Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Elderly

So, I took the badger bus to Madison this week. In fact, I'm on it as I write this. (Thanks, free wi-fi)
The reason I took the bus?
Sciatica.
Yep. My lower back hurts so much, with shooting pain down my right leg, I have to get into child's pose every time I'm standing for more than 15 minutes. Hope you don't mind, professors, when I get up to do that in the middle of your lectures. Yep. Just what I need. Another reason to look weirder than I already do.
Well, that's what happens, I guess, when you're suddenly sitting constantly. Sitting in the car to Madison and back, sitting in class, sitting to work on papers and presentations....and of course being the most elderly student in my cohort. Older than some of my professors even.
Now.
I've never been one to get hung up on age. I'll tell you how old I am.
41.
Or am I 42?
What's 2017 minus 1975?
42. (Impressive, huh? I'm doing well in stats.)
So I'll be 42 this year.
So what!  I can't help the year I was born. Neither can you!
But this back pain and how long it's taking me to get back (back! ha!) on my feet out of child's pose is...
Bringing
Me
Down.

But, back to the bus.
Listening to music while gazing out the window at farms... it's reminding me of being on the bus in Estonia. (MY friend Harald deduced, of our two years in Estonia, we spent three full months aboard a bus.)
Which makes me think.
Well.. I've needed all 41 years and 11 months to get where I am now.
And I am bringing all that time with me...to my papers and presentations...to my presence in this program...my work and life and adventure experience. I couldn't be here...who I am...without it.
Even from on the dusty bus floor here in child's pose.
That's right. Nothing to see here.
Full circle, people.  Full circle.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Grad school, ice cream and belonging.

Image result for ice cream and belonging


I just returned from the conference of the National Council of Rehabilitation Educators in sunny Anaheim, California.  Going back to school after 14 years of work in your field is weird.  Going back to school and being well older than all of your classmates and even some of your professors is weirder.  But....I've always been a person who doesn't feel my age and so.
And so.

But walking up to the conference venue, after having spent years at conferences where everyone knew who I was...people grabbing me in for conversations and questions, advice and assistance in sessions...  It got comfy.  So walking up to the conference venue...not knowing anyone gathered around...  I felt my stomach clench.

Those of you who know me know I am loud and expressive, glad to be the center of attention.  But that's when I know the people around me.  When I show up and know no one..I get a little terrified.  I've been known to hide in the bathroom, arriving before friends at a gathering or a party, texting them to tell me when they get there so I can come out.

Walking up to the conference venue, I considered hiding in the bathroom for a split second.

and then.

"Hey! Where are you from?"

Immediately two women began to talk to me, ask me questions.  That happened throughout the entire conference; everyone was friendly, welcoming, and open.  And I thought.  What a wonderful new community I've joined.

And then I saw them--my cohort and those a year ahead of me, a ring of faces that I knew. And they called me over and looked glad to see me and I felt like I belonged.  I think, sometimes, that's the most important feeling we can have.

And in the evening, I snuck away with my friend and we got ice cream together, and talked about the funny feeling and awkwardness of not knowing people.

And I'm so glad I went.

So, friends, when you are at a conference or a party or a gathering of some kind, and if you see someone standing alone, looking like they  might go hide in the bathroom... Or perhaps someone who has a better game face than I..perhaps they're studying their conference agenda or cell phone, reach out.  Ask them where they're from.   Help them feel like they belong.

Grad school is challenging, but I am in love with the way my brain feels like its growing. And its made all the better, all the easier, by having people to go sneak away for ice cream with.  And people who open their circle and invite you in, telling you...

You belong.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Thoughts on time


Image result for time travel

Do you ever think about time? The way it works? The way it folds around us, falls behind us, stretches out before us in unimaginable length?

I keep a book journal. I started it at my husband's encouragement because I'm a "voracious reader"...I gulp down books like Gatorade at the end of a marathon...  And then I say, "I just read the greatest book!" And the person to whom I'm talking says, "Oh? What was it about?" And then I'm like, "Ummmmm...."  So now I keep a book journal and I write down the date I started, the date I finished and quotes from the books I read that jump out at me, that I don't want to forget.

So this morning, I finished a book: "Today will be different" by Maria Semple.  And wrote today's date in my book journal along with the book I am starting today: "The atomic weight of love" by Elizabeth Church.  And I thought...

Anything could happen between now and the time I finish this book.....

Somehow the expanse of time occurred to me as I wrote down a simple date and title and author.  Today is April 14th, 2017.  Today I start a new book. I will heat up leftover stir fry for dinner. I'll drink some coffee.  I'll look at my children who lay sprawled on my bed, even as I type this, waiting to have my attention...or a turn at my computer...hard to tell which.  And in a week or so, I'll write a new date down when I finish this book with the brick red hardcover.

What will have happened between now and then?   

Time just stretches out and who knows what will fill it...

Sometimes when I'm walking, I imagine myself at 21 or 26 and I pretend I'm getting the opportunity to see what my life is like in the future.

Here you are at 41, I say to myself.  And I look at my reflection in the mirror, at my surroundings, imagining realizing I'm in school now getting a PhD, hearing stories about my career, serving youth with disabilities.  And I come to my house and with anticipation, open the door.  Me at 26 is wondering: What will I find inside my life?

 And I'm always so grateful for what I find there.  And me at 26 zips back into my 41 year old self.  And I look up now as Tad walks in the room to ask what I'm typing, my kids are rolling around having a ridiculous argument on my bed.  It's a nice exercise in gratitude.

I wonder what I might remember about this time, when I'm 57 or 64 and looking back again and looking forward.  I wonder by then if I'll be better at staying in one place....  It's funny to imagine that time out there, just waiting for me.  However many books I read later. Stretching out and expanding and contracting.  Waiting to be reached only to be behind me again.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Adventures in statistics

Let me start by acknowledging how long it has been since last I blogged.  I have embarked upon, as you might know, a doctoral program in rehabilitation counselor education.  I've been busy, to say the least.  Anyway.  As a future educator and researcher I must, of course, take statistics.

Now. Statistics does not come easy to me.  I have to think in such a way that I can actually feel my brain.

So I have this statistics instructor who is really kind and earnest in his teaching, but also very mathematical and statistical minded...so he acknowledges that the mushy stuff doesn't come naturally to him.  One day in class he was openly talking to us about how he was concerned that he wasn't conveying the information to us in a helpful way. He was being vulnerable. He was being honest.  After he spoke, there was a moment of silence.

And then I leaned over to grab a pencil, somehow activating my phone, sitting on the chair under my leg.

A moment of silence after our teacher's honesty. And then.

The google lady:

"IF YOU SAID SOMETHING, I DIDN'T HEAR WHAT IT WAS."

Loud and clear as day.  Then another silence, a burst of laughter from the class.

Sorry.

So yesterday in class, we learned a new method of statistics.  It is called the Bonferroni method and allows the researcher to compare multiple means, measuring between groups. As our instructor talked through the method, my eyes widened in realization.  You see, I had looked ahead at our assignment for the weekend and it looked like this:


See where it says "substitute 'Bonferonni' for 'Tukey'"?

Well, I read it before class and thought that "Tukey" actually said "Turkey"

Tukey is, apparently, another statistical method.

But again, I thought it said 'Turkey'. So I assumed (naturally) that Bonfernonni was some kind of sausage.

And I was wondering....

Why are we doing a research assignment comparing turkey to some sort of Italian sausage?

Yep.

Statistics does not come easy.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Where it's at. And embarassing facts about me.

Sometimes my daughter gets crazy mad at me.  And it's usually because she's talking to me and my mind is somewhere else.  

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the feeling that I'm missing out on something.  That there's something going on that I've not been invited to and that by missing out on all the fun, people are forgetting I exist.

That's a real truth about me. And it's weird and it's sort of embarassing.  Because, as my therapist likes to remind me, everything isn't all about me.

When two people get together and don't invite me, it actually has NOTHING. TO DO. With me.

Can you believe that? There are times when people aren't thinking about me at all!  Does that mean I'm forgotten? That I'm not important? That I don't exist?

No!

So, when I'm so caught up in worrying about that, the truth is, I'm not present in my own life, with the people who happen to be right in front of me. Like my daughter. Trying to tell me a story and I am just floating away, wondering what might be happening somewhere else that I am missing out on.

Good gravy.

Sometimes I can feel it...me floating above myself wondering what else there is...  me glazing over... not present.  And then I realize it and it's almost as if I can feel my spirit sucked back into my body and there I am, right behind my own eyes.

And it's glorious. 

There's green grass and new porch chairs and growing things and the beautiful brown eyes of my daughter...there with me at that moment telling me a story.  THAT is my moment. THAT is my right now.  I need to get back to that far more often.  Don't we all?

Sometimes at night, I put my book down and start mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. Fucking Facebook.  Just there to remind you of things that you aren't doing.  Pictures you're not in.  Experiences you aren't currently having.  Things that look all shiny and great and amazing, without the gritty stuff.  The real stuff.  Facebook, while useful for staying in contact with people far away, with being in the know about upcoming events and now....things you can buy (what?), is just packaged, shelf-ready, buffed and shined up life.  Real, but not.  And anyway, it certainly isn't where you are right now, is it? 

So right now I'm going to post this so people can read it.  To Facebook of course.  And then later I'll check to see if anyone did.  But in between, I'm going to try and suck my spirit back into my body, take a walk and really see what's in front of me and be where I am.

Presence.

It's where it's at.

So why is it so hard to be in it sometimes?


Friday, May 27, 2016

Sometimes you just have to shake it up.




So this fall, I'm leaving the job I've been at for the past twelve years.  I'm leaving this job and the salary and security that goes along with it and going back to school.
Why?
Sometimes you just have to shake it up, is how I figure.

I have shaken it up in my life two times in a big way and both of them led me to amazing places, people and experiences.  I think always know it's time to shake it up when I get too comfortable. 

Well.

This time I got so comfortable being comfortable that I forgot to shake it up until two things happened.
1. Tad reminded me that it's time.
2. I got uncomfortable.

So. I think I've known for a long time that it was time to shake it up again...so here we go.

The first time I shook it up was when I left home, at the tender(ish) age of 18 to go to college.  I walked around whitewater with a long hippy skirt and a ministry t-shirt and knock-off birkenstocks and smoked cigarettes.  I pretended I was cool until I realized it was a lot cooler just to be me.  I studied hard and found out that I was actually pretty good at school, contrary to what my high school experience told me.  I didn't call home for a month just to prove to myself that I didn't need to.  That shake up left me stronger, braver and smarter than I was before it started.

The second time was when I left for the Peace Corps.  I was having such a good time in my easy job, my house full of parties and drinking and all-hours fun.  And I realized.  This isn't doing anything for my growth. I better get out of here and get uncomfortable.  So I moved to Estonia for two years. And I made friends and had experiences that changed my life entirely.  I grew inside like a wild crawling vine.

Now.

Here's shake up number three.  I feel pretty ready.

I love to imagine future me, remembering this limbo period, before I started... knowing what I will know then.

 
Circa shake up #1, 1993

Shake up #2, 2000
AND shake up #3, 20

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mamo-mamo-mamogram!


Yesterday I had my first mammogram.  Being excited about female-based rights of passage (getting your first period, buying your first bra, your first mammogram, your first time not apologizing to someone at a picnic that it's raining...) I felt a little celebratory.

All in all, it was really not a big-deal experience (she says blissfully unknowing, whilst the people at the breast center get ready to pick up the phone to call her back and tell her to come in for more tests or a biopsy or something!)

So the mammogram technician was really nice. She thought it was cute that I was going out to dinner with some friends right afterwards to celebrate.  I approached the giant machine, my eyebrow raised.  How am I going to.. I was thinking until she said "It lowers down."  Which I was thankful about, worried I was going to have to haul my endowments onto the table a good half foot out of my reach!

After she took the third picture, she goes, "Okay, let's do that one over.  You had a big chunk of arm fat stuck in that one."

WHAT?!

Big chunk of arm fat?

I mean, who says that to someone?

I laughed, throwing back my head like Julie Andrews.  A little arm fat never bothered me!  I'm SO beyond arm fat.

Seriously though.  Can't she have come up with some euphemistic way to say it?

Like: Let's do that one again. I had your positioned wrong.  OR....  Oh let me take this picture over. You're so beautiful, it confused the machine!

I mean for real. What if I were totally sensitive about my arm fat? I could have been sent into a downward spiral of poor body image!  But lucky for her...and me...I'm not.

The other day when I was trying on swimsuits, my sweet daughter, watching me change, her eyes meeting mine in the mirror, said, "Mom. Why am I so skinny?"

Whatever people.

Ah, but the first mammogram is done and out of the way. I walked out with a smile on my face and me and my arm fat met some friends for tacos!