Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Early November

Well, this is just annoying. First, my blog - this one - seems to still be closed. Despite me opening it up over a month ago. Second, the password completely escaped me, so then I had to go through that rigamarole to get to something google would accept. Yeah, yeah, thank you for the security measures, but all these passwords... even my magic password keeper can't keep track of all of them! These, my friends, are the rantings of the extremely privileged, and I am all too aware of that.

I AM privileged. I live in a gorgeous place, in a lovely home, enjoy good health and a comfortable standard of living. I spend my hours the way I want to, be that in reading, watching tv (actually, very little of that), crafting, walking the dogs, exploring the area.

Exploring the area: oh yeah. Not nearly as much as I should, but since all my shoulds are on permanent hold, I explore as the whim takes me. For many years, 'as my Whimsey takes me' was my motto, borrowed from Peter Whimsey's family. Now it has real meaning - because of my privilege.

From a recent jaunt:

All these from the Miller Peninsula, about 3 miles from my house.

I went on the main road, which turned into dirt road, which meandered into a wide rutted path back into the woods. The further from the pavement I got, the less elaborate the houses. To the point of a wannabe yurt - no more than a couple of layers of canvas draped around a structure vaguely resembling a circle, all on a notably nice, new and sturdy platform. More than one ramshackle trailer house (from the looks of them, they've been there since they were new back in the 1960s). No people that I saw, just a lone dog patrolling the area. Well fed pup, so not abandoned, just keeping an eye on the neighborhood. Back on the main road, lots sell from $79K and homes are upwards of $500K. All lots remarkably vertical; waterfront, surrounded by trees - but yikes. I wouldn't want one of these places - nor to have to navigate one of those driveways... ever. And because of the terrain around here, the weather on that side of the bay is much wetter than over at my place. Very happy right where I am. But the exploring is fun.

Spent about an hour on the beach in the rain the other day - lovely. I stayed in my dry warm car, but watching the wind and the rain over the Straits was lovely too. So is curling up with the dogs/cat and reading. Ahhhhhh.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


I love this life. It's really so cool; and apparently, really bad for writing impulses. I generally have no idea what day it is, and time means very little. My dogs tell me when it's nearing 5 PM - their dinner time - but that's pretty much the only trigger around here. There's no getting up for classes, no rushing around to fit everything in. It's quite lovely and feels indulgent.

Fall has arrived, with cooler days and nights, leaves turning. Out my back windows is a hill, covered with large trees. All summer it was simply shades of dark green. Now, the differences between colors is greater; a touch of gold near the top, some browns and oranges appearing. Every day is a new mosaic of colors. The new house on the closer rise has a drive way lined with young trees, newly planted. Two are nearly orange red; another is green-orange - and the rest are all still green. And they too change every day. We've had a very dry summer, even by rain shadow standards. We'll have four our five days of glorious sunny and clear weather, a gray cloudy day - and maybe even a light shower. Then more sunny clear days. Breezes keep temps cool - low 60s - and downright chilly after dark. This past week I saw frost on a roof top behind me, and G's allergies have pretty much died down after a very tough August for her.

I've made new friends, which is lovely. People up here are incredibly friendly and welcoming. It's a delightful change from the red-neck attitudes of Previous Place. And as noted above, happiness is apparently bad for writing, because I've written squat.

I have, however, found new outlets for my creativity. I'm still into glass, although I've not done any up here yet. I have been sucked into the paper craft vortex, and am happily making cards, scrapbooking and discovering the joys of Cricut, BigShot and that. These are all related - glass, paper, etc. - in that they allow me to design and execute designs, patterns, colors, textures - and the manual manipulation of materials brings great joy. Call it taking mixed media to new levels.

Finally having all my stuff unpacked and put away is delightful.
Finally, bookcases up and loaded!

and fun with Cricut!

Vinyl is addictive. It's very tempting to make my own decals for everything...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Weird Feeling: Happiness

It's more than content - it's happy. Happy. It hasn't been around in my life for most of experience. There've been moments, sure. Days long. But not more than that before the world came back crashing in, with the demands of daily life, the trials and tribulations. But long, extended periods of happy? Not really.

As a child, I survived the neglect of my father and the abuse of my brother. I took solace in the company and strength of my mother and her friends. I found love with her and with my family's pets - dogs, cats, peacocks, pheasants, smaller tropical exotic birds. In my teens, I was too shy for my own good, too afraid of my brother to ask friends over. Too many times so-called friends played the clique games of shunning other friends - "it's either us or her." Invariably, I chose the immediate her to anyone who could be so cruel as to exclude someone based on her skin color or body weight. By the time I was 16, that pattern was set, and I was one of the ignored in high school. Not a trouble maker, not an ace student, no cheerleadering or sports or anything. I just went to school, marched with the band, that was it.

Early adulthood was achieved in the Air Force: I earned a (tiny) paycheck, focused on doing my job and having a good time. And a good time was certainly there. But happy? I don't think I thought about it; I just wanted to contribute, be part of something larger. I learned not to be so shy, that I could do anything, that I was smart.

Marriage ended that. The first months were good, but then I made the mistake of letting my husband know that he had me. Once he knew that, our lives went from one of shared activities and friends to different paths. Neither of us should have married - we were far too young and stupid. But we had, and so we stuck together.  Which made my 20s and early 30s okay, but not happy. Certainly not happy. The best part of those 11 years was our - my - dog. That's where I got the love and support I needed. It was a hard daily reality that I was married but very alone and lonely.

Took a long time for me to realize that what he'd done to me was destroy my belief in myself and my abilities, intelligence and skills. I took what he did, and did what I'd learned as a child: I'd blamed myself for his actions. Not uncommon, but not happy making either.

What made me happy in those years was my darling dog and going to school. At school I could stretch my mind, challenge myself, and prove - with every A - that I was of value and had something not everybody had.

Divorce: not happy, but at least free. Alone, lonely - but no longer inside a toxic relationship, no longer beating myself with his neglect and abuse.

Grad school: oh wow, so not happy. Challenging, good for me, filled with new friends and new experiences? Absolutely. Happy? No.

Paris: oh wow, so not happy. Challenging, good for me, filled with new friends and new experiences? Absolutely. Happy? I was there 4 years, and no, they weren't happy. Pockets here and there of happy - the friends and experiences of being in a couple of communities (ex-pat, feminist, English teachers) brought happiness. I found myself there - shed the 'shoulds' of my teens-thirties - and created a me that I really liked. I wrote constantly - 70-100 pages of long-hand a day. I poured out my pain and fear and loneliness and joy and pleasures. Then France voted in a right-wing government, and they threw me out.

Back in the USA: oh, soooooo not happy. But a couple of years of real depression was finally diagnosed and I began treatment - and happy came back in dribs and drabs. Too much drama and trauma. Another round of grad school - drama, trauma - and some real pleasure in developing teaching and research skills. Lots of writing again. Finished the PhD. Got a tenure-track job. And from day one, was aware that 'my' university didn't really value what we were doing.

Family drama and trauma. Days of pleasure and joy countered by months of worry, conflict and pain. Friends helped me survive the re-entry of my brother into my life - the trauma of his idiocy and cruelty. Once again I found love and support with my animals and friends. The loss of my mom in 2009 was awful and still hurts, although it's not as raw. She didn't die until 2011, but by 2009 she'd moved deep into a dementia that kept her from knowing who I was, and that was ... hard.

The career: moments of brilliance and joy in teaching, reaching students and changing lives. Challenging myself every term to freshen and reinvent classes, approaches, assignments. Friends and animals provided the support and affection. Loneliness visited all too often, as did true happiness.

After 2011, I got a degree of financial stability I never expected. And that eliminated a source of constant pressure and worry - opened up some opportunities to explore the world in new ways. And honoring my mom, I took advantage of those opportunities. Happy became more possible more frequently.

Which came crashing down around my ears in 2014, when The Bitch set out to destroy me. I survived that, but my god, it was a hard hard year. She undermined my career at Unnamed University, and once again friends were my sustenance. I can't count the times I cried into the necks of my beloved animals, the days I spent hiding from caring friends who sought to assure me that anyone who knew me would understand that the charges against me were absurd. Happy made a short appearance during the summer of 2014 during some amazing trips - predictably away from my normal world.

The last year at UU was an extended period of cynicism and schadenfreude as I watched UU's poor planning and policies come home to roost. Knowing (but not sharing) that I was leaving at the end of the year made it easier to stand outside the disaster, to keep it at an emotional distance. Happy? Not hardly - but as the weeks went by I was able to feel less loss and more relief. 

Now? My last day at UU was graduation day, the first week of May. This is 3 months out - and in the past two months I've been happier for longer than I can ever remember. Retirement has meant no connections with UU. Moving to a beautiful place, with salt water and beaches close. I can be on these beaches within 5 minutes.

And I have mountains!

I don't have the BS that UU is dishing out (still). I don't have to listen to the right-wing rhetoric of Unnamed State, which seemed with each passing day, to weigh more and more heavily on me. Washington is saner. At least, I'm not as wired into the craziness of the place (yet and with luck, ever).  

My daily living is amazing. I'm happy all the time, not just now and then for short periods. This is amazing. Just. Flipping. Amazing. Imagine what I'll be like when I get my books unpacked!

NB: Happiness is not conducive to writing. Weird, eh?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Gazing in the non-mirror

I generally avoid mirrors. Don't like looking at my physical self, and oddly, what I see isn't what others see. Example: I took a selfie once, and everybody flinches when they see it. Now it's not a great picture - but it IS what I see when I look in the mirror. My friends are horrified at the picture, because it's not how they see my face. Odd but true. Anyway, that's not the point here.

My title here refers to my examination of my inner self since I moved. First, getting away from Unnamed University That Burned Me (hereafter, Hell Univ) lifted a psychological load that I was aware I was carrying, but hadn't realized how awful that load was. Second, retiring from Hell makes me re-examine my post-professional identity, and what elements will be within that and what I want to add. Third, my new place is... lovely. And while I love singing its praises (saw an eagle from my kitchen window this morning!), I also hesitate to do so. Particularly to my friends. So number three is inhibiting my communications with my dear friends.

My friends still in HellTown are still in HellTown, and some still work at Hell U. And they really don't like it much, but have no ability to get out. So when I crow about how lovely my new life is, I feel like I'm rubbing it in, making their situation harder to bear. They know I'm very happy, but I'm sure they are already tired of hearing it. And they are all gearing up for the new term, facing the next round of cuts, ill-will and nastiness. Others, not in HellTown, have continued their lives as they do, but again, I'm sure they are tired of me gloating as well.

So what do I do? Recount the trivial problems of my rather charmed present life? Of course I have problems, but the joys far outnumber them. And - crap, there's a damned beach not five minutes from my house! How can I possibly bitch about prices or the mountain of boxes that damn near fill my garage or having to wait for the painter - when these are the problems of a Lady of Leisure? Seriously!

One of the things I really want to do is get myself on a schedule of sorts. Where I put aside time every day - significant time - to write and research. The content/subject and process will then be something I can share with my friends, and it'll get me doing what I want to do. Since 90% of my friends are academics and scholars, this will help with the problem noted above.

I also want to get involved in the community, via the Master Gardeners and dog clubs. And volunteer at the wildlife refuge. Those things I need to wait until I've got the stuff done that requires a schedule that can worked around contractors etc.. Because once the painter (for example) has time for my project, he'll be here a week and I'll either have to get the dogs out all day during that week OR be here to help get the job done.  Either way, I'm not going to be able to go to events, meetings, classes, etc..

And then there's the glass. I really miss doing that, and can't even unpack that until... after the painter! Then I can order the IKEA bookcases and storage units and have a place to put the stuff I unpack! Same deal on the research - can't get to my books without unpacking them, and no place to put them until I get some bookcases....

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Moved! In!

I am now officially in my new house in my new home town. Love it here. It's really friendly, the weather is delightful, my house is lovely and I am away from that hellhole that was Unnamed University. Who just fired 9 faculty - tenured, tenure-track, visiting, you name it. The best was that they offered severance packages to four staff members, hoping one or two would take it. All four took it! Leaving only one admin support working - who then apparently pissed off the acting dean, and got her ass fired. Nothing subdued about my delight in that, as that particular person had lorded her status over everybody, disregarded instructions and advice and tried to boss around her boss. Bad idea, but it was delightful knowing that she'd been ousted.

It's even more delightful to be 2000 miles away. Everything up here is very different from Unnamed City. It's a more liberal place (it wouldn't take much, as UC was right-wing). Completely different political, social, cultural vibe. Weather is radically different, as New Home Town is a sunny place surrounded by a rather rainy environment. I'm in what's called the Olympic Rain shadow - so it might be miserable and dreary in Seattle, but delightful up here. I'm five minutes from a quiet bay off the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, and maybe 10 from the straits. I grew up in Southern California, and remember my parents talking about how they'd come this close to buying a lot in La Jolla, which was one of my favorite places in the world. That was before it got all richie-rich and chic - when it was a quiet artist colony. Their deal had been about 1946-47 - they'd laugh ruefully, wishing they'd bought it so they could live near the sea. I knew, deep in my heart and soul, that living near the ocean was far out of my reach, but my ideal.

When I found this place last year, it was simply too good to be true. Close to the ocean? Affordable? Surely not. Quirky, cool and... decent weather? Impossible. And now.... now I live here. The town is hoping the place will grow by 50% in the next decade - I don't even want to tell you where it is, because I don't want the character of the place to change. I don't want those x people to come here, change things. Even though I am one of those they're working so hard to attract. Contradictory, I know, but I don't want to be priced out of this place. Or have my friends discover they can't afford to come here for retirement. (Yes, some are already planning on joining me!)

Unpacking is the biggest part of my day; I had about 250 boxes/pieces come off the moving van. I've emptied at least 10 boxes per day, and now have two rooms livable! Very proud of that; there's no way i can get it all done before Christmas, so I'm not gonna hurt myself doing it. I can't unpack the books (about 60 boxes, stacked in the garage) until I have bookcases, and I can't find any I like. And I can't think about buying those until I have a place to put them, which means all the painting has to be done before I buy/build the bookcases and then unload. And I can't paint until I get the non-book boxes out of the spaces that need painting! Et voila! My plan: unpack enough and get used to the space, pick the colors, paint, put it all back in place - then get the bookcases etc.. No time line. I don't have to schedule things yet. That will come. At the moment, I'm living each moment and stopping when I get tired or start hurting.

It's a whole new way of living: listening to what I want to do and doing it. Wow.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

7 Days Until the Move

I am out of my campus office, except the packed boxes that the movers will pick up next Wednesday. Feels odd to be moving - physically - out of that life. The house is listed (nearly, we're waiting until I am really out of it), and I'm down to the final pre-final list:

oil change before the drive across country
multiple loads to Big Charity of non-moving items (ironing board, mismatched glasses & plastics, etc).
animals to kennel (Monday afternoon)
multiple loads of laundry (Monday night)
packers, all day Tuesday
loaders,  Wednesday morning (3-5 hours?)
early Thursday: load up the dogs & bird and head northwest

Our Alaska cruise was interesting: Love Boat line was not what I expected. Food mediocre, cabins good (huge closet area.... why?), far too many people. Far too many people. Most of the cruise programing was aimed at getting people to buy stuff: diamonds! tanzanite! sapphires! furs! buy! buy! buy! But the excursions were great: we saw lots of bald eagles, humpback whales, orca!!!, seal lions, harbor seals, fish eagles. Incredible scenery and landscapes. I had no idea. None. The mountains were just... right there, almost touchable in their proximity but enormous, untouchable.

The majesty of the landscapes, the scale of things, the millions of trees - I finally think I have an insight into why the people there hold the opinions they do: the landscapes that would be so familiar to them inspire a feeling of unlimited resources, that nothing man does could reduce the gifts of the mountains. They are wrong, but I can see why they think that. What somebody from other areas saw was the fragility of the place, the encroaching diseases/insects that are already evident on the landscape and flora. That they are the care-takers of a vanishing world; and they don't seem to give a damn. Everybody talked about killing things: wildlife, trees, etc.. I think they intended to show their rugged individualism and abilities. You can probably tell I wasn't impressed.

On return, I got re-certified as an open water (scuba) diver. It was fun, interesting - what we used to have to do ourselves is all done by computer now. So the class, other than emphasizing that air density increases at depth while volume decreases, was a casual chat fest. In water exercises brought back the loveliness of the sport: it's amazing to fly underwater. We spent 2 days at a lake in the eastern part of the state doing our open water stuff. That was like swimming in soup: the lake was 28 feet above normal, muddy as all get out. At the end, we got our certifications. Now we can plan a better place to dive. I'm thinking Hawaii or Baja.

First things first. The move.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

San Francisco

Lordy, this is a great city. Every time I come here, I rediscover how lovely it is. And how expensive! We got here last night, and spent a relaxing evening in our hotel, recovering from the long flights. Today? Well, today was our play day.

We touristed the city: did the hop on, hop off bus tours of both the city and the Golden Gate Bridge, with Sausalito thrown in for kicks. I started noticing that my camera didn't work very well (or at all, after a while), so when we got off the bus, we dropped into a camera shop on the corner. Lovely shop, great guy, excellent salesman. He fixed my camera, then showed me how to make it better. And then better. And then he showed me a new camera that made mine look like something Fred Flintstone would like. And then he offered me great deal on the new one, and I thought "how can I possibly go back to that when I can get this for $500 off???" So I did it; bought self a brand new camera with a 60x zoom AND a fancy smantzy lens that i still need to learn how to use properly. He made it look so easy. Going from 8x zoom to 60x? Gah. Makes me want to go back down to Pier 39 and take even more pictures of the sea lions. These were with the old one.

With the new toy, I should be able to see whiskers...

Monday, May 18, 2015

Definitively Done, and On Track

On track to a new life. Still in Old Town, but that's drawing short as well. Wednesday we leave for our Alaska cruise - very exciting - and then, once that's over, a mad rush to the big Moving Day.

Alaska is going to be a joy. Three of my favorite people are going with me, we've got nice cabins with balconies (for leisurely morning coffee and evening wine), a full list of activities (none of which, for me, include the fancy-schmantzy doings on board, but do include hikes, wildlife walks, whale watching jaunts, etc.).  We leave from SFO, have a couple of days at sea before the activities on shore start. I'm hoping that those two days allow my friends to relax and get past the last couple of weeks which have, for them, been filled with trauma, stress and plain hard work. Me? Hell, I've done so damned little over the past two weeks that another two days of rest will be more of same.

Which, in itself, is rather lovely. Friday we did my garage sale; an experience I intend to NEVER repeat. Yeah, I made some money, but not enough to justify the hassle. And I still have stuff that has to be donated to some good organization - can you believe nobody bought some really nice bookcases? How odd.

There are boxes everywhere in my house; the stuff that hasn't been packed will be packed by the pros.  So there's nothing there that needs my doing it. So the pros come June 23 to pack, the truck will load on the 24th and J and I will take off for PNW Retirement Haven bright and early on the 25th with the dogs and bird. The cat will be flown up on July 9 by former critter sitter. By which time, if I'm very luck, all my stuff will have arrived and at least the cat box unpacked and readied.

Between Alaska and Move Day, I'm taking a SCUBA class, getting re-certified. That's been an interesting study as well: how things have changed! When I took the class in my 20s, it was all about formulae re: gas exchange and compression/decomp rates, reading dive tables, learning the dangerous wildlife we'd be encountering in a tropical fishbowl. This time, it's learning that the computer does all that stuff (except the dangerous wildlife), the jargon has changed, the equipment has changed a lot. So it's interesting and challenging. Really interesting to find that similar things still challenge me; I really thought that the physics would be easier for me. Wrong. However, I do know how to learn, and that'll get me through. The physical requirements are also doable, but will be harder on a body now 40 years older and following a long period of inactivity. From what the book says, all that I have to do is prove that I can exchange a regulator underwater, clear my mask, ascend/descend safely, swim 200 yards (no time limit) and tread water for 10 minutes. Know the hand signals. I can prep for all that.

I still consider myself an academic, just a temporarily displaced one. I do intend to keep up some scholarship, but to focus more on the aspects of it that truly interest me. I don't have to deal with scholarship funding committees, justifying how my research impacts my teaching. I don't have to attend faculty meetings, deal with venal deans and shortsighted students and misguided and rude administrators. Instead, I'll find all of that out In the Real World.

O. Joy.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Done. Mostly.

Okay, I am now semi-officially done. I've done my last class meetings, finished the presentations that I do instead of finals. All that's left is grading of (useless) exams and crunching/posting final grades. Then I am finished with Unnamed University in Unnamed City in Unnamed State.

I've gone public with this blog, hoping that some previous readers/commenters will find me again. I've missed that community so much.

Retirement from UU feels weird. Anti-climatic. After giving so much to them for 16 years - and getting very little except from the students - walking away feels both lovely and odd. UU is going through a hellish process now, which has effectively killed my department; down to 2 aging faculty members who've not changed the way they teach or what they teach in 30+ years, there is no way that they can offer a major or a real minor. Imaging a liberal arts university without the foundational fields, and that's what UU is doing. Closing language programs (can you imagine a SLAC without a French program???), core LA fields (sociology, history, etc.) and slashing both faculty AND staff. Half of the existing staff positions have to be gone by June 30. Nine faculty lines, plus the non-fill, non renewal of the visiting positions, non replacement of retirees - slash and burn the liberal arts. I am so damned lucky to be getting out.

My new house in PNW closed on time (wonder of wonders) and I'm moving up there at the end of June. It's gorgeous and civil and so different from life in the reddest of the red states. See?

Yes, those are snow-capped mountains AND a sunny non-cold marina. The snow and rain stay on the south side of those mountains, and I'm on the north side. Less rain than we get here in Unnamed State, no tornados, no 105 degree summer days, no -5 winter days. I'm super excited to get up there and into my new life.

I'm still doing lots of glass - nearly all fused these days. Here're some of my recent projects:

Making lots of earrings, pendants and sets. Anybody want some? I have a good sized inventory, good prices, and I can do special orders for colors, settings etc.!

I'm hoping to sell this stuff for some extra cash once I get moved. I love doing it and it's an incredibly fun medium to work in. I'm also thinking about doing some lamp work for special beads. I've done a couple of switch plates, trying to work out methods and limits. I'll be setting up something like Etsy, and will post that link here in case anybody wants to explore possibilities!

It's an interesting project, this move. Very different from what I've done before (and I've moved about 50 times, I think, since I was 18). For one, it's on my schedule instead of somebody else's, and that's a very strange thing indeed. Purging the personal library is another weird thing - I've always taken all my books, because I never knew what I'd need in the new place. I've spent 16 years here building a teaching resource library - won't need that anymore! So far, I've shredded nearly 100 lbs of documents; did you know that you can take things to places like FedEX and Office Depot for shredding? Yup. Very handy indeed, and it saved my poor little personal shredder from a death by over-use. I'm also purging personal items - furniture, clothing, dishes, unmatched glasses and cups, all kinds of things. Moving more animals than ever before as well; the dogs and bird will go up in the car with me, but the cat is going to have her own personal escort and go up by plane. I got a good price on a professional move - complete with packing - so most of the ugly stuff will be done by the pros. Packing the kitchen and studio are going to be somebody else's problem! But that also completely simplifies my life, because they'll do all that the day before they load the truck, so I can live fairly normally until then. 

So I'm ready to move on. Getting up the interest and energy to grade those last bits is a bit beyond me right now; I'd much rather do other things (like glass, read, nap, play with the pups...). 

Will I miss academia? Probably. I will certainly miss teaching, and am going to try to find some adjunct spots up in my new area. I won't miss the petty politics, the power plays. I will miss my friends terribly. My house and garden, the latter of which has been just spectacular this year. But part of the enjoyment I'm having with the garden is that it's my last spring here; what I've done has come into its own, it's what I wanted it to look like when I started - and that feels lovely. Time to move on.

Happy end of term everybody!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

23 Days, and Other Things

It's full spring here in Red Neck City;
Don't know why these look so washed out; overexposure didn't show up on the 'regular' image.

again, overexposed - but the deep purple iris 
are always the first iris that emerge

I don't even like pink flowers, but these tulips (from Amsterdam)
are just gorgeous.

The neighbor's wisteria

I just love these yellow roses against my purple studio

I've worked hard on these gardens, and this year is bittersweet. 
Joy at the beauty, pleasure in my part in creating it, 
deep awareness that this is my last spring with it.