering parts of what I had left behind. My memory never being terribly good, it was easy to be surprised by things I had forgotten.

Then life/work got busy, and to be honest, I got lazy. The remainder of what was in that rented garage was left to sit. Part of it was that with each pass through, the decision of what is still important becomes more difficult. I am a pack rat by nurture and nature, so there was a lot to go through. Even though I was in and out of there every month or so to grab gear or tools, I really didn't know what was all there hidden away in those boxes. Now with a week with nothing on the schedule, it was time.

Frankly there weren't many painful surprises of love lost hidden away. It was more an exercise of deciding when and what to call quits on. Sports I will likely not participate in like skiing and softball, tools inherited from my former father-in-law that I have not used, the extra chair or sleeping bag, the motorcycle unridden, the files from my failed venture into real estate and lending, school books, bank statements and on and on.

By the end of the week, I had take a truckload each to Goodwill and to the dump, and a couple of large boxes to the shredder. The weather cleared up on Friday, and I moved what remained into a unit half the size, which saves me $100 a month. There are still things in there that need to go (like the motorcycle) but what remains is a more focused, organized set of still current passions - camping, hiking, building.

A couple of other pursuits have slipped from "passion" to "should be doing", but I am having difficulty getting my mojo back. I ran the 5k the first Sunday, and have some more on the calendar, but I need to get running back to an every-other-day habit. The other "should be" of course is writing. It is no secret the posting has been pretty damn sporadic here, and this month I am getting daily email reminders of what I am not doing. It is NaNoWriMo time once again. I have thrown my hat in the ring the last four years to spend the month writing dangerously. That first magical year, I wrote what would become Share the Road. Getting to 50,000 words in a month, all the subsequent work and then getting it in print was an amazing feeling.

Each year since has been a series of misfires. I was excited to take it on that second year, but stalled out at 30,000 words. Subsequent years were less inspired, and I mostly made the effort at the egging on from my friend Sean. He didn't throw down the challenge this year, and I am mostly glad. The magic just isn't there right now. I am still getting those daily email reminders from the NaNoWriMo website and community, however. They are messages filled with enthusiasm about creativity, and just plunging and seeing what happens. I am not ready to join in right now, but I will let them keep poking at me to prod me back up off the couch.

I am not ready to cart this off to the land of recycled passions just yet. It made the cut, and I will open up that box more than just once every few months.

It was a cleansing week and I am feeling a bit leaner. For all the subtraction this week, there was one notable addition. I have my CPA license back. After fitting in 120 hours of classes and taking ethics twice (I am now extra ethical), it became official last week. I stepped away fifteen years ago, and I guess it was one more thing that sat in storage all this time.

I am glad I didn't throw that away.