the sabbatical lists…

I’ve never been quite sure why, but particularly in times of stress or uncertainty my brain functions as a long series of lists. I have this mental image of those unending scrolls that would roll out in a movie about Santa neatly filled edge to edge with list after list after list.

All the work I need to do, grocery items, a catalogue of all the handbags I own, all the poetry I’ve written, all the things I need to do, places I’ve been, places I long to see, people I need to check in on, meals I want to try, tasks I need to complete, topics I want to research, movies I’ve never seen, movies I never want to see again, artists whose I work I want to further explore, historic events I want to research, posts I want to write, books I want to read, people I want to visit, art I want to create, tv I want to binge-watch, charities I want to support, projects I want to champion, crafts I want to learn, things that stress me out, goals I have achieved, pet names I will never use, coffee that I’d like to drink again, which places in Portland have the best bloody mary, who makes hollandaise correctly.

The list of lists goes on and on but mostly it just exists to remind me who I am.

Work gets done. Groceries get purchased. Sometimes chores get done. But that’s it. Kind of because that’s what there’s time for. Maybe I’m just super inefficient but  between work and spending time with the people I love and doing the things that need to happen to survive my time is all taken up. Okay okay… there’s s fair amount of movie watching too, but I’m going to slot that in with survival of my sanity.

But in 21 days I have an opportunity to rethink a lot of that. To focus my energy differently. To make other choices. To find out who I am when I’m not completely pre-occupied with work, and if we’re being honest, a bit burnt out.

On May 1 I’m going on sabbatical.

Now allow me to lend some context. Automattic, the company I work for, does a tremendous job of supporting their employees in any number of ways from day one (Yes… we’re hiring). But there are a few added benefits and gifts that surface over time, one of those is that after 5 years with the company (and every 5 years after that) they encourage each employee to take a sabbatical of 2-3 months. At the end of April I hit that 5 year mark.

The end of April is soon. Like… really soon.

And if we’re being honest I’ve been stressed out about it for the past few months. First it was just this passive little whisper of stress in my ear, but the closer I get to the day I stop work for a while the more actively stressed I’ve gotten.

Why? What on earth do I think is going to happen? I have no idea. NO IDEA.

One of the things I’ve come to learn about myself, and that whole thing about the lists might have given this away, is that I like to have a plan. I like to know what I’m doing. What’s in store. How I can contribute. Where I’m going to be. But that’s really something I’ve only come to understand about myself over the past few years. And if I’m reading this situation correctly, I’m mostly stressed because I don’t know what I’m going to be doing.

I mean I have a list but I’m not sure how much of that list is what I really want to do and will do and how much of it is me trying to calm my nerves by thinking of things I could do. What I need to do is take some time to recharge. To reflect. To find the calm center I’m sure is in here somewhere. I’m not sure how some to the stuff on my list of things to do on sabbatical is going to achieve that.

But hey if you have any great tips on home-brewing kombucha or self-publishing poetry or literature please drop me a line. Seriously.

Other than that I’ve not really been excited about any of my plans. My lists are calming my nerves short-term but maybe causing more stress long-term. I was beginning to dread something that I know I should be reveling in. Until Friday that is when my friend and I hatched a plan to go do something “cultured” twice a month while everyone else is at school or work. To visit museums and gardens and other stuff like that… you know. For fun.

And from that a ray of light has emerged. There’s a plan now. Granted it’s a loose plan and is only for every other week or so, but a touchstone has emerged. And it involves art and nature and also a little day-drinking. And leaves plenty of room for the scary scary work of learning about myself.

41 and learning to share…

It would surprise no one who knows me in my personal life that my birthday is, for me, a big deal. While others would like the anniversary of their birth to pass with nary a reminder, I prefer to be reminded that this is a day of  Cami celebration over and over and over again. I don’t like parties. I am not social. But I do love to know that I have touched the lives of those people who have touched my life.

And so as anyone who has worked with me in the past decade and anyone who is an integral part of my life could tell you, I don’t work on my birthday. I sleep in. I eat brunch. I watch shows. I take walks. I write poetry. I have treats. I reflect, reason, and indulge. I make this day about me. About what I want. And I do so without hesitation.

Not everyone has the luxury of that freedom. To simply declare they won’t work on their birthday and make it so. That privilege has come with age, hard work, and good fortune. But that privilege has given me time to reflect. And as I reflect, I gain knowledge, understanding, and temperance. And all of that has made my birthday much less about me in some ways.

Though March 8 has been International Women’s Day since long before I was born, it wasn’t widely enough promoted or celebrated to take up much of my attention until the last couple of years. It didn’t take up much space in the world or in my mind. So I’m a little ashamed to admit that my initial reaction to it picking up speed a few years ago was something along the lines of

I already have to share my birthday with the other people born on March 8! Now I have to share it with every woman in the world too? 

My feelings were less than ideal. Immature. Certainly selfish. Shortsighted.

But with age we can grow. Older. Wiser. Tempered. And so the last two years there’s been a shift. I find myself joyfully embracing the good fortune of having been born on a day that celebrates women. This year in particular I find myself thinking of the women I know. The women I work with. The women I admire and look up to. The women I call friends. The woman I’m raising. The woman who raised me.

Today feels like it’s more about them than just me. More about moving forward. More about all of us taking up more room in this wide world. Occupying the space we’re entitled to, not the space we’re allotted. Not just fitting in where we can and catching a breath of air if others allow it.

 

So to all of you women — and I do mean all of you women of every variety under the moon and sun — I wish you a wonderful day and a better life from this day forward.

Be who you need to be. Be who you want to be. Be who you are. Take up space in your life, in your home, on the streets, and in the world.

 

the ocean wins…

Yesterday we walked along the beach clad in tall rain boots, jeans, and raincoats. The clouds above were dark and fluffy. Thinning out in spots to reveal a brilliant blue sky. We guarded ourselves from the gentle gusts of wind with stocking caps as we watched foam from the waves tumble across the glossy wet sand. I hid my eyes behind dark sunglasses as the obscured sun made the sky brighter than I could cope with, even as the dark clouds threatened to open up on us once again.

The ocean was as the ocean always is. Powerful. But for the moment it was also quiet. Giant waves were crashing on Haystack Rock but the water pushed slowly to the shore. Sometimes breaking too far away. I wanted to run to them but I waited and walked along the shore. Knowing soon the waves would come to me. Would wash further up. To kiss the toes of my boots and swirl around my ankles.

I longed to feel the pull of the ocean as the waves drew back and the sand shifted beneath my feet. To feel the sweetly sickening swoon and close my eyes to feel the ocean tug at my body and my heart.

I looked back to my partner watching bubbles in the sand. And I breathed and I smiled. It was good that we took the day to spend there. To breathe the ocean air. To hold hands and goof off. To roll logs and play in the sand. And I couldn’t help thinking that. All of that and more. And I may have been gazing a bit too lovingly. But I pulled my eyes away to look back at the ocean just in time to see the waves about to overtake me.

“Shit! Run!” I yelled and laughed as I ran up the beach grabbing is hand up in mine as we tried to make our way out of the waves that were already rising past our ankles, over rain boots, up past our knees. The water pushed up to my waist as we finally made our way out of it, both nearly getting pulled over. Pulled in.

We walked what felt like miles back to the car. Boots weighed down with ocean water. Jeans sticking to chilled flesh. Smiling and sighing and laughing. Rolling logs and watching for signs of life that had crept up the shore. Heavy as we dragged our feet across the sand in waterlogged socks and full boots. But light. Smiling with the reminder that the ocean always wins.

And knowing we had a change of clothes in the car.

surviving the sunpocalypse… 

Yesterday North America witnessed a celestial event the likes of which many of us had never seen. Or that we just couldn’t remember.

Not because this doesn’t happen every few years, but because it doesn’t happen every few years here. And it’s never happened in North America during the age of the internet when all the details on anything you could want to know are available at the touch of a finger. Not even at the touch of a button. Just a finger!

Today we saw a solar eclipse. People from all over made their way to the path of the totality, which is a fancy way of saying where you can see the total eclipse, and made themselves at home. Some for hours, some for days. Probably some for weeks. People planned their weeks around this event. Their summers. Their year. THEIR LIVES! Folks were excited for this once in a lifetime experience. Though it’s worth mentioning that the once in a lifetime part is probably an exaggeration for most since there was a solar eclipse viewable from North America 1979 and there’ll be another in 2024. People have already started planning for that one too.

But what I’m saying here is that the excitement and mania were real. Folks were so prepared for every little detail. They were willing to be stuck in their car for hours or days. They made sandwiches, filled flasks, stocked up on water. Made charts. Researched optimal places. Made reservations. Camped and stuff.

But me? I just kind of worried that it would bring about the zombie apocalypse. Or at least the end of the world as we know it. And it felt like something I just had to deal with. Had to make a plan to see. But it was a chore. It felt rote. A celestial event is happening. We must see it because we must. Do the things you must do. I had no room for wonder or joy.

That morning Total Eclipse of the Heart was stuck in my head so I played it as I worked. We had our glasses and a vague plan to walk to the park as the totality neared. We could see the sun from the back patio and decided we would just go out and peek every once in a while and then get going when the eclipse was well under way.

And then it happened. I stepped out onto the cold concrete with my bare feet and walked to the spot with the optimal view of the bright orb hanging  in the sky. I slid on my cardboard eclipse viewing glasses and I looked up into the sun. A tiny little nick of the sun was missing. Just a smidgen. A nibble from perfectly round cookie.

And my breath was gone. And my resting bitch face softened and stretched into a smile. And I maybe did a little dance on the cold concrete of the patio. And I snatched up a cushion from the nearest patio chair and placed it on the ground at the optimal viewing point. I snuggled up against my partner to feel a tiny bit of human warmth and connection in this absolutely stunning moment of a tiny little bit of the eclipse starting to show.

I called for my kid, I wiggled in place like an excited puppy about to go for a walk and I marched them out into the backyard with instruction to stand on the chair cushion. And they looked up at the sun and said “that’s cool” before taking off the eclipse shades and heading back inside.

I worked for a while, keeping one eye out the back door waiting for eclipse signs. Or apocalypse signs. Whichever.

I was excited. Anxious. It felt like Christmas morning and I was waiting to unwrap the mysterious package under the tree. We went out onto the patio a few more times. All of us, not just me the excited Christmas morning puppy of joy. And then we made our way to the park. Where I danced and squealed and jumped and snuggled and took photos of a bright orb that to my iPhone camera in no way looked like an eclipse. And it was good. And I embraced a surge of joy for the first time in a while.

Let’s face it, this year has been a rough one with all of the horrible goings on in the US. And it’s been a struggle personally as well, on many levels. But there in the park watching others gaze up into the sky or peer into their cereal boxes. Watching my two favorite people stoically participate. Inspecting the patterned shadows on the ground. And the dusk sky well before noon. There was joy.

And all fear of the sunpocalypse, armageddon, of the world ending in a giant beam of light, of zombies, or newly powered super heroes and super villains faded away to a moment of peace. Reflection. And joy.

We walked and babbled and looked up as the moon made its way out of the sun’s light. We went to our favorite coffee shop for a treat. And then we came home and I settled in to work the rest of the day. Calmer. Happier. Listening to It’s the End of the World as we Know it and I Feel Fine.

And I did…

sometimes I’m happy to be wrong…

Sunday afternoon, after a weekend that saw more than its fair share of errands, chores, and video games, we walked down to the local theater to see a matinée screening of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.

Before we go any further let me address the obvious. The thing many of you probably know. I am a cranky old lady who likes things a certain way and is often frustrated and annoyed with the actions of others. Like all others. I don’t have a list of people who I find frustrating or annoying. I have a list of people I don’t find frustrating or annoying. No that’s inaccurate. Let me restate. I have a list of people who are so endearing and amazing to me that I overlook any annoyance or frustration I feel for them because I love and celebrate them.

What I’m saying here is that I’m probably not the kind of person you want to go to the movie with because I often find the completely socially acceptable behavior of people in public places to be an annoyance and it’s not entirely unlikely that I will complain about it later.

But it is something I do know about myself so I strive to keep it in check or just stay home.

But I love movies. Particularly super hero movies. And my heart has a big soft spot for the Marvel universe. And it’s been a rough few months and I needed some mindless entertainment. So to the local theater we went. With popcorn. And beverages. And we sat in the same seats we always sit in because while they are old they are perfectly comfortable and do not squeak and are in what I would consider to be the perfect viewing location. Plus there’s a little wall in front of them on which I can set my drink or prop my feet.

And the theater started filling up. And it got crowded. And my normally empty row saw people filing in first on one side of us and then on the other. And wouldn’t you know it a group of three adolescent boys filed in and sat next to me. And I am not ashamed to admit that as they started talking loudly and boisterously I immediately prepared myself for agitation. And told myself that I couldn’t ask them to be quiet until they had been a disruption at least three times after the movie started.

I know I’m a killjoy. I know I’m easily annoyed. I also know that it’s usually more my problem than anyone else’s.

And then it happened. In the midst of their talking and laughing and showing each other pictures on their phones one of them kicked over a glass soda bottle. I heard it spin. And I heard that telltale gloop and sizzle as the sticky sweet highly carbonated beverage spilled over the floor. And the kid who had kicked the soda over reached down and picked up the bottle to examine the fullness and declared “that’s not too bad.”

And all three of them stood up at once. And I, being the pessimistic person I am, expected that they would just walk away to another set of seats. Instead the three set into action. One of them, closest to the door, declaring “I’ll go get some towels!” while the second turned on the light on his phone to shine it on the area. The boy who had spilled looked around to make sure it went no further and said “I’m sorry I got it on your shoes” to the boy who was lighting the area as the third boy ran back in with a handful of paper napkins. The spiller began to clean up the mess while the third boy ran out to get more napkins realizing that the first batch wouldn’t be enough.

They cleaned up the entire mess, threw away the napkins, and were settled back in chatting happily when the previews began. They talked in hushed tones through the previews and then silence fell on the lot of them for the entire movie. The only noises I heard were the crunching of popcorn and laughter.

They were good kids who I immediately judged too harshly just because they sat in my cranky row.

And I was happy to be proven wrong. This time.

 

 

 

tales of a traveling introvert: television time…

Getting to travel for work is pretty damn cool. It’s a problem sometimes, sure. But it’s not a bad problem to have. Where I often run into trouble, outside of the logistics and being away from my people, is that I need me time. I need quiet. I need to decompress. I need to sit in a room where no one is expecting anything of me and just be me.

After a long day of travel or working more than 12 hours each day during a trip that quiet night time becomes more important than ever. At home I’d be watching tv with my kid or hanging out in the kitchen while my guy cooks up something delicious. I might be watching something on streaming, playing video games on my iPad, or listening to music. I might just be staring at the wall.

The important part is that I feel safe being me. And that no stress or effort is brought into the equation.

Here enters the pain in the ass of hotel TVs. If I want to climb into bed and put something on the TV I don’t want to first learn a whole new system in every city, country, or hotel that I’m in. I don’t even have the channels on my tv at home memorized (except the food network — channel 66) so I really don’t want to try to figure out the channels somewhere else. But the TV in my room on this trip and the TV in my room the last trip both had Netflix as an option.

You sign in with your own account. You get your own queue and lists. You don’t have to worry about navigating the hotel’s wifi or keeping your devices charged. And at the end of the day you can throw on a comfy pair of PJs, put your feet up, and jump right into your 20th re-watching of Buffy the Vampire Slayer right where you left off.

It’s a big comfort of home without having to worry about anything but signing in. Assuming, that is, that you can remember your password.

can you hear me?

When I was little, back in the olden days before the internet, I remember sitting on the rough commercial-grade carpet of the library floor. I was alone in a big aisle of books as my mother looked for something to read in another section. 

I loved to sit there flipping through the pages of pictures. Of great art. Far away places. Unusual people. 

It was on that floor that I discovered a love of many great artists, cultivated admiration for strong leaders with courage and conviction, found awe in architecture built with not only function but artistic reverence, and began a longing to see worlds beyond my own. 

I was young at the time. So young that my realities were a bit confused. And while my conscience and convictions were building and solidifying, I hadn’t yet settled on my beliefs. It was at a time when I pretty much had the same faith in Santa, God, and the US President. I believed they were real and I never expected or needed to meet them. But I felt like it was important possess a way to communicate with them. You know, just in case. Santa and the President were simple. I could write them letters. North Pole. White House. Done. 

But God. I’d never been sure how to get a message up to him until that day on the library floor when I opened up a book on Barcelona and saw a picture of Gaudi’s Cathedral. 

I saw the flowing spires reaching up to heaven. The surreal structure. And in this particular image the impossible blue sky. It was like a dream. 

And I knew. 

I just knew that if I needed God to hear me that is where I needed to go. To lie on the floor of the great Sagrada Familia and look into the arches. I knew that whispers that passed from my lips would go right to God’s ear. 

Years have passed and my understanding of the world has formed, changed, flowed, and been made strong. It’s also been battered, bruised and made unclear. What I know to be true continues to feed my convictions. What I know I don’t know continues to fuel my curiosity. And what I can’t conceive of continues to surprise me. And in most ways I am not that little girl on the library floor. 

But today while on a work trip to Barcelona I had the opportunity to walk through the doorway of Sargada Familia. To gaze upon its spires. To look lovingly at the organic interior columns and supports. To sate some of the curiosity of my childhood self. That wild white haired blue eyed tiny me that believed in everything. 

And I kneeled down on the cool hard floor. I rocked back on the heels of my favorite boots. Well worn boots. Boots that have visited every country I have. I dropped to a seat and began to lean back. To look up. I could feel the cold stone on the small of my back as I lifted my eyes and iPhone toward the heavens and just as my recline was almost complete and I was telling myself that it didn’t matter my beliefs. That right now a whisper from my lips would be worthwhile even though there are no ears to hear it…


“You can’t do that!” Came the voice of a woman whose job, apparently, was to keep everyone off the floor and squash childhood dreams. 

But it was still a beautiful ceiling…

am I blue….

blueI woke up this morning with a feeling I can’t shake. Sad. Distant. Nauseous instead of hungry. I saw my kid off to school. And might I add that my kid looked particularly cool today wearing a studded jacket I’d purchased as a gift for them on my first ever trip to Europe. Mentally I acknowledged that it was a pleasant thing to see them enjoying a gift I’d gotten for them. I knew it should have lit up that happy part of my brain. But instead I just acknowledged that there was a blank spot where that happy feeling should be.

I thought about pouring a cup of coffee and starting my day. It was early and typically I let myself take it easy on Friday mornings. I start later than normal. I don’t take meetings. I work in my pajamas. I didn’t feel the need to comfort myself, to give myself that Friday morning gift of calm, but there was a space in my brain where I knew that need belonged. Also I wasn’t prepared to brave the online world yet. So I went back to bed.

The warm arms waiting there should have been a happiness. The soft pillows should have brought calm and joy. The heavy comforter weighing me down should have been soothing.

There was a space in my brain where all of that belonged. And I knew it. But it wasn’t there today.

So I slept. Hard dreamless sleep. Drooling on my pillow out cold sleep. Sleep until the alarm goes off and wonder where you are kind of sleep. And I wondered only briefly before I realized I was in my own bed. And it’s still the day it was when I woke the first time. And I was still just sitting on the outside looking in.

The only thing I feel today is blue…

And also completely and utterly unable to concentrate.

trying to not be thankful…

Travel can have its ups and downs. And sometimes it’s really hard to keep a good attitude in the midst of shitty stuff happening. But my ability to keep my calm and be positive while traveling is something I take pride in.

But that positivity can go a little too far. After about 12 hours of travel today as I was getting off my last flight I reached under the seat to grab my bag as I was getting ready to get off the plane and noticed there on the floor an open wallet. A very distinctive open wallet.

An open hard-case polka dot wallet.

For those of your unfamiliar with my propensity for dots, I have a lot of polka-dotted items. I like polka dots. And that affection for the pattern helps me keep track of my stuff and cuts down on decision fatigue. I need a new suitcase, what should it look like? Polka dots! I need a new cable pouch what should it look like? Polka dots! I need new underwear what should they look like? Polka dots!

You get the point.

So when I saw that hard-case polka dot wallet lying on the airplane floor I knew that it was either mine or someone else had very good taste in wallets. I picked it up and hastily glanced inside. I noticed my id and all my cards were present and I breathed a sigh of relief. It must have fallen out. I have no idea how it had fallen out since I had shut my bag up tight, but that must be what happened.

Until I checked the cash section and emergency cash section. And both of those sections, they were empty. And the first thought I had?

Well at least they didn’t take my ID and credit cards.

And I stuck with that for a few minutes. For a little while I actually thought I had a nice thief. Oh that thief was so nice they only took all my cash money.

But then as I continued walking I started to question that. I had been violated and instead of being angry I’m thankful that they ONLY took some of what belongs to me? I decided to give my goody-goody always look on the bright side self a pass. And now I’m mad. I’m just mad.

And sad. Hey thief. You fucking suck.

But seriously, thanks for not taking my id and cards. And thanks for leaving my wallet where I could find it.

But you suck.

I can’t fight this feeling…

Perhaps I should say I won’t fight this feeling.

I paused. I took a day’s worth of breaths. I let the feelings wash over me in waves. Panicked. Numb. Angry. Numb. Mourning. Numb. Disgust. Numb. Understanding. Disgust. Anger. Hurt. Numb.

I don’t want the numb. I don’t want to be calm. I don’t want to let it all go. I want to hold on to this feeling that something isn’t right here. That so much is wrong here. To the feeling that we should have done better. To the knowledge that we can do better. That we have to do better.

This morning, after days of introspection and a dark mood, my partner sent me a text.

I don’t want to forget this feeling. I don’t like this feeling. I don’t like that this feeling paralyzes me. I don’t like being on the verge of tears. But at the same time, I don’t want to forget this feeling. I don’t want to become complacent and numb. I want this feeling — this awful gnawing feeling — to motivate and inspire action.

I want to do something. I want to motivate something. I want to make this world a better place. And so for right now I will do the only thing I know to do. I’ll write this. I’ll share it here.

I am saddened and angered by the results of this election. Not because I’m a sore loser. Not because I didn’t get my way. Not because I don’t agree with his policy. Not even because I believe that justice was not carried out.

Because I believe that promoting hate and revoking the hard-earned rights of our citizens is the wrong choice for our country. A country of immigrants. A country founded because people needed the freedom to be who they are.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

To those of you who would say “Now you know how we felt when Obama was elected.” I say no. I don’t. I understand that he wasn’t your president. I understand that you were disappointed. I understand that you didn’t agree with his policy. But I also understand that you weren’t being made to live in fear.

There is a difference.

Hate is not a policy. Hate is not a platform. Hate is something that terrorizes the innocent, pushes people down, and destroys life.

With this new presidency I will live in fear.

Fear that my basic human rights will be stripped away because I am woman.

Fear that people will continue to be persecuted or excluded for the color of their skin.

Fear that my child will grow to adulthood in a country that is not accepting of who they are.

Fear that the right to marry who you love will be stolen back after it was fought so hard for.

Fear that people will be forced to live a lie pretending to be something they’re not because of an M or F marked on their birth certificate.

Fear that freedom of religion will mean freedom to one religion.

Fear that our country, founded by immigrants, made more wonderful and diverse by those who join our nation, will erect a wall and close its doors.

My kid wants to leave.

“I don’t feel safe here.”

It wasn’t a childish statement. It wasn’t an exaggeration. My child does not feel safe or wanted in this country. Their voice wasn’t heard in this election despite my vote.

There has been a fundamental shift. Hate speech swells. Harassment increases. Threats are made in public. People are being treated as less than because of their gender, their sexuality, their skin, their religion.

The thin mesh that kept hateful behavior in check, that promised to punish those who would do harm to people different from themselves, dissolves with the shift of power to those who believe that this country belongs to whites and that non-heteronormative behavior is a mental illness.

That is not something that most people believe. The popular vote was for a woman who, though not everyone’s ideal president, would have continued to steer our nation in the right direction. In the results I’ve read only roughly 50% of eligible voters cast a vote in this presidential election. Half of our nation’s eligible voters didn’t even bother to make their stand. Or were somehow prevented from doing so.

So in this tough and painful time remember that. Know that there is more to be done. There are people who are not heard. There are people who did not speak.

Let’s find ways to support one another and strive to make our corner of this world a better place once again. Volunteer your time if you can. Give generously of your resources if you’re able. If you have visibility raise up the voices of those who don’t. Support those who most need our help, even if it’s with just a kind word or a knowing smile.