Saturday, July 30, 2011

Still getting used to the idea

I'm still getting used to the idea that my job is secure for the next year. It comes with the caveat that I need to do something (besides wishing for it) to get ready for whatever I'm going to be doing next. But still, I have to remind myself that this thing that contributes hugely to my feelings of security in this world is in place.

Not only that, but I will share a story here because I feel like I'm flaunting my good fortune if I actually spoke these words to anyone out loud in these tough times. When I went in to speak to my boss about where I was with my current projects and to discuss what I'd be doing for the next year, I mentioned that I had been hired on five years ago at a certain level. This level is actually one below the one people are often hired when they have a Ph.D. So I said that it had been my plan that, if I made it past five years, I would ask for an increase so that I'd be working at a rate corresponding to the next level up the food chain.

My boss agreed that I should be working at this other level, but didn't know if the money was there. He said, and I heartily agreed, that he was just glad to see the money so that I could get renewed, he didn't know if there was enough for a raise. So I emailed him the next day about it, and long story short, I got a raise. I got a raise that, when I read the email, my jaw literally dropped (funny how that does happen, but I was trying to keep my expectations low) and I said (to myself, as there were other people around) "Oh, my god" about 14 times.

I'm going to put some money into this old house. I still want someone to build me a deck that I can get to through my living room, and the kitchen needs to be updated. I feel so very fortunate.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

As if

I've been having trouble sleeping for a few months now, corresponding with the news that I was going to lose my job. When things are going well and my stress level is low, I'm good for about 6.5 - 7 hours during the week, and maybe 8 on the weekends. I used to think that I needed more sleep during the week, but shooting for 7 seems to work, and I don't feel like my body is run down for it.

When I'm tweaked out about something, or everything, I usually can fall asleep OK, and then I wake up every couple of hours. Sometimes I'm up for an hour or two tossing and turning. Worse is the sort of half-sleep buzz where my eyes are closed, but my mind is going going going, and I feel exhausted the next day.

You'd think, now that my job situation is secure for the next year, that I'd be sleeping like a rock. Or like my dog, who seems to be able to sleep anywhere, any time. But no, I've been beset by the same stuff. I know that part of this is nerves associated with the beginning of a relationship, and that's fine and expected. But by and large, there's this hum of... what? Anxiety, I guess, about finding the job after this one, and I'm not sure what else.

Ack! So I was up at 2 and 4 this morning, with my alarm set for 5:30 (as usual). At 4 I tried my Jedi mind tricks of visualizing punching numbers on a keypad and naming things alphabetically. These things sometimes work to occupy my mind so I can fall asleep. What do I name alphabetically? Well, for a long time it was (don't laugh now) the latin names of wildflowers. You did laugh, darn it. For the last couple of days, it's been spices. Any spices with the letter J? I'll have to get my Penzey's catalog at some point and see if there are any...

These things did not work, but I did get myself all worked up (tears included) over the frustration of being awake when I'm supposed to be resting. My mind, my enemy at that moment. Breathe! Yes, breathing, that's it. No, that wasn't it. More tears.

And then it occurred to me: how about I behave today as if everything is going to work out? How about if I proceed as though things will proceed as they should?

This ended up calmed me down. I'm happy to say that, at least for the moment, I feel much better.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


One of the great things about living in Colorado is being able to get to 10,000' relatively easily. This is especially handy when the temperatures are forecast to be in the mid-90's, one has gotten a late start and wishes to hike on a Sunday afternoon. Sally and I headed up to Montgomery Pass, which is always farther away than I think it will be, about 1.5 hours from the house, up the Poudre Canyon. But it was a really nice day for a drive, so that time was well spent.

The parking lot is at 10,000', and the hike is short, kind of steep in spots, but takes one up above treeline for a really nice view. I think that's Wyoming out there, but don't quote me on it. The sign is at about 11,000'. Sally is a better hiker than I, and it's my estimation that when we include all the back and forth she does and the dashing about in utter doggy excitement, she does twice the mileage. Easy.

And there is still snow up there! In the shady places. It was a pretty warm day, but there were several spots where we had to go up and over some snow. Got my boots wet, but nothing uncomfortable. Miss Sally loved the snow. What is it with dogs and snow? With the first patch she saw, she was belly-down and eating it.

The flowers were OK. There has been so much snow this year that they are late. If I go up in 3-4 weeks, the show will be better, but there were still some nice flowers along the trail. Above is something in the Buttercup family that was growing right there in a little stream of snowmelt. Cold feet. Brrr.

In other news, the date with BW was fun. A lot of fun. I'm in that stage where it's hard to know what will happen next (as if we ever get a clear window on that) and I'm thinking about it probably too much. But what's different this time is that I feel like I've got tools to get me away from that and thinking about what's going on now. It's been a fun ride so far, so we'll see where/how it goes.

I gotta get myself out camping! I think I'm going to go during the week for a couple of days, since I haven't camped all summer.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Supporting the Arts (Dinner Included!)

Yea, Saturday! Tonight BW and I are going to something called the Art Lab Supper Club. Friend D and I went to the last one in April, and I'm excited to be attending another one. It's a nifty idea. Get organizations to donate food, and sell tickets for dinner. Line up several artists who need modest financial support. Have each one give a presentation as to why their project deserves the proceeds from ticket sales. Get audience to vote to determine the top three choices. Give away the money. So cool!

In other news, I need to get the emissions checked on my car today. The county has simultaneously reinstated the requirement for people to get their cars tested, and restricted the number of places that offer the service. Then it's tidying up the house, trying to get to the dog park before it gets too hot, and other this and that sort of Saturday stuff. Hoping that Sal and I can go for a hike tomorrow morning before it gets too hot. She loves to hike.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's a secret

I'm not a musical person, and did not come from musical people. We play the radio, mostly. I've heard stories of families that sung together, or where all the kids played an instrument, That was not us. Not for any good reason, though. My parents were just more focused on us getting an education that included books, and that worked really well.

Anyway, as an adult I've thought it was just really neat that some people played an instrument for their own pleasure. As for the choice of instrument, I like the traveling sort of motion-y sound that a banjo produces.

I've talked about experiencing connections around town before, and here's another story about that. A few months ago, I was leaving my Spin class, which is held at one of the local community centers. I had provided music for the class, which included this song, a real twanger. As I walked out with my fellow Spinner R, he mentioned he played the banjo. Then he stopped to talk to a woman that I had seen giving guitar lessons at the center and said, "And this is my teacher. She's an awesome teacher."

Just like that, I found an instructor. I hemmed and hawed about actually buying a banjo, as the job situation was murky. One of the first things I did after I found out my contract had been renewed was to buy the banjo pictured above. It's a beginner model, but one that the instructor recommended. It should get here in the next few days, and I start lessons in about a week.

Oh, and why the title of this post? Well, I haven't told anyone but Mr W about this purchase. I guess because of something I heard about meditation. That you may not want to announce that you're doing it until you've actually been doing it for a while. Just to make sure you're actually going to be doing it for a while, instead of being in love with the idea.

Twang, twang, twang.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Garden 7-16-11

Here's my garden as of yesterday. I'm still waging war against the bindweed, and the placeholder timbers for the third bed look kind of weird, but I'm mostly happy with it. It is such a process, this gardening thing. Still so hard for me to tell how much room things will take up.

The boxes seem to be holding up well. I reinforced the corners this year by putting a couple of wood screws into each. The veneer is sort of peeling away in places, but these bookcases are living out their second life pretty well as raised beds. The green thing is a chunk of glass that my neighbor got me for watching their cat. There's a rock shop in Custer, South Dakota that sells chunks of slag (? I think that's what it's called) in different colors. This chunk perhaps was with some that became Rolling Rock bottles...

Do not adjust your set. Here are the peas, lettuce (bolting nicely, thank you), one broccoli that just wanted to be leaves and stem, and the carrots. I planted herbs on the left, but they aren't really popping yet. I pulled the broccoli out, and the dog ate just about everything but the leaves. My omnivore. The peas were knocked down by the hail storm, but have bounced back quite well. It's been hot, but they're doing their thing. We'll see for how much longer.

I didn't do too much with annuals this year. Everything I bought ended up in this blue pot, and I like how it looks so far. It got pounded by the hail as well, so it's not quite up to its full potential yet. To the left is one bag of the great-potato-bag-experiment-of-2011. I need to put more soil/compost in the bags, but they are holding up just fine. More glass slag on the corner of the box on the right.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Now what?

This all started when I got back from my little vacation. My boss (who I really like but is a man of few words sometimes) sent me an email: "call me". That's it. OK... Now, I've been up and down about similar requests before, and it's usually along the lines of "where'd you put those specimens from Mississippi?". But this time he said R (his boss) told him there might be money to keep one of us contractors that got laid off 4.5 months ago (with the end of the contract being July 13st). So the question was, was I still available? And I said, "well, at the moment, yes."

He writes up a one page thing, I read it, it goes to who it's supposed to go to, and then he emails yesterday, "it's a done deal". Just like that, I go from what felt like certain doom to another year of a job that I've done for 5 years already and gives me enough to do the things I want to do. It was just so sudden. And arbitrary-feeling. (I'm working to quiet those certain-doom opinions that float around in my head, but that's another post.)

When I told my dog park peeps about this, I asked J, who is a psychologist/counselor person, "why do I feel a little, well, put-off by this?" She said, "you're feeling all sorts of emotions right now, it's OK". And I do. On the one hand, it feels like my good hard work didn't really have anything to do with me keeping my job. To that, she said, "welcome to the real world". And that's true.

On the other hand, there will be no hour-plus commute, and I get to stay in and keep my house. Two biggies in my "security is important" mindset.

On the other hand, I bought interview clothes! And shoes! Nice shoes. Dressy working-woman shoes (can you tell I work in a lab?). That I now won't get to wear while communicating how well I'd do in a new job.

Or will I? My boss and I haven't talked face to face about all this yet, but I'm going to be honest with him and tell him about the permanent federal positions that I've applied and been deemed eligible for. I think it would be short-sighted to not go ahead and take the interviews for those, if they come.

And on the other other other hand, this is an opportunity, and I'd do well to see it as such. I will now be able to position myself for the next thing. I've had the chance to get a taste of what the job market is like around here, and will do something to get myself better qualified for the next time (and I'm certain there will be a next time) my contract does not get renewed. Exactly what that is, I don't know yet, but I'm thinkin', always thinkin'.

In the meantime, it's Saturday, and I need to do some errands, tidy up the house and am going to see some live music tonight. Still processing all this, but life is good.

Yes, I still have a garden. I'm going out to take pictures this morning. I ate the first zucchini yesterday, and the peas are yummy, too.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Just found out that I've been pulled out of the fire and they are indeed going to renew me for another year.

More on this later. I'm not sure what to think.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Getting back to it

Mr W and I had a fabulous time in MN. No doubt about it, flying was so much easier than driving. We had direct flights, and had minor delays each way, but got there in a reasonable amount of time. That's about all one can ask from the airlines these days, it seems. They did accommodate us when I asked to switch our seats so we'd sit together, and that was nice of them.

What did we do? Besides the talk my SIL and I attended, which I'm still ruminating over, we did a bunch of stuff for Mr W. We went to the Science Museum of Minnesota, which had the King Tut exhibit. I had missed the boy king when he was in Denver for several months, and it was a nice surprise to be able to see it in MN. Cool stuff, and I'm glad we did it. Mr W was trying to wrap his head around the time frame, and was suitably awed. They had pictures on the walls that Howard Carter took when he discovered the tomb, and then had the objects right there. That was cool.

We also, godhelpus, went to the Mall of America, so Mr W could do rides at the indoor amusement park. I'm of the opinion now that he likes the idea of an amusement park much more than the actual things, because he's just one of those people who has a lot of trepidation about strapping into a ride and getting tossed around. His dear aunt and I tried to bribe him (well, technically it would have been a reward because he'd get it afterwards) with a generous trip to the Lego store, if he would go on the easy rollercoaster that spanned the entire indoor space. We got up to the platform twice and he bolted both times. I won't lie; it wore me out.

We also ate really well, and I've got the extra couple of pounds to prove it. My SIL goes to the gym regularly, so I tagged along for three of the days and worked out. At least I made an attempt to mitigate the ice cream, steak, etc. It was just really nice to visit with two of my favorite people, and I was glad they were able to fit in our visit between all the summer travel they have scheduled.

I took the day off yesterday, which was a good method of re-entry, and now am getting back into the groove. Nothing new on the job search front, but a co-worker mentioned that he had a phone interview and they surprised him with some of the standard interview questions that I probably don't have good, quick answers to yet. So, I got a book out of the library and will brush up on that this weekend in anticipation of an interview. I had lunch with BW, and that has all been fun so far. A couple of days ago, I got an email through the dating site from someone who lives about an hour and 15 minutes away from here. He seemed nice enough, actually did have a background in science, but I replied that logistically, I couldn't see us being able to swing it. It underscored the importance of finding a local guy.

Oh, and the little experiment in having Sally stay with a dog park friend and her dog instead of at the kennel worked. Almost too well. The group of regulars reported that she was too exhausted by her almost constant playing with the other dog that she didn't want to chase the ball when she came to the dog park. She's been pretty much sleeping since I picked her up yesterday. A job well done!

Friday, July 8, 2011

MN Day 2

We got to MN without incident yesterday afternoon. The only small snag was that we got here so fast (some kind of tailwind, perhaps?) that we had to wait for our arrival gate to open up before we could get off the plane. Otherwise, it was smooth sailing, and totally worth the cost. I did have a little bit of a twinge, though, as though it was almost too easy. I'll just be quiet about that now.

My brother and SIL's neighborhood had a big storm, so there is evidence of people's clean up efforts all over their tree lawns (the strip between the sidewalk and the street). It made me think about neighborhoods, as they've lived here for over ten years now, and have had the same next door neighbors the whole time. This neighborhood, to my mind, is exactly like what most people think of as suburbia. Nice people who take care of their yards, takes 20 minutes to get anywhere interesting. But it's safe, and there's room to have a garden, and a yard for the dog. Safe but a bit boring?

Plans are shaping up. Tonight, my SIL and I are going to a talk by a Tibetan Buddhist master, who is speaking on global ecology from a Buddhist perspective. It's so far out there from what I normally do, but at the same time, hits the nail on the head of some the things I've been thinking about right now during this time of transition for me, looking for a mate and a job. I don't know if I believe in fate, but I do believe in freaky (and cool) coincidences that sometimes result in us getting knowledge or insight that we wouldn't otherwise have had. M was given the tickets by someone at the school where she teaches, and Mr W and I just happened to be in town during that time. It seems like if a person gets to hear an acknowledged wise person speak, one should do their best to pay attention and see if they can take something from it.

Aside from that, my brother and his friend are going to take Mr W geocaching while M and I are at the talk, and then go do guy stuff. There's a little pile of trinkets growing on the table that they'll use to add to (or replenish? I'm not exactly sure how that works) the caches they find. We'll probably find ourselves on a pontoon boat at some point, and also make a trip to the science museum (woo-hoo!) and of course lots of good food and ample red wine. Who could ask for anything more, indeed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's easier

I'm glad we are flying to MN, and not driving after all. I do think that if I had a bigger chunk of time that the road trip makes sense, and Mr W was actually looking forward to it. Well, in the sense that he'd have hours and hours of time to play video games.

It'll be easier to prepare for a plane trip. Two carry-ons, one that has the computer. Download some stuff to the iPod, make sure we have all the cords to everything. Pack a few clothes, and we're good. A little more money spent this way, but I think it's worth the convenience.

We're trying something new for Sally. She'll stay with one of the women who I walk with at the dog park, instead of going to what I euphemistically call "dog camp", i.e. the kennel. I have to pay $25 a day to kennel Sal anyway, and would rather give it to someone I knew.

And I'm having lunch with BW today. I decided to take the afternoon off anyway, to run some errands that I just don't seem to be getting done, like getting the emissions tests done on both my vehicles. Second date.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Plan. No, another plan.

Well, after running the numbers three ways for getting to MN to visit my brother and SIL, I think I've settled on flying. Since we've got $125 vouchers from Christmas, I can apply those and it's more reasonable. The van is a true guzzler (in my book) with gas mileage at about 17 mpg. Take a couple miles off for using the A/C if it, theoretically, were to work and it's about $450 for gas (premium, thanks) to get there and back. 

Getting there the first way was to drive the van and camp outside of Omaha. Eighteen hours of driving over two days, and of course, the same return trip home. With the money I'd save on gas, it was just about the same cost  for the second way: rent a small car and stay in a hotel.

Here's the thing, though. I have come to the realization that four long days of driving over eight days does not a vacation make. I'm trying to squeeze a lot into eight days, and it's simply not worth it. The journey to get there and back would be mostly something to endure. Now, if I had a solid two weeks to do the trip, with the benefit of A/C, that would be a different story.

So we're going to fly. I'm going to call the kennel first thing tomorrow and see if they've got room for Sally. There's also someone from the dog park that might be able to take her for that time. I don't think Sal would really mind either way.

It ends up being about an extra $200 to fly when I considered the expenses of driving, not including my time or mental energy. So, while I was looking forward to some contemplative time on the road, it'll have to be to and from the airport. Is my time, and the convenience of stepping on a plane and just getting there worth something? Yup, about $200.

Logistics. Now I'll need to adjust Mr W's camp schedule so he's around two partial weeks instead of one week on and one off. I'll just work for the two days that I was going to be driving and get paid for that time. I'm thankful my work situation (dwindling as it is) is flexible in that regard.

Speaking of work, I got another fed application in yesterday. It was so involved, I must have spent 30 hours on it easy. It was partly my fault, as I read the "write a narrative about how your experience matches the specialized experience required for this position" as writing several paragraphs under each of the five kinds of specialized experiences. What they really wanted was to divide it by job, not the kind of specialized experience, so I had to edit and cut and paste. The nice thing was that when I submitted, it checked for errors (three kinds, even) and found none. So I've sent that one off into the ether, and will hope for the best while thinking that I did my best.

So today, there's no job search stuff to do, and the dating thing is sort of waiting for us both to get done with the stuff we've got going on these first couple of weeks of July. So, no dating stuff to fret over today either. Mr W and I will see fireworks tonight at City Park, and try to arrange for him to play with a buddy for a while. I'll tidy up the house, check on my garden and it's therefore shaping up to be a good day.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Strike One

I had a thought, sort of in passing, the other day that went something like this: "I should turn on the A/C in the van to make sure it's working because we'll need it for the trip". Time passes. Life happens, and so yesterday, I'm finally turning on the A/C as Sally and I head to the dog park in the heat of the afternoon.

No A/C. Just a lot of hot air. Pick your own metaphor there.

I howled at this. I paid a guy, who several folks recommended as THE guy to fix a vanagon's A/C, $700 last year to fix the A/C shortly after I bought the van. And the thing is, I didn't use it much. We used it on our trip and it worked pretty well. Then, I can't recall using it after then, as I'm one of those people who don't turn on the A/C for short trips around town (much to my kid's dismay).

In hindsight, I ask myself, why did I wait so long to check and make sure it worked? Because it was fixed and it was supposed to work. Simple as that.

So, now what? We were supposed to leave Tuesday to drive to MN to see my brother and SIL. I'm not driving the van all that way without A/C. I hate the feeling of being beat up by the wind. That ain't no vacation. I'm going to leave a message on the guy's voice mail today, very nicely asking if he could look at it first thing Tuesday. I'm not sure if I should try to pack in the meantime.

I checked flights and at this late date, they are $400 apiece. Plus I'd have to board the dog. J and M have lots of travel planned this summer, so if I could leave a day later, I guess, and that would still work. We might be able to swing something at the beginning of August. Or I could pack up my 16 year old Civic (which has working A/C and cruise control, btw), and give it a shot. Or I could rent a nice little car that is sure to make it. Both of those options would require a night in a hotel somewhere around Omaha.

I'm afraid this is Strike One against Graycie the Campervan. I love her, but I am no tinkerer. I need my transportation to have a level of reliability that I'm comfortable with, and this demonstrates how things go with such an old vehicle. It's the prime season to sell it, if it goes that way, but I'm not there yet. I do feel a twinge because I'm still paying for it, and haven't camped in it this year yet.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


I admit I've been experiencing the same up and down thing lately that I've been prone to since this job search thing began. I'm fine one moment, and then I think something like, "what if I lose my house?" "what if I have to commute to Denver?" and, the ever-popular, "what if I can't find a job that pays enough?". *sigh* I get tired of it. Weary. And it passes, and then I feel like things are going to be OK. More than OK, that things are going to work out to my satisfaction all around. They just will. That I will at some point look back on this phase of my life, where it felt sometimes like I was double-whammied with having to look for both a job and a mate, and think, "that was tough, but things are better now".

I'm trying to be more mindful, as in the Jon Kabat-Zinn kind of mindful, as I think this is going to really help me move right on past the doubt and the worry over things that simply aren't in my control. As I've got about 32 hours of driving ahead of me over the next week (wow!) I've downloaded one of his books from Audible, and am going to really make an effort to DO it, not just read about it and think it's a good idea.

One of the things that never fails to de-funkitize me is experiencing the connections I have during my daily activities. Work's been pretty solitary lately, with me doing my experiments, crunching data and writing manuscripts.So I have enjoyed the friendship of the people in my Spin class, who seem just as delighted as I am that we've sort of come together as a random bunch and have so much to chat about.

Then there's the dog park folks, who I see almost every day. We talk about our dogs and our lives, and it's great to celebrate and commiserate there. I'm also tickled that I have wonderful neighbors. It's something that is hard to predict, but I have lucked out in that department. It eases my mind that I'll have people to foist extra vegetables on later this summer, too :-)

And this morning, I stopped by the farmers market to pick up my CSA egg share. It was so nice to chat with Claire, whose family runs the farm. How cool is it that we've been able to develop a friendship that started out over me wanting to buy eggs from a farm? Cool indeed.

So it's these kinds of connections I remind myself that life is all about. Trying not to forget it, either.

In other news, tomorrow and the 4th will be spent getting ready for our road trip. This will be the year to determine whether it's worth it to me to keep the van. I haven't camped this year in it at all, instead feeling like I needed to put time and effort into the house. I'll tally up the cost in time and money and see if it's just cheaper to fly!! That makes laugh, because it's probably close. But it will be a good experience for Mr W and I to see that part of the country. I really enjoyed seeing the prairies through Iowa last year, even though they were the ones along the highway.

In yet other news, I've traded a few more emails with BW, who is out of town and we won't both be available until after Mr W and I get back. I've been ruminating on our conversations, and am looking forward to getting to know him better.