Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Worm Rescue

(this was an assignment for a writing class where I had to incorporate every tense) 

I try not to drive; instead, I walk. When I do, I notice things I never would have taken in if I were driving in a car or even if I had been riding my bike. But now, I see flowers. I notice signs and details. I hear quiet, even on our city streets. Most significantly; I think.

A few weeks ago, when the weather was still rainy, I saw a worm writhing in a puddle. I walked past, thinking it sad. Normally, I would walk on. And, at first, I did. But I couldn’t quite let go of the image and with each step, I felt guilty.

My son, four, is an animal rescuer. At his young age, his biggest opportunity for rescuing animal is when worms are trapped in puddles after a rainstorm. It once took us twenty minutes to walk three blocks to his daycare because he had to stop to rescue every worm, and there were at least twenty that day.

It was as if he was reminding me of this kindness when I came across this worm. Yes, I could walk on, or, I could, instead, choose kindness. No witnesses, no bigger meaning, just simple kindness. And choosing kindness felt to be a small triumph.

               I have been walking for a while now. I will have been walking regularly for at least six months. I will have walked at least a hundred miles by the end of summer. I will drive again, it’s inevitable. But, I am looking now. I will know that when I was walking, I was happier.  I will be able to say, “I have walked.” Because I had walked in both the rain and sunshine, I will have known that it wasn’t a phase.

             Perhaps I had been walking as a way to stay present. Perhaps, it was a way to stay connected. But, no matter what, I will be walking. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bumming Rides

Just when I thought I was going to get back on track ... spring break happens.

There have been camps and since I'm close to the camp, it only made sense for me to drive them. At least we did carpool with another family and I do want to do more of that. 

The thing is, because we do all have our own cars, we don't realize how ridiculous it is to all take our own cars separately when we are just blocks away from each other and CAN carpool. Again, I won't ask for rides it's if out of someone's way (because then it defeats the purpose of not taking the car), but if it is on their way, and they're driving anyway, then it's fine with me.

And it made me realize just how often we're all driving separately...together. Yes, having your car means you CAN change your mind and go somewhere else, or stop somewhere on the way. But most of the time you really don't need to.

So far the big obstacles I've come across when it comes to going carless have to do with the kids. There's T-ball that's a couple miles away and it crosses over Dane's schedule for his martial art class. I tried to get it coordinated so we don't have to take two cars, but haven't been able to manage it. Then I thought - Quinn has four or five classmate that go to T-Ball. Since they're classmate, they all live really close by. I don't imagine any of them being put out by having to give us a ride.

But when I mentioned that to Dane, he commented, "then you always be that person bumming rides." Better than bumming cigarettes, I thought. I don't see the issue.

Then I realized that was the issue. I can't do this alone. Dane has to be as invested as I am. He has to be willing to make the same sacrifices. And, although he's supportive in theory, I feel it's sort of "done" with it by now. It's fine being stoic on my own and being independent on my own, but I can't with kids. It's a partnership and it's agreement.

So now I have to figure out how to get back on track, and how to get Dane on track with me.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Week Without - PART 2

Having the two cars let us all go to Quinn's T-ball practice. Dane was able to take off from there for his class.

It was a very different experience to have the car being on my own with the boys. It let me be more spontaneous. I don't know if that's the right word, I actually feel more spontaneous / less tied down when I don't have a car. But, it allowed us to be less planful.

We were able to go right from T-ball to the wilderness camp open house (which we wouldn't have been able to do if I didn't have the car). Reed started to meltdown at the open house so we were able to leave right then and there (another benefit of the car is having it when there are meltdowns).

After the weekend, there was the matter of the lost bus-pass. Luckily, as we live in Portland, some nice person found it at the bus-stop, went through the trouble of looking me up in the PSU directory (since the bus-pass is on my PSU ID and let me know she had it). So Dane picked it up for me and I got it - and then proceeded to lose it in the house somewhere.

So last week I drove the car to work. I called it an experiment - seeing what it was like with the car again after having time away from it. And, yes, it did help that it was cold and wet and hailing and raining and snowing and miserable all week.

So what did I learn having the car? It lets me be lazier. I can run late and still get there in time if I take the car. If I'm running late and I'm taking the bus, I'm held accountable. For some strange reason, I like that. Also, I don't think about where I'm going or what I'm doing, I just do it. For some reason, I don't really like that either. I like the purposefulness of knowing how I'm going to get somewhere. It proves to me that it's worth going to.

But it also made me realize, that without the car, all the responsibility for the kids goes to Dane. Even if I'm helping getting them ready / get them out the door, he's stuck with picking them up. When I had the car, he could go to the gym and I would be the one to pick up the kids. I could offer. Now if I pick up the kids on the bus, I have to know ahead of time so I can plan for it. So me being carless puts a lot of pressure on Dane. He's been fine with it, but he didn't really sign up for it, just got stuck with it, so I don't feel so great about that. He's supportive, but to a point.

One of Dane's best talents is his ability to find things that I lose and on Friday he found my lost ID / bus-pass (that was in the backpack I looked through twice), so now I'm back on the lightrail track and off the wagon. And just in time, it's cherry blossom season and the path to carlessness is lined with cherry blossoms. Last year, I started riding my bike to work a week too late - all the cherry blossoms along waterfront park has dropped their flowers. It's only a few weeks that we have this time, and this time I'm not going to miss it.

A Week Without - PART 1

I took a week off from being carless. Yes, it happened to be during the worst weather of the year, but that's not why I did it, I just got lucky that way.

First I dropped my bus pass at the bus stop while taking Quinn to school on the bus. I had to pay cash for the trip, and I was short a dime, but the bus driver let me go (they always do). It was an exciting ride, in that we were watching the clock to see if we would make it to school in time. We got there just two minutes before the final bell, which turns out to be plenty of time when you don't need to find parking and the bus drops you off right at the corner of the entrance and then stops traffic so you can cross the street.

But, I mean, think about. Really, think about it. Think about the difference of your state of mind when you start your day out with fun, friendly and easy vs. being in the car, finding parking, running up to the school. It just friendlier taking the bus. Even the worry of not getting there in time is lessened on the bus, because then it's out of your hands. Same thing with going downtown or to the zoo. It's such a less stressful thing when you don't have to deal with parking. You get out of the max, and voila! there you are at the entrance. Lovely.

That weekend was Quinn's first T-ball practice at a school that's just over two miles away. I had spent the past couple days trying to figure out how to get Quinn to T-ball while Dane had his martial arts class and it just wasn't working out. We couldn't do both. We could take the van and Dane could take the bus to his martial arts class, but then he would miss all of t-ball. If we took two cars, we could do both. So while I was trying to sort out carpooling, or complicated bus routes so that Dane could get to the end of practice, Dane finally lost his patience with it and pointed out we still actually have two cars and can use them.

So I gave in. It was true. I do still have the two cars, and it's still just an experiment, I don't have to not use the car. But I didn't want to. And once you're off the wagon (or, in this case, back in the wagon that is the subaru outback), it's hard to get back on the lightrail track. And that was the start of the week without... (well, with, the car).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

DANGER! Don't Text and Walk

Walking home in the cold sunshine that's so unusual for Portland, I heard the family "ding" that my phone gives me when a text comes in. I reflexively pulled my phone out of my inside jacket pocket and looked at it while crossing the street. Reading the text, I didn't see the curb coming up on me and went spat onto the pavement, phone skipping across the sidewalk so I could brace myself with my hands. Naturally, there was a car pulling up to the intersection as I did my performance, so I had to scurry getting up so I didn't have a nice Portlander asking if I was okay. As I got up and dusted myself off, the car slowly went on its way, and I kept my gaze down.

As I walked along with my scraped knee, skinned palm and bruised ego, I found I wasn't angry at myself for being stupid enough to read a text as I crossed the street, but at the texter. Or, more accurately, at the ghost in the machine that is the text itself.

There is something inherently rude about a text. A text interrupts whatever you are doing with, "HEY...THIS IS IMPORTANT!" though it usually isn't. I absolutely love texting for making plans, sending a quick update, or communicating with spouse while in a meeting. But, when I get a text that isn't something I need to check on immediately, I just feel...interrupted.

We all know addictive texters. I've had to ban my best friend from texting during dinner at our house. Some people seem to love the continual chime of, "HEY..." but not me. I want it to go away. At least during my walks. It's my thinking time. I don't want to be dinged in the middle of an almost revelation. I want the focus.

From now on, I'm silencing my phone and checking my texts only a couple times a day (which my friends will be surprised that I do it even that often. I'll hear the chime, think I'll go check the text after whatever I'm doing, and then forget about it). But between emails, voicemails, skype, texts, phone, I'm communicated out.

I miss letters. Real letters. On stationary, with handwriting. It's so rare now and I imagine a lot of young adults may have never gotten a real letter in their lives. But when I was fresh out of college and moved across the country, there were still some friends I would write to. I would literally take a whole evening to write a letter - about my thoughts and observations. Oh, guess kind of like the blog, huh?

The best part of this, is the irony. What do you think I'm doing as I'm writing this? Texting back and forth with my husband, Dane, about an owl. My son's kindergarten teacher sent us a link they're watching in school of a mother owl and her hatching eggs. She sleeps most of the time, and the newly hatched chick is god-ugly, but it's riveting to watch this new life, this other creature family and what their day is like.

I watch the mom on her eggs, sleeping so much of the time, and am sympathetic to how tired I was that far along in my pregnancy and how real nesting becomes even though we're different animals. The father came in, dropped off the day's kill as if it were a child support check, and then left again, (probably headed to the bar, Dane texted).

So, whatever, what do I know? It's love / hate. When it works for me, I love it. But when it makes me fall on my face - not so much.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Crazy Syncronicity

I came across this today after writing my "focus on art and writing" (goal) blog. Couldn't be more perfect!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Consequence of Setting Goals

Sticking to the goals is something that my boss taught me. He is a teacher, after all. Well, not taught me, exactly. I've done the 7 Habits, I know about setting goals. I've just never been really good at sticking to it. I get distracted. I make too many goals, or start off in a different direction. It's hard for me to stay constant on one path.

But every week when I meet with my boss, our top five agenda items are the goals he set for himself this year (oops, I guess I should be doing that with my staff too. But that would mean actually writing out the goals that we set at our retreat, which is one of my goals, so it comes full circle).

One day a couple months back, I was taking a long walk, and was reflecting on my workday. I had a great day - I was working on stuff that was totally not important for "work." I was designing plexi-glass panels for the laser-cutter, and I realized that when I do that - when I focus on what I like to do, even when it's not "important" - it tends to have a positive impact and, usually, I get rewarded for it.

That's one of the things I love about being carless. I walk. When I walk, I think. When I actually have the time and space to think, I realize things.

What I realized, is that maybe the "other" stuff that I do, when I'm supposed to be working, is what I'm actually supposed to be doing for work. Stick with me a moment. I'm supposed to do the accounting and financial tracking for my work. But, I'm also in charge of branding and space and design, even though they're not really part of my job (but my boss knows I'm capable and wants that for the department, so he asks me for it too.)

When I'm doing that work (that's not really necessarily "necessary"), I'm energized, and it rubs off on the rest of the team. When we're energized, we have more ideas. When we have more ideas, things develop. It might not have been what was on our, "to do list," but our excitement and passion and talent makes it successful and so it is then appreciated.

What am I talking about, you ask? A room. A silly room. It's not important to the grand scheme of things. One day, while walking around with the boss, we decided to take a space that was being occupied by cubicles and break down the walls and make it into a lounge space instead.

For some reason, facilities was more on top of things than usual and was ready to paint. We had to decide on a color. I saw great colors in another building on campus so the whole staff got up, closed up the office, and headed over to the other side of campus to check out Lincoln Hall to see the "orange" I was talking about.

We stopped at the facilities office along the way and discovered that although orange used to be one of the choices, it was no longer an option because it was too associated with another school (that have Beavers as a mascot). But, our student worker, Adrian, saw a deep red they had in Lincoln Hall and thought that would be good for the room. So we went with that.

I wanted to use the "whiteboard wallpaper" that we had bought and wrap the walls. It would tone down the red and make the space interesting. One of the researchers donated furniture. The new staff guy mentioned having little tables mounted to the wall. One of the other staffers then picked up little doors from IKEA to use as tables, but we had to put in something where the recesses in were so that it was smooth. The carpenter (who put up the whiteboard wallpaper) scored us some "extra" plexiglass from the shop and cut it to shape for us. Our lab manager dubbed it "20Lounge," like, "30-rock" he said, and he, being a real-true engineer, could use the nifty laser-cutter we have to carve drawings I make into the plexi-glass.

During our staff meetings, we would meet in the evolving "20Lounge" and came to realize it was becoming an awesome space. We all contributed ideas, we all went with our instincts even if they didn't seem practical (red walls, doors as tables, wallpaper for whiteboard), and it turned out great.

It made me realize that's what I want to do for work. I don't know what "that" is exactly. But, it's creative, it's inspired, it's being goofy and instinctual and going with it, and inspiring the rest of the team to do likewise. I'm good at that - whatever "that" is. Now I just have to figure out what kind of job that actually is.

As I walked and reflected on the day, I realized I would no longer disregard "that" as unimportant. I was going to make "that" a priority. The closest I could come to naming it was "art and writing." From now on, my focus would be in art and writing (with creativity and humor). Even if I had skills and interests and was being drawn into other areas (my distractions) I would keep focus. In the same way my boss would evaluate how to spend his time and check to see if they were part of his "goals." I would check what I was focusing on at work and see if it met "art and writing."

That didn't mean I wouldn't do the "real" parts of my job. Those are necessary and unavoidable. But, when given a choice, when given time, I would choose to focus on creativity.

What this ended up resulting in, is me quitting my job. Not my real job, but my extra job. I wrote about it in my other blog, "ReunionEyes" because I discovered that I actually followed through with it. I made writing a priority. So, unwittingly, the example my boss set in goal-setting resulted in me stopping my work with him. At least on that project.

I wonder where the goals will lead next.