It’s been 159 days since my family started quarantine.

The litany of events we have experienced in that short amount of time, both domestic and world-wide, resembles a ludicrously bad disaster movie plot.

A late-nite, after the bars have closed, watch it in the dark while eating cold cereal out of the box kind of movie. That you have a hard time remember all the plot points the next day because – was I drunk?!?

Was there really a firenado *and* an in-land hurricane? Thousands and thousands of people marching in the streets during a pandemic? Paramilitary guys with American flags stapled to sticks that they then used as weapons against counter-protesters?

Hang on, did they also close post offices and take away mail boxes to keep people from voting? That can’t be a thing. Can it?

And empty store shelves, the hoarding of toilet paper, pandemic-deniers refusing to mask, and businesses closing and the economy collapsing … totally unrealistic.

Who green-lighted this mess?  Wait, it was that Snakes on a Plane guy wasn’t it?

Coping with stress (#CovidCoping) has become a sub-genre of advertising, marketing, blogging and every other medium. There are whole categories of hashtags devoted to #CovidBaking, #CovidCrafting, #CovidPuzzles, coloring, yoga, cooking, work from home (which is now WFH), and managing children.

And of course wine, wine, and more craft cocktails/fancy beer than is probably healthy.

We are not big TV watching people over here at Bougie Central (didnt even own a TV for 20 years or so), but movies are a bit of an obsession. More so now during quarantine.

In between the expected foreign movies and obscure B&W content on the Criterion Channel, lives a movie genre that truly sustains me, rejuvenates me and gives me hope.

The dance movie.

The Washington Post had an article about dance movies with an apologetic title of “Best Bad Dance Movies”. No such thing in my book.

I will watch any and all dance movies from old classics like White Christmas and  Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to the “Honey” series (4 total) and the Step up franchise (6 movies!)

Watching dance movies is all about pleasure. No guilt. No apologies.

I know I am forever “that white girl” as much as want to be a Fly Girl, and I don’t care. I’m a lousy dancer and a lousy singer and it doesn’t interfere with my fun one bit.

“Dance like no ones looking” implies there is something to be ashamed of. Nope.

Dance because you can.

Dance because everyday above ground is a good day.

Or at least watch a dance movie.

*******

PS:  I have been neglecting writing for pleasure, this blog & my ever-under-construction book, even before coronavirus in some misguided attempt to “focus seriously on work”. The reality is all the ways we express ourselves contribute to “our work”.

So.

I am going to dance more, sing more, and write more. No guilt.

female hip hop dancer in front of speakers

Way back in 1992 it was considered deviant to have a tattoo.

People with tattoos fell into categories like punk, artist, biker and the formerly incarcerated. This meant that I wore a watch over my wrist tattoo until roughly 2015 when it had became de rigueur for women to celebrate their 50th birthday by getting a lower back tattoo.

In a world filled with sleeve tattoos my tiny wrist bracelet doesn’t even register.

With our current 24/7 social media access it now seems nearly impossible for anyone to separate the “personal” from the “professional”, let alone hide a tattoo that probably hits Insta while its still raw.

We caution students from the moment they own a phone that everything online is permanent. So savvy students and adults alike learn to block photo tags, or try to scrub all evidence of red solo cups, vape pens or too much skin from their various accounts. But as we see in the news every day a screen shot by a friend (or enemy), a comment on a post, a snarky retweet – nothing ever gets completely deleted.

This is one reason I’ve never made any attempt to hide my blog. My rants and ramblings range wide and far: from my work with clients, to my family relationships, to politics, my childhood and all sorts of general frustrations & irritations.

Folks don’t need to dig too deep to find out about me. I want them to know up front the kind of person I am. The flaws I have (that I’m currently aware of), and the feelings that I am not interested in hiding. That way everyone knows what to expect when they hire me – enthusiasm, strong opinions, living out loud and living in color.

Those folks out there who engage in doxxing can unveil and excerpt and drive all kinds of outrage both online and in real life. I’m not sure what the desired outcome really is for the doxxers when they “out” someone, I just know when I see one of these incidents play out it always seems like a perfect opportunity for conversation.

But conversation often becomes irrelevant in the face of the outrage machine where everything is right or wrong, you’re either with us or against us. Nuance has become elitist, changing your mind is selling out and every hill is the hill to die on.

This is another of those rambly posts that may or may not enhance my reputation, but writing serves its purpose as I mull over whistle blowers and folks being asked to resign over a tweet, and those who humbly apologize when their “blackface photo” is revealed, and those retreat into their white fragility.

Way back in 1992 – the same year I got that tattoo & wore my hair in braids for a while – I used this song as an anthem to open (and close) a show I directed. The question “What’s Going On?” is just as relevant today even if the fashion now look quaint.

amanda with braids 1992
dressed to MC a Battle of the Bands

I’m updating my website with the help of a super talented, visually oriented friend.

An unexpected response to the necessary questions like “who is your audience?”, and “what do you want people to feel when they visit your website?”, is my deep and sincere sense of panic at answering them.

Do I tell the truth? Or do I stick with my default of describing my work with simple, practical language in as spare a way as possible. The goal is to convey a professional persona that makes people think “reliable”, “serious”, “focused”, “knowledgeable”… “Let’s hire her!” and so forth.

Along the way I completely stripped out that I am any fun or even have a personality.

I could justify this mode of communication because of the need to be professional, and blah, and blah and blah. Truthfully, it was a fear based choice.

I was afraid that if the messy bits of who I am get out again they would undermine the image I should portray to the world. Yeah I said “should.”

The reality is that its a lot of work to live up to “shoulds”: to monitor and suppress parts of yourself that you or society deem “unacceptable.” My little problem stems from years of being told that my personality was “too much”, “too big”, and “intimidating”.  That I needed to “tone it down”.

I believed the criticism and developed a serious style as a form of self-preservation and as a way to fit in where I was told I didn’t.

The serious style stuck because there is a risk to being complex and nuanced in a sound-bite world. A world where we can know and share everything instantly and no communication is immune to a well-timed screen shot.

As I am now writing descriptions to represent how and what I do when I coach & facilitate, I’m looking for ways to create a more authentic picture of myself that includes the flash and flamboyance, the irreverence and humor, that I (mostly) keep wrapped up and out of site.

The reason for the change is at this point in my career I prefer to work with people who know and accept who I am as a whole person, rather than continue to squeeze myself into a non-threatening, low-risk, “toned down” black suited shape.

Nearly everything I do when coaching and facilitating starts in a place of discomfort for participants. Its a risk to engage in personal development, or talk about race/gender/LGBTQ bias, equity and inclusion, and discomfort accompanies progress.

So with less attention on the risk of my being “too much”, I’ll work with my friend to see if we can get my website to authentically reflect who I am, how I work and what to expect when you hire me as your coach or facilitator.

With or without the black suit and serious expression.

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There are some milestones in life where there is an expectation that we engage in a little self-reflection. Big moments like the birth of a child, or the death of a parent, and small moments that mark the passing of time like school graduations, the new year and birthdays.

Time spent reflecting is never wasted in my book. Usually when I reflect, I write.  I write for my clients, for the “book-in-progress” that remains in-progress, and for this blog.

Since June 2017, for a variety of reasons, I have become increasing reluctant to push the publish button on my blog.

In honor of my birthday today I am giving myself permission to publicly reflect on my last trip (or two) around the sun.

13 Things I’ve Done (most with Mr. Man by my side):

  1. Sold a house
  2. Moved three times – in two years – to two different cities
  3. Downsized three times (So! Much! Stuff!)
  4. Sent a daughter off to college
  5. Changed jobs twice
  6. Lived apart from Mr. Man for extended stretches of time
  7. Put down one of our cats
  8. Gave away almost all of my house plants
  9. Buried my childhood friend
  10. Reconnected with some friends from the past
  11. Welcomed a new cat to our family
  12. Made some new pals
  13. Met a whole lot of people from other parts of the US

6 Things Learned while Reflecting on 13 Things I’ve Done:

  1. Needing people doesn’t make me needy, it makes me human. Wanting connection and community isn’t a flaw, or evidence of weakness, it’s part of who I am as an extrovert. Being upfront about asking for help & friendship falls into that “big learning” category, but without friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers I’m not sure I could have managed all the transitions.  So an extra thanks to all the folks who loved, helped and/or put up with me over the last few years.
  2. I discovered I have a unique set of skills that makes me good at what I do. I’ve always downplayed any “uniqueness” because I thought – wrongly it turns out – that a) if I could do it anyone can, and b) people doing my kind of work are a dime a dozen so nothing makes me particularly special. Let’s file that under “wrong-headed things I believed for the last 10 years” and leave it at that.
  3. Humidity makes me crabby. I think I knew this in theory but living in a sub-tropical climate really brought it home.
  4. I get depressed if I have to work in an office without a window. This is now officially a deal breaker for any future work offer. After 7 months of 8 – 10 hour days with no window, part of that during the short winter months,  I was flabbergasted at how quickly my mood improved with daily sunlight. Never again.
  5. While I still love phone calls, letters and cards, I discovered you can actually maintain long-distance friendships through text, messenger and SnapChat and still feel connected when you see each other in person.
  6. I can endure a lot of change and discomfort but it takes strenuous attention and determination to learn from it. A friend shared a meme recently that said “I just want some experiences that don’t make me stronger!” Yeah, I can get behind that.

So from a distance, looking back at my trips around the sun, I wouldn’t actually change much about the past two years because they got me here.

And I like here.

Here has my favorite things because when you winnow and winnow and downsize and donate you end up with just your favorite things.

Here has Mr. Man and being in the same city and time zone as your partner is a big perk.

Here has a great deal of potential for me to do even more of the work that I love and that is double plus good.

And finally, here is the place where I will commit to writing and sharing my thoughts during this next trip around the sun because I remembered that it helps me think and it makes me happy.

Many happy returns of the day to me!

birthday wishes

When our daughter was younger she was really into The Bearenstain Bears books and cartoons. The books, if you have managed to avoid all 300 of them, dealt with single issues that were resolved generally through good ole-fashioned common sense, kindness and humor. Very formulaic and still much beloved by children.

They had a habit of hokey titles even with modern story lines “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much .. Birthday… Homework… TV. “Too Much Pressure” is my personal favorite. Mama cries in a helpless heap when she gets a flat tire and can’t get Brother to Karate and Sister to Soccer at the same time. Personally I think its good for kids to see “wise, strong mama” break down and cry once in a while.

As I try to finalize a workshop I am leading soon, I find that I am once again “Amanda Bear with Too Much Content.” There is so much potential in the conversations that unfold around the professional development work that I do that I start to think every concept is essential, every slide potentially life altering. And that’s just silly.

I learned long ago to “be present” while presenting so the conversation is the driver and not the agenda. Of course some content is vital to the learning, but the discovery in the room prompted by the content is the goal, not finishing the deck with five minutes to spare at the end of the session.

But.

Until I’m in the room with the glow of 3,000 lumens, and the hum of the projector fan, I will suffer the agony of culling, curating and perfecting my content. The only Mama Bear that can save me from “Too Much Content” is time. It will run out and what I have will be more than fine and still too much.

I don’t think PowerPoint workshop presentations are a good topic for a Berenstain Bears book but there may be one lurking out there for all I know. You can watch the Too Much Pressure cartoon version by clicking here.

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I recently described the last six months of my life as a time of “unprecedented stress.”

What would have been more accurate is if I had said to my friend “I am experiencing a time of unrelenting pressure to deliver an increasing number of outcomes in ever shorter amounts of time.” Sort of like running in front of lava or a landslide. Funny in a Looney Tunes cartoon, less so in real life.  Maybe if I could make my feet do those fast wheelie things it would be okay.wile-e-coyote-3

There are a lot of reasons for the additional pressures and the explosion of work, some positive & some negative, but its important to keep in mind we have suffered no tragedy, no one is ill, none of the top 10 Life-Stress Events are currently present. (Touch wood)

Add to this mix the fact that my husband and daughter have also had a tough few months and we have a heady brew of cortisol and other assorted hormones making for one jagged household.

On top of the tightly booked calendar there always seems to be something that needs doing: a client that needs a follow up, laundry that needs folding, an email that needs a reply, so its easy to just go, go, go. And we get good at it don’t we?

The tough part is figuring out how to come out of it.

Last night after dinner I changed into my robe and lounged on the couch and re-read a favorite Terry Pratchett book (Making Money) and realized that it felt like a vacation day.

Home on time, no meetings, no events, no four-more-hours-of-work waiting for me before bed. Just decompressing with a thinly veiled sci-fi fantasy commentary on modern banking and economics.

It was a reminder, not of the mythical work life balance we all strive for, but what a danger it is to let urgency become the default groove. Sometimes it’s necessary and you have to push through and get it done (Hello January through June 2015!), but we humans love our habits and emergency mode is as addicting as any other form of adrenaline.

I’m a creature of words. I need time to think. And write my blog. And lots and lots of time to socialize and talk about what I think. And when the schedule is this heavy and the stress is this steady, I can’t think properly anymore.

Time to step back and see how to lower the stress level.

Because crazy busy is not a thing, it’s a habit.

Over-scheduling is either a choice, or it has a solution called “cutting something.” Everything feeling like an emergency because of over-scheduling is also a choice. I can’t always control my schedule, but I can control my attitude.

My goal for June – December of 2015 is surface tension rather than “crazy busy.”  Float delicately on my calendar (and life) like a water strider, poised and professional. And the house may have to clean itself.

I’m not sure it’s ever done, but I’m strongly considering a blanket email to my entire contact list as a kind of apology – “I’m sorry I’ve become that person who hasn’t replied to your email for six weeks. It’s not you its me.” But maybe everyone has forgotten what they wanted and moved on by now.

surface_tension

One of the most painful things I watch my clients experience is not losing a job to a more qualified candidate its discovering that they were the “paper candidate.” Sometimes people suspect they are included because HR rules require x number of finalists, or women, or under represented minorities.

Sometimes they leave the interview with evidence.

Interviewers texting during group interviews, side conversations during their answers, questions so general you can find them on Ask.com, questions that show they never looked at your resume. Lots of clues.

Being used to round out a candidate pool or satisfy an HR requirement is not death by a thousand cuts as much as that ancient punishment seems to fit, because you don’t actually die from being rejected for a job.

These are paper cuts. Shallow, bloodless, painful and in places you’ve been cut before.

Unfortunately, in order to apply for any new position you have to be “in it to win it” or don’t bother. You need to care enough to revamp your resume or CV, write a thoughtful cover letter, do a little networking, and get your references together.

So it’s a delicate balance to encourage clients to not give up, keep their eye on the big picture, keep making progress where they can, and yet not be a source of false hope.

Paper cuts also suck because you don’t get any sympathy (except from your coach) for picking yourself up and starting again. Bloodletting would be dramatic, paper cuts are expected to be shrugged off.

By now the whole world has heard about tracking “Small Wins” to note progress, but I am not finding any HBR articles about the impact of “Small Losses.”

I’ve started writing an article Small Losses: A Tool for Understanding Setbacks. I’ve been told that I “give away” my content too readily. Apparently self-publishing an Amazon single is a marketing tool I should become acquainted with for my coaching practice.

I don’t know. Would you pay $1.99 to read Small Losses: A Tool for Understanding Setbacks?

bloodletting_lancet_thumb_illustration_of_use
Bloodletting; thumb lancet, illustration of use.

 

I asked my daughter what she might say to help a friend have the courage to do something new even though they were scared.

After clarifying that the scary thing wasn’t something I was trying to trick her into doing, she gave me some good advice.

“Tell them to remember that its only scary for the first few minutes and then when you get there, someone is usually nice and says hello. Or you will see someone you know that you can go stand with, or there is something you have to do like fill out forms, or find a seat. And afterward you won’t remember what you were so nervous about.”

I asked her advice for two reasons. First, because of her personality and style, she usually has a different perspective from me, and second, because I found myself on the receiving end of an invitation that I found scary, so I was gathering multiple opinions about what to do.

In my coaching practice I often work with clients who are attempting new and often scary transitions.  When that happens I help them question the assumptions behind their fears, so they can hopefully start to align what they say they want, with what they have to do to achieve it.

This recent “scary situation” helped me categorize some habitual excuses:

  • “They don’t really want me there, they just invited me to be polite”  (Protecting Self)
  • “I don’t know anyone, it’ll be awkward for everyone” (Protecting Others)
  • “I don’t really have the expertise to belong to this group” (Imposter Syndrome)
  • “I have too many other things I need to do” (Martyr Syndrome)

I ended up not attending for these and other reasons. Instead, I spent those hours, and days afterward, mentally berating myself for being so cowardly.

Then, as I was getting ready for meeting with a coaching client, I noticed that several times between sessions they hadn’t followed through on a plan, or “taken the risk”.  My notes showed we worked together to adjust plan or break it down into smaller steps. I helped them, encouraged them, provided additional tools and information.

I didn’t call them a coward.

In fact I can’t think of anyone I would call a coward for any reason. Except myself of course.

Ouch.

Based on this experience I think “learn to be nicer to yourself every day” will be my meditation for the next thirty days. I also forget sometimes to give myself credit for the risk I take every time I publish a new blog post. My opinions, flaws and ruminations are readable, searchable, and if we believe in the power of the NSA, permanent on the internet.

So maybe not totally cowardly.

Cowardly_lion_cover

My writing about politics and current events has been in a long summer drought. I didn’t check out of the info stream because I was so consumed with summer vacations and fun, I just stopped writing about it.

It got too heavy. I got discouraged.

This happened back when Clarence Thomas was confirmed despite the testimony about his character from Anita Hill. I took it personally and went into a funk of refusing to pay attention to news.

In hindsight being personally hurt by the treatment of Anita Hill at the hands of the Senate (and the world) was out of proportion. However, there’ll never be enough Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s for Joe Biden to escape his culpability in the long, L-O-N-G term effect that his fear of being called a racist in 1991 has on SCOTUS today.

Now Robin Williams’ unfortunate suicide has snapped me back into writing about current events.

In the work that I do the phrase “Mountains are mole hills piled one on top of each other” is used to describe the cumulative effect of  the slights, attacks, and subtle obstacles that make the person complaining about the mole hills look like they are crazy or overreacting.

Like Anita Hill trying to explain all the ways Thomas’s behavior added up to harassment.

Anyway, the relentless “molehills” of, among other things – abortion clinic closings, the Hobby Lobby ruling, Jill Abramson getting fired, and wars! wars! wars! – added up to a mountain of silence for me. So I stopped writing or even commenting on current events.

My mountain, in the very low stakes arena of blogging, is nothing compared to the final teaspoon of dirt that makes someone feel like the only escape is to kill themselves.  How can suicide be the answer to any question? What makes the weight of the mountain unsustainable?

I am not writing to judge, but to understand.  How can we accept depression and mental illness openly enough that we have more warning when someone is considering suicide? Is it a stigma issue? Do we fear our own vulnerability? I have not experienced a suicide personally but I know people who have. I can’t begin to imagine what they feel. The shock of unexpected death is horrible enough, so the magnitude of the shock when the death of a loved one is by their own hand is unfathomable.

That molehill/mountain metaphor provides an alternate perspective on the accusation “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill”, but doesn’t it doesn’t do much with the fact that we’re still left with a mountain.

It doesn’t seem to matter if that solid, heavy sucker was created one teaspoonful at a time when the result is still enormous. So how do we cope when things feel too hard, too big, too overwhelming? How do we dismantle our mountain so we don’t feel like the only option is suicide?

There’s all kinda ways to cope with or check out under pressure. Denial, avoidance, escapism (drugs, TV, drinking, books – the selection here is extensive), silence. Suicide.

I kept coming back to the idea that I need a better way to take it apart when I feel overwhelmed. A teaspoon against the mountain is just too much to think about. And my twisty mind arrived at monkey bread.

Monkey bread is made by rolling pieces of dough into balls and piling them on one another in a baking dish. Then, when its baked, you can tear off one piece at a time. You can’t see molehills once they become a mountain because all that dirt just slides together, monkey bread still has enough definition that you could manage one chunk at a time.

Less pressure.

This is a lousy, rambly comparison between my being depressed into writing silence by the state of the world, and Robin Williams being depressed into believing his only choice was to end his life, but there it is. My first post back after a break is usually ugly, so apologies.


I am so sorry for anyone touched by suicide.

I can only hope that because Williams was such a high-profile, successful person his unfortunate death will help shine a light on how anyone can suffer from major depression.

 

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An uncomfortable truth is hidden under the national discussion about music being played too loud, and the hoodies that criminals wear. Racism is not going anywhere.

I feel this observation needs to be made especially in light of the recent Academy Award’s presented to Lupita Nyong’o and John Ridley. I don’t wish to minimize their achievements, just to point out that they will eventually be used by someone as an example of our post-racial society.

I’ve written this particular post several times since mid-February when the trial of Jordan Davis’s killer was in the news. I filed rather than published because I’m always weighing the relative merits of my opinions about racial justice issues against the fact that I am white, female, suburban and part of the “chattering class”, which may actually be a generous stretch for this blog.

I hesitated because as good as it feels to vent, or in this case Rant, self-righteousness and hyperbole are rarely positives. I care too much about these issues to be flip or off the cuff.

It is the impact of these “Stand Your Ground” self-defense cases that is haunting my thinking at the moment. Specifically the no duty to retreat provision.

The institutional racism of our judicial system, or any kind of systemic oppression, is a hard sell when people are not willing to acknowledge their own biases. So anyone talking about how the killings of Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin are racially motivated is derailed, shouted down and marginalized.

The national discussion of the Stand Your Ground laws invariably skirts racism by focusing on an individuals right to protect themselves against a perceived threat. Self-defense is at the core. Rarely is the fact established that the act of being a black male in our culture IS automatically a perceived threat.

If you are afraid for your safety, and there is no need to de-escalate, a “reasonable person” would be justified in protecting themselves. Media generally presents black men as dangerous, so a “reasonable person” can be expected to be afraid of black men. Except that second sentence is never stated.

Klappstecker_SicherheitNo duty to retreat is the linchpin to this specific kind of institutional racism. Subjective perceptions of threat trump evidence and facts. My feelings about your potential to hurt me justifies necessary force. It’s quite disheartening.

I have heard some folks saying that the celebrating of 12 Years a Slave by the Academy shows that we as a culture are ready to talk about race and slavery in an honest way. I’m not holding my breath, but maybe its true.

If we are ready to talk about race in the US, let’s start the conversation by believing that racism still exists, there is no such thing as the race card, and actions count more than intentions. My recommended moderators for this national conversation:

Onward and upward.

Occasionally age-related vanity gets me in its grip. Now that I wear glasses all the time, I feel like my eyes look small. Not that I have Manga eyes to start with, but what I have is certainly less visible. Short of switching to Sally Jessie Raphael glasses, my solution is eyeliner.

Rather I am attempting to master eyeliner.59TC_xl

Back in my music soaked past eyeliner was simple – Maybelline Expert Eyes, heated with a match, inside and outside the lid – followed by three coats of deepest black mascara.  Precision was less the goal than drama.

Now when I am looking for precision I have instead discovered my inner Amy Winehouse. I seem to be incapable of drawing a thin line the same size on both eyes so I keep correcting. And correcting. Subtle it is not.

I triephotod liquid liner but that is a different kind of crap shoot. One wrong jiggle and I’m Cleopatra. So I tried cream, which I didn’t even know existed until I started down this new path. Cream promises a “lacquer like finish that lasts all day” which is fine unless your finish ends up looking like a lightening bolt.

I’m not sure eyeliner and I will ever become friends.

Once upon a time, before the compulsion to wear makeup every day crept up on me, I used to get by with a swipe of lipstick. In fact I never left the house without putting on my lipstick. It was a strategy I adopted in my early twenties, thinking if your mouth is bright enough they will stop looking at your tits.

Every once and again I flash back on my mom at my age. In her forties, she only wore makeup once or twice a year when she and my dad went out for a rare evening event. That make up consisted of pressed powder from a gold compact and the same tube of lipstick she had used for the last twenty years. And of course White Shoulders perfume.

When she was older, and my parents had both more time and more money, she started to spruce herself up beyond getting her hair done at the beauty parlor once a week. She bought some new lipstick, a blush and foundation, and wore it to work. She may have even ventured to mascara, though I doubt eyeliner would have ever occurred to her.

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A message to my followers:

Unfortunately I have discovered that the more writing I have to do at work the less I am able to string my thoughts together in a coherent way for my blog. I still have rants clogging my brain (farm bill!?!, abortion legistaltion!?!, daughter turning 15!?!), but little space to write. As two big projects will be finished soon, I hope to be back to normal in the near future.

I miss you!

Time off means different things to different people. For me, stretches of “free time”, also known as “Holidays”, usually mean “Project Management”. Winter break projects usually involve paint, furniture rearranging and closet cleaning. Spring break is generally a major area like the attic of basement, or weather permitting, outdoor work. When you own a house there is always something that needs doing and packing it into weekends doesn’t quite cover the punch list.

The slop sink that I intended to replace before we moved in nine years ago still reproachfully lists and overflows. At least its on the list.

This year my time off was more of a time out.

2013 was a tough row and though I had good intentions of being productive during this break, I just powered down instead. Turned off my email, put my cell phone in my upstairs office rather than my pocket, stopped checking facebook. Even stopped posting to my blog. What I did instead was lounge around the house reading books, went out to the movies, had long, rambly conversations with my husband and daughter, and ruminated.

I don’t know about other folks but I need space and time to do any serious thinking. I know and rely on my capacity for fast processing, organization and quick decision-making every day. These are skills I use like whipping up a weeknight dinner without a recipe. But ruminating is more like bread baking.

Bread needs to be mixed, left to rise, kneaded into itself, divided, rested, baked, cooled and stored. A few simple steps over a good space of time. That is luxury: the time to pay attention.

My time out is almost over and I am trying to not jump the gun and feel it slip away before it’s actually gone. It’s an unfortunate habit of mine to feel bad that vacation is ending before its ended. I can’t be the only one who does this.

While it has been very useful to be quiet, I find I still have so many things I need to say, to myself, to you.

And so begins 2014.

Happy-new-year

As I get older it gets harder to recover from late nights and too little sleep.

Sleep is one of those things that gets to be a habit. Your body gets used to being well rested and protests when its not. It may have been a better strategy for me to fight the impulse to rest when tired in order to reduce the backlash when its not available. But that horse has left the barn.

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