January 18, 2022

Silly challenges and a resolution

 Sometimes you just have to trick yourself into things.

When I was stuck at home during hibernation week, I went for a lot of walks. Of course it was great to get out of the house, and the pup really loved the snow, but I wouldn't have walked quite so much if I hadn't signed up for a silly challenge on Strava. The challenge was to walk 50k for the month. I had largely forgotten about the challenge/goal until I was bored at home. I certainly would have gone on several walks anyway, but wouldn't have been motivated to go as often or as far. I ended up walking about 34 miles in December, more than half of it in the snow between Christmas and New Year's Eve with traction devices on my hiking boots.

Another challenge I engage in is to try and read a certain number of books each year. I have been using the Goodreads website to track my reading since 2008. I started using it mostly to keep track of books I had read. More than once I would return to a book 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 book. Now an even greater value of the website is adding to the "To be Read" list whenever I hear about an interesting read.

However the To be Read pile is growing faster than the Read list. I already have piles of physical books stacked around the house, and a massive virtual pile online, but there are so many books that catch my eye I can't resist adding another to the list. When I am looking for my next read, and none of the books in the house are hitting the spot, I pull up the online list. However, many of the books have been on there so long I have no idea where I heard about them, or what grabbed my attention in the first place. I end up reading synopsis after synopsis to jog my memory.

The last few years I have tried to read 30 books a year. I came close in 2018, but haven't ever been quite able to reach the magic (arbitrary) number. 


In 2021 I read 21 books. Nice numeric repetition there, but in a year when I had so much time on my hands, and so much desire to get out of my own head, I wish I had read more. 

So much of it is habit. I won't deny it is harder to read these days. I am, like so many others, easily distracted by my phone, the TV, and other shiny things to scroll through. I used to be able to fall into a book so much more easily. Didn't matter if I was in a crowded coffee shop filed with people and chatter - I could shut it all out. Not so much these days. There is this constant background hum tapping on my attention's shoulder. 

Along with the urge to get the miles in during the last week of December, I was also trying to read a bunch. I wanted to try and re-forge the habit before work would once again get crazy in January, and hibernation week did make it a bit easier. I have been reading books on my Kindle lately and I saw this thing pop up on my phone.



May as well keep the streak going. I am going to try and read every day in 2022. It may not be many pages on some days (hello tax season) but I want to commit to reading this year. I know it will be good for me, moments of quiet in a noisy world. 

I have some other pseudo resolutions in mind for the year, one of which is to keep writing here and hopefully elsewhere, but we'll start with reading. If you have any recommendations for books that you loved, let me know and I will add them to the digital pile. I will try and get a few off the To be Read list to make room. 

January 8, 2022

Moments of light in a rather dark, two-year-long year

 2021 felt like a terrible sequel to an already bad movie. 

Inspired by a post a friend put up at the end of 2020, I tried to come up with a list of good things that happened during the year. It was a nice exercise to find the good in a year when everything was turned upside down for everyone, the whole world really. While I didn't expect that things would be back to "normal" in 2021, I guess I figured it would at least be a little better. 

Yeah, no. Every dumpster fire can burn a little brighter.

I do my best to focus on the positive, but man it is tough sometimes, in some years. Beyond the *gestures broadly* of all we have been going through the past two years, there were more personal struggles and losses this year. Life will never be the same in a lot of ways.

Pain should not be compared, but my year was a blip compared to others. I worry about a friend struggling through long-Covid, while so, many, people bitch about the smallest inconvenience. Essential workers, once praised, are now just stretched thin, mostly forgotten. Homes lost to fires and floods amplified by climate change. Science and reality denied. Democracy seems more fragile than ever before. The ability to find common ground and any light at the end of the tunnel seems so far off. I don't want to bright-side any of it.

But I also don't want to focus on the darkness. None of the things below are about finding silver linings in adapting to the new normal. Just small moments that I would like to remember. 

In February I tuned in to "watch" the rover land on Mars. I was certainly interested in it, but didn't feel all that invested. However, when it touched down safely, I wept at my desk. February was really hard watching Mom go downhill so fast, and somehow all the things going just right, millions of miles away, to make the Perseverance land safely, broke me in the best way.

There were a couple of times that music grabbed my heart when I wasn't expecting it. I was watching a virtual concert put on by Brandi Carlile and the twins. It was a casual thing, the three of them set up in her house. She played through the album "The Story" and the last/hidden track (remember hidden tracks?) is "Hiding My Heart". I had listened to the album and song many times, but listening to it 'live' made me hear it for the first time. It cracked me open for some reason that night.

The other time was with the song "Ablaze" by Alanis Morrisette. It is a song about a mother and her kids, and I had always listened to it as an imagined parent. I mentioned to it my friend when she was pregnant and hoped it resonated with her. Then it happened to come on the day before Mom's memorial while I was walking Izzy on a work break. It was the first time I listened to the song as a child rather than as an imagined parent. A song I already loved hit me in a new way. I was weeping again, needing to take Izzy on a longer walk than planned. 

To my boy, my precious, gentle warrior
To your sweetness and your strength in exploring
May this bond stay with you through all your days
My mission is to keep the light in your eyes ablaze

And of course, a big bright spot of the year was seeing those great friends have their first baby. We shared in their excitement as the day approached, and it has been wonderful to see their new family form and grow. Love and hope. And the cutest kid by the way. 

There were other good moments like my trip to San Diego. Seeing friends after years apart. So much to catch up on, but picking up like no time had passed. The walks by myself in the sunshine and remembered beauty. Seeing different people finding the same favorite spot on consecutive days to let the waves wash them clean.

 Vaccines, boosters, the North Bend Beer Runners, family at Crescent Bar, golf with friends, music on Twitch, walking in the snow, and a friend's engagement on New Year's Eve. So many good things. Lights holding back the darkness.

May there be moments large and small that make 2022 a little bit brighter for all of us.





January 2, 2022

Hibernation week

The week between Christmas and New Year's Eve always feels like some sort of limbo. School is out, many people take the week off of work, and there is sort of a emotional hangover from Christmas, that often leads into the more typical hangover of the New Year. This year was no different, while being quite different. 

Unlike 2020, there were some cautious gatherings in 2021. At the annual Keg Christmas party, I wore a mask the whole evening. At the Christmas Eve gathering with friends, everyone had to show a negative Covid test to get in the door, particularly since there would be young children there unable to get a vaccine shot. At the family Christmas gathering, all were vaccinated and many took Covid tests prior to arriving. 

Covid still found a way. A family member started feeling poorly and tested positive Monday morning (Christmas was on Saturday). He was vaccinated and boosted, and fortunately it appears to be a mild case for him. 

The Seattle area received a bunch of snow on the day after Christmas. This is not all that unusual, but what was unusual was how cold it was going to be all week. The snow would be sticking around for a while, and the roads were very icy. I was already debating going into the office on Monday because of the roads, but the possible Covid exposure sealed the deal. Staying home.

I isolated for the week. I had used the last of my home Covid test kits on Christmas, and the stores were sold out of them. All the local test sites were overrun by people in my situation, and the snow made things worse since several of the sites could not open. I was able to get an appointment on Thursday thanks to a friend constantly refreshing a website and snagging someone else's cancelled appointment for me. I fortunately tested negative. 

I had planned a week off for vacation earlier in the month, but a workmate had emergency surgery so I stayed in town to help out at the office. With the snow/Covid situation keeping me at home, I had a bit of a staycation instead. 

I walked around the neighborhood a bunch. Though Izzy acts like she will melt if rain touches her, she absolutely loves the snow. Though we had walked them a hundred times before, each street looked a little different in the snow. Kids, and kids at heart, took over the streets and parks to sled, and there seemed to be a little surprise around every corner. 

I shut off my alarm clock for a week. I read, finishing one book I liked and another that was just OK. I did a bit of writing, played a video game I hadn't played in a decade, and ate way too much brie and other appetizers left over from Christmas. Probably no coincidence that I gained five pounds in December. New Year's Eve was spent alone at home with wine and pizza, but with friends sending videos back and forth throughout the evening. 

It wasn't the vacation I had planned, but being forced to slow down for a week at home had its bright spots.  










January 1, 2022

Updating Share the Road

I wrote a novel, and (self) published it ten years ago today. 

Three years ago I re-read it while on vacation, and decided to do it with a pen in hand. I circled a few typos, noted some words that were repeated a little too close to each other, and crossed out/added some commas.  And then set that marked up copy aside. 

Since it was ticking over to a nice round number of ten years this New Year's Day, I decided to fix those things.  That is one of the bonuses of self-publishing and print on demand. You can go back and tweak things, upload a new manuscript, and any new purchase will get the updated version.

The most difficult part was that I wasn't sure I still had the original "final" version saved anywhere. I had a ton of copies of the Word files that I had saved after every day of original writing, and a number of versions after the rewrites and revisions. What I didn't have was a Word file that said, "This is the final, final version you published." I had also had an unfortunate incident where I managed to overwrite both my computer and a backup drive in one day. I am still missing a big chunk of 2012 - 2015. Years of photos, and possibly a book, gone into the ether. There was definitely some swearing that day.  

Anyway, through downloading a pdf from Amazon and converting it to Word, and doing an automated comparison, I managed to find a formatted Word doc that was very close to the final version. 

I fixed those typos and minor word issues while resisting the urge to rewrite the whole thing. I would guess that it is pretty typical of anyone who writes, you are never completely satisfied with what you have written, so I could get in a cycle of rewriting it every time I read it. Best to leave it as it was, how I was, when it was written. 

That said, along with making some changes in comma and word choice, I can remember one deleted sentence, another re-written one, and a paragraph I changed during the update that had always bothered me. The changes are small enough that they may not be noticed by someone else, but enough for me to "fix" since I was making an update anyway. 

So, consider this my once a decade promotion to buy my book. You can find the paperback here as well as the Kindle version here.