Unrealized inspiration

I’ve tried a couple of time to give a recap of what has happened over the past several months since the fire but every attempt came out bad. Since something else has happened that I want to write about I’ll give a quick synopsis: month in hotel, dog anxiety, found nice place, still settling in, dog happy, we’re good.

Anyway, the other night I got a text from my mom that read “Do you hear from Hans? It has been quite a while since I have and the phone number is no longer valid.” Which was odd, because I had just that day realized I needed to call him on the weekend. It had been eight months since we talked and I wanted to catch up – he was my inspiration to get into programming back in the day and I was getting back to it. Four minutes of research later I found the obituary. He had passed away in April, eight months earlier and just a short time after our last conversation. Now eight months was longer than we usually went between calls but not by a lot. Thirty four years of friendship has that kind of time dilating effect.

To say that Hans had been a big influence on my life would be an understatement. I met him in Albuquerque as a wannabe punk 12 year old geek in the making. I had started playing Dungeons and Dragons and he ran a game. I know my parents were concerned at first, as he was 19, but things were on the up and up and he eventually became a family friend – even coming over for many Thanksgivings because he had no family in town. I learned my first pieces of programming from him – something which turned into my first career.

But the way he inspired me was just by being authentically himself. When I met him in 1982 he had recently moved to Albuquerque from Idaho. Why did he make the move? Because he lived there for a few years as a kid and knew that was the place for him. And he made the move by loading his backpack and saddlebags, and riding his 10-speed bicycle 1300 miles. During the thirty four years I knew him he mainly spent his free time doing one of three things: photography/videography, playing D&D, and teaching computer skills. He could have “done something” with his life but he liked tutoring kids at community centers, especially in poorer neighborhoods, so they could “do something”. When we talked I’d hear the typical problem roommate stories, but more often it was how great the classes were going and how I should start programming again.

Hans did not march to the beat of his own drummer. He marched to a freeware drum machine app that he downloaded from somewhere, then played around with until it sounded good. I will miss you, my friend. Gods keep you.


I am standing outside my apartment. Three people are inside, packing up everything. Later some other people will evaluate everything to decide whether is it fine, fixable,  or fucked. 

It is humbling. A life summed up in boxes and tagged large items, to be inspected by some disinterested third party. Is this who I am? A PS4, some boardgames, and an exercise bike? At some points in my life it seems like I answered yes. No, not “answered”. That implies a decision. More like passively accepted society telling me who I was.

People seem surprised with how calm I am about the fire. And I guess I am. But the loss of things isn’t too terrible. Sure, a few precious things are gone. But now I have the opportunity to be mindful.of what I bring back into my life. It is easier to say “No, thank you” than “Goodbye”.

Unexpected pushes

For several month Jules and I have been on autopilot in many ways. She has been focusing on work – more hours are almost always great when you consult – and I have just been caught up in the normal stresses of call center management. Plus physical therapy so I can skate again.

That led to many weeks where we’d say to each other “We need to do some downsizing this weekend” or “Hey, we can go through <X> and see what we really need”. But then on Saturday we’d get involved with other things to destress and completely forget about it until Tuesday or Wednesday.

This morning we got a swift kick in the asses. I was having a nice Saturday morning cuppa tea when I heard someone loudly say “Fire!” Not a shout, just someone speaking loudly. That sounded odd so I looked out the back door and saw flames reflected in the next building. Long story short – Jules, Ciarda, and I are all fine. We made it out with paperwork, computers, and (after the fire was out) most of our clothing.

Now a lot of our stuff is trashed.

The first picture is our bedroom. Our bed is somewhere under there. As is my table full of stuff. The second picture is Jules’ office. You can’t see the windows because the ceiling has fallen down and covered them. Both of them have ceiling covering everything. Most things are waterlogged. What are we going to do? We are going to move on.

Brutal Calculations

Good morning! Life has been life, lately. And life, as John Lennon quoted from Allen Saunders, is what happens when you make other plans. I really wanted to come back with something about that aspect of life but realized that I needed to talk about something else first – the choices we make about what we do and having to balance what we Want To Do with what we are Required To Do. Brutal Calculations as I have started to think of them.

Brutal Calculations. We all make them. They are part of the lives of every single person on the planet. An example for me commonly is between work and practice. Playing roller derby is a huge passion for me. Having been injured I need to work harder to come back and part of that is going to practice and actually skating. Practice and working out becomes a priority. Then I have work, which is a supervisory/management position. That means I have a lot of stuff to get done with deadlines. It also means that I get assigned extra tasks based on business need and I am expected to complete them. Even if I have to unexpectedly work late that night to do it.

And there you have it. The choice between roller derby, an activity which lifts my spirit and brings me joy, and work, which keeps a roof over my head but isn’t “uplifting”. A Brutal Calculation.

But the choices don’t have to be that stark or depressing. It can be the choice between playing Fallout 4 (very fun in the moment, no long term benefits), writing (can be fun, working on a skill that will be useful), and working out (quite a chore, great benefits). If you have limited resources you have to make them. Do you buy the Deluxe, Super Premium, Every Channel Possible Cable Package, or do you take classes to indulge a hobby? Do you pay the phone bill or the electric bill?

Well, lately my choices have been work, working out, the aforementioned Fallout 4, and watching old episodes of Would I Lie to You? It is time for me to change prioritization.More writing. More working out. More practice. What about you? What calculations do you want to change in your life?


Benefits and consequences

It has been about two months since I started on my project to change my lifestyle. After years of thinking it would be nice to have less stuff cluttering my life (or, as I’m coming to view it “garbage”) but feeling I couldn’t do anything about it, I was inspired to make the changes. I started off with all the enthusiasm of a new convert. It was new and inspiring and great. It got tough at points but I persevered. Then life started happening. Work hours changed and while I still worked the same number of hours the schedule messed up my sleeping patterns. But I soldiered on, albeit with less energy and less adherence to the rigid challenges I had set myself.

In the last week and a half – starting the day after my last post – things got rather hectic. It started on a Thursday. Jules had found an apartment that sounded good – decent price, allowed dogs, decent neighborhood. I had a feeling about the apartment so I skipped practice to view it with Jules on Thursday night. It looked good. Not great, not the answer to all my prayers, but good. So we filled out an application immediately and settled ourselves to wait. We figured we could get the place and negotiate to move in a couple of weeks.

On Friday the building owner called us. He had spent part of the day verifying our information but had been unable to verify my employment. The joys of working in a huge corporation. We figured out how to do that but I would have to do it from work. Since I had already gone home it would wait until Monday. Once we had that we figured we could negotiate a good move in date.

Saturday was going through stuff with a little more urgency than usual.

Sunday I found this in the bedroom closet: 20160409-1

Black mold. Our situation just went from “Let’s do this right” to “Let’s do this right NOW”.

Monday, we were approved and signed the lease. On Tuesday we took bedding, some clothing, toiletries, dog supplies, and enough food to get by for a bit. We have spent the rest of week moving as much as we can each night. It is now Saturday and we are not yet done but all that remains is bits and pieces.

This is our living room now:


And this isn’t everything. We have unpacked some stuff in the bedroom and office. We moved almost all of our stuff – leaving only the things we had already decided to donate. There is a lot more to go through. But time was of the essence. We could not follow our plan of “Move only what we want; donate or sell the rest”. This is a consequence of our obsessive need to accumulate stuff, to buy more to fill that emotional hole.

However, we had already started our winnowing process. We spent two month working on it. This could have been much worse.


Time flies but stuff gets done

Well, life has been kind of busy. Moved into a different department at work so I had to transition my team over to someone else and get into the swing of the new team. Lots of stuff to do. And this move came with yet another schedule change – and I rarely do well with schedule changes. But things settle and it is time to write again. Although I probably should not have waited until shortly before I have to head out.

Cleaning stuff out has gone well. Jules has been her usual amazing self and gotten many things out the door. I have moved most of my “keep” stuff downstairs. I have more stuff to sell – time to learn how to sell on eBay. Do people still use eBay anymore? Also, once I have everything out of the upstairs I will need to winnow the downstairs. There are probably many things that can go – I really don’t need three guitars for Rock Band.

We are also having some trouble finding a place. I guess the toughest part is finding one that takes dogs.

There you go. Back to writing. Not very inspiring on the face of it. No bon mots, no pithy wisdom, no uplifting words. But read again – life is throwing up roadblocks and we are getting past them. It may not be glamorous, but we’re getting there.

Are ruts bad?

Moving is generally considered one of the top life stressors, up there with major illness, job loss, death of a loved one, and divorce. We haven’t moved yet, but in getting rid of so much stuff (stuff removal update below) it is like we are having a mini-move before our move. And you can ask people who have known me for a while – I don’t deal well with these kinds of changes.

“But Val, what does this have to do with being stuck in a rut?” you might ask, because by now you have realized that my post titles tend to be a setup for the posts themselves. First, what is meant by “stuck in a rut”? People use that term when they feel they are stuck doing the same thing, day after day, week after week. They may feel that there is no excitement or energy to what they do, or that the effort of doing something different is too great to alter their routine. Eventually it just becomes easy to do what you always do. You can just go with the flow without much thought. And eventually get bored.

Most of the time people don’t like doing the same thing, day after day after day. You start feeling like there is something missing, like you could be doing something more. Or at least something else. But when things go topsy-turvy that rut can help out. When life starts knocking you around, when things get rough, having an easy path that doesn’t require much mental effort to follow can be a lifesaver. You can save that brainpower to deal with the emotional turmoil -whatever the cause.

Declutter update:

Jules continues to do amazing work. She is our extrovert and has already sent off our dining room table, my old bike that I haven’t ridden in a decade, and a propane grill off to new homes. She has also found a new home for the piano, but the new owner needs to arrange for a mover. She has also taken a bunch of stuff to Goodwill – both hers and some of the stuff I pulled out from under the stairs. I have some skate gear to go through to either donate to my league’s loaner gear or sell. Today is also the day I start going through the bedroom and moving more stuff into the donation room. I also need to check on selling some drums.