resolutions

January 15, 2014

resolutions

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photos:
1) back hallway to the nat sci (natural sciences building) auditorium. i was showing my daughter around campus to her classes and had to take her down this ancient and somewhat creepy hallway, because i love it.
2) one snowy day, cold day my husband made blueberry buckle for the neighbors
3) the wonderful organ and organist at the beautiful and historic michigan theater, my favorite place to see films. art films, no commercials and an amazing pre-film organ concert
4) there was a fire down the street from us on main street, the photo is so ugly but i found the remains of this concrete and cinderblock building shocking. it used to be a pizza place that i disliked, beer coolers were the main feature of the place and it had a very macho vibe to it. i don’t think it did much business
5) my sassy sister (not a great photo of her). she may or may not be making a snarky face about a her mug christmas gift. this is the photo that shows up on my phone when she calls me. makes me laugh every time.
6) my dog on my daughter’s leg (she took the photo!)

It is mid January and I am still thinking about new year’s resolutions…which is about right for me. I have a hard time keeping up.

I have never made new year’s resolutions before, but this year, I wanted to give it a try. I have been looking for a thoughtful, comprehensive way to think about goals for 2014. But as I skim article after article on this topic, maybe thoughtful is not what I want after all.

Some articles on new year’s resolutions include 20 question inventories about the past year: “What surprised me this past year? What disappointed me this past year?” My house was generally a mess, which was disappointing, but no surprise. I don’t have the time, memory or attention span for such an inventory.

Other articles provide lists of possible areas/resolutions to consider when making resolutions. I like the lists in this article on personal goal setting because, in addition to considering the normal fodder for resolutions such as finances and weight loss, it includes areas that to me are equally as important such as artistic, education, and public service. (I found this article about lifetime, LIFETIME!, goal setting to be very intimidating, so I’m just using her list, not her process.)

Going through these list I realize I have many, many things I want to work on this year, including finances, competing in a triathlon, reading more, thinking about a product or products for an etsy shop, learning how to make videos, being a better parent, my professional life and what I should be doing to prepare for a job change, socializing with friends more, helping my mom more, keeping up on my blog and keeping my house cleaner…GAhhhh! This resolution business just sets people up for failure!

So I’m going to follow the advice of Natalie Houston in her article, Pick One Thing (published in the Chronicle for Higher Ed, but really applicable to all.)

Houston keeps it simple: pick one goal, define a small action toward the goal, keep track of your success, get support. For myself, if I make steady progress on that goal, I will start on another goal, but not until progress has been made on the first goal.

My first goal is preparing for an outdoor triathlon. I picked that as my first since I have already started making progress on this. I am saving money for a bike. I am in my second triathlon training class at the Y and am signed up to do the indoor Y-tri in March (15 minutes swim, 15 minutes indoor cycling, 15 minutes on the treadmill). And I’m pretty good about keeping up with my exercise plan. So I think I can add another goal.

My next goal is to work on keeping my house cleaner. I believe that housekeeping is overrated for sure, and our house is never (never, ever) going to be featured on Design*Sponge. We all work too much to make this a big focus of our lives, even our big kids work very hard at their academics and are busy outside of school. But somewhere in the past few, mad, years we have crossed the line from messy to gross. Embarrassingly gross. Something has to be done.

My sister in law recently posted on Facebook this 45-minute daily (DAILY?!) speed housecleaning routine. For my first step toward my goal of having a cleaner house, I thought I would give it a try…with modifications. (Daily…haha.) First modification: I will not be making my own housecleaning cleansers/products.

The author’s ability to do all on her list in the 45 minute time is likely because she has 45 minutes of uninterrupted time in her home, which I never do. Last night I made the mistake of leaving the bathroom door open 4 inches while I brushed my teeth before going to bed. First it was my dog crying outside the door for me. His eyesight is so bad he can’t see that the door was open.

Then it was my son coming to comfort my dog, “Mom, look how cute Finny is! Mom, no LOOK! You have to look! Oh look again! He is resting his chin on my leg. He is so cute. Mom, mom, look, LOOK!”

I love my son, and my dog and I am glad that my 16 year old still wants me to look…I’m just saying, I can’t get 5 uninterrupted minutes on my own, not even to brush my teeth. Still, I have to start somewhere…

I WILL be posting on my housekeeping progress. So you have that to look forward to…haha.

Do you have new goals for the new year? Or good ways to approach a new year? I’m listening!

New Year BWA bwa

January 5, 2014

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photos:
1) a tray of santa cookies, a tradition in my husband’s family
2) driving by the university of michigan stadium (the big house) on a wet winter night. they were getting it ready for the holiday classic hockey game. 100,000 people came into to town on new year’s day to watch the detroit red wings play the toronto maple leafs.
3) spingerle cookies setting overnight before they are baked, my husband made these and they are my favorite holiday cookie
4) the women’s locker room at the ymca in rochester where my mother lives. i know it is creepy to take a photo in a locker room, but i liked the color and the repetition of the mirrors and i was discreet…which probably makes it creepier
5) downtown ann arbor on new year’s eve, the night before the big hockey game. we walked downtown because we were curious about this pre-hockey game new year’s eve party, and we were up for a nighttime walk. smelled like cigarettes, cigars with a twinge of pot. it was like being in a college bar, but outside, in 16 degree weather (-8 canadian) …and college bars no longer smell like this since smoking is illegal in public places
so many leafs fans!
6) we did enjoy our nerdy new year’s eve of a board game, pandemic, along with chocolate fondu….
7) my daughter, ridiculous new slippers and mindy kaling…a well suited trio. i loved mindy kaling’s book by the way. she is a smart, funny and powerful woman in a field dominated by males. and its a very fast read.
8) shadows from our night time walk on new year’s eve. the white streaks are snow flakes falling in front of my lens.

What breaks my heart about a new year is the very clear demarcation of the passing of a significant amount of time. A whole year. We all have a finite time on this earth: a finite amount of time to learn, to love, to laugh, to become better people, to make the world a better place, to find peace, to show gratitude for all that we have…Did I spend my year wisely?

I don’t want to even think about the time I wasted on Netflix, Buzzfeed, Youtube and the raunchy entertainment section of Huffington Post.

(Do you see why my daughter often teases me by calling me Debbie Downer, and sings this song from Rachel Dratsh’s Debbie Downer skit from Saturday Night Live? Or she sometimes does the shorthand two-toned, horn sound, BWA bwa, just to let me know I’m being a downer.)

So I’m trying focus on this shiny, new year. A new year provides an opportunity to be reflective, to bring into focus what is really important or what most needs attention in our lives. A new year provides an opportunity to hit the reset button and to tweak our course in life.

I haven’t quite pulled my priorities together for 2014, as I have been too busy panicking about 2013 being over. Forever. Never to return again. (BWA bwa)

I have some ideas; I’d like to participate in a triathalon, and/or a long distance cycling trip. I also want to get on top of our personal finances. My husband has always taken care of this and I’ve had so many other things to do, that that was fine with me. Now that I have a little more time, I’d like to be more on top of things.

Instead of making a list of things that are rattling around in my brain at the moment, I would like to find a more comprehensive way to think about how to plan a year’s goals so that when it ends, I feel satisfied and at peace.

That may require a personality transplant, or me quitting my job, which is to say, it may be impossible. (BWA bwa)

I will let you know if I find a good framework for this planning process—let me know if you find one first.

I wish you a peaceful, satisfying, love-filled, sometimes raucous, sometimes surprising, sometimes challenging, new year.

what's making me happy this week 10.20.13: the vince guaraldi trio, the house dog's grave, and a dance off
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photos:
1) my daughter’s studies
2) an accusatory look from my dog
3) a thank you that warmed my heart

September through mid-December I have a program that runs on Sundays, so I work six days a week. I leave work at 2:30pm several days throughout the week, but that doesn’t seem to make up for my missed weekend day. I developed this Sunday program eight years ago and it is near and dear to my heart. Still, by mid October, this one day weekend begins to get old.

I miss being home. I miss getting things organized for the week, accomplishing home projects and being around my family. I try not to think about it too much.

Luckily there is much in the world to keep me distracted and smiling…

1. A heartfelt thank-you and note and brownies from an amazing young woman.

2. Walking home from work on sunny fall days, kicking up dry leaves as I go.

3. My daughter is on FIRE about her classes this term.

4. The whacking sound the walnuts make when they fall 30 feet from their mother tree and hit the sidewalk. Strangely satisfying. (downside: one hit my little Finny on the back last week and he spun around and looked at me with an accusatory look on his face.)

5. Jesse Thorn’s interview with Nicole Holofcener on his Bullseye podcast. Holofcener is the writer and director of the movie Enough Said, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener and James Galdofini (love all, particularly the women). I loved several things about this interview 1) I love that when Holfcener and Louis-Dreyfus met, they talked about how much they love their children and the heartbreak of their kids going off to college …I get these women 2) the interview was NOT about the death of James Gadofini, thank you for that choice Jesse Thorn 3) Thorn focused on the female writer/director and the lead female character and on women and comedy, again thank you Jesse Thorn. Can’t wait to see the film.

(p.s. did you know that Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s name is pronounced “Lewy” Drefus? Yes, you did? And so did everyone else?)

6. Jesse Thorn’s Bullseye podcast.
I have only previously known Thorn as Bailiff Jesse on the Judge John Hodgeman podcast and was happy to finally listen to his Bullseye podcast. Thorne has a sensitivity that is almost as startling as his outbursts of laughter (at times, seriously startling…and endearing…evidenced at 12:48 in the clip linked above). Looking forward to listening to more.

7. Cast your Fate to the Wind, The Vince Guaraldi Trio:

8. Just so you won’t mistake me for someone with excellent taste in music, this song is also making me happy:
Wake Me Up When Its All Over
It gives me that same temporary jolt of energy that I get when I eat pure sugar candy like Smarties and Nerds because it is the musical equivalent.
I will hate it a month from now.

9. This poem posted on a friend’s FB wall. It made me tear up, which is why I love poetry. So few words to access so much emotion.
The House Dog’s Grave
by Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

10. Jimmy Fallon’s improv dance off with the actor Sam Rockwell—sweet moves.
(I saw Rockewell’s summer film, The Way, Way Back. It was okay. I loved him in Moon, directed by Duncan Jones, who is the son of??? Correct! Davie Bowie!)

A good week to you!

seattle photos and hawaiin thoughts
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photos (from seattle):
1) steps down to golden gardens park, there are many, many more
2) golden gardens pier
3) golden gardens mermaid
4) andre the giant has a posse
5) little purple feet swinging
6) kevin…stop…please kevin
7) a warm day, plus a permissive aunt, equals a flooded patio
8) a warm day, plus a permissive aunt, equals a wet aunt
9) i was ordering sheets, a hooded doggy sweater was on sale so i had to order, it arrived while i was away, my daughter sent this photo to me while i was in seattle

Today is Ironman competition in Hawaii. I only know that because my studio cycling instructor told the class this moring and made it the theme for the workout. My favorite part was when she played the theme song from Hawaii Five-O.

Did you know that an Ironman competition begins with a 2 mile plus swim, in the ocean, followed by a 112 mile bike, followed by a marathon run?

How do they do this? I drove myself the .5 miles ot the Y this morning for my cycling class.

The record time for a man is just over 8 hours and for a woman just under 9 hours. My instructor says the record-holding woman has a smile in her face the entire time. What?

If they started their competition when I started my cycling class, they would have still been racing while I drove home, walked my dog, made muffins, cleaned up the kitchen, chatted with my family, laughed at a funny buzzfeed post my daughter showed to me, perused and edited my Seattle photos, drank my coffee, made my lunch. As I sit here and type, the fast ones are halfway through their workout.

They will still be racing while I shower, go to the hardward store, go to the grocery store, work on cleaning the linoleum glue off of my kitchen floor boards, take a walk or rake leaves, and make dinner.

And then, at least the fastest of the group, should be done.

I admire these athletes for their focus, discipline and hard work. If I were there, I would be cheering them on, wildly. I hope they are safe and smart and injury-free today. I hope they all PR.

While I am happy to be home doing what I am doing today, instead of doing what they are doing (even in Hawaii), they may have inspired me to walk to my yoga class tomorrow morning…

Hope you are doing just what you want to be doing today.

greetings from seattle

October 1, 2013

greetings from seattle

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photos:
1) homemade birthday crowns
2) tiny tap and ballet shoes…i love that little tummy
3) my nephew’s room…i miss this
4) nutcase (bike helmet) in the evening sun
5) the pink and purple trappings of a three year old pwincess

Guess what…It’s raining in Seattle.

I’m here visiting my little sister and her family. I adore my 3 year old niece and 5 year old nephew. (I adore my sister too!) They are such amazingly capable little people. I spent some time building with Lego with my nephew, and we looked at all of his pokemon cards—things I used to do for hours and hours when my son was his age.

This morning I drove my niece to pre-school and felt so privileged to be doing so. In the car my niece gave me the run down of the instructions of tasks to complete upon arrival: coat and backpack in her cubby, then I sign her in, then she washes her hands and uses the potty, then she gets her name card and puts it on Ms. Judith’s chair, then I read the board to her, then she follows the instructions on the board.

So much to remember! But she helped me through it all. Did I mention she is three?!

My sister told me one day my neice came home and said, “MOM! Do you know we have taste bugs in our mouths?!” My sister asked, “Taste bugs, or taste BUDS?” My niece replied, “Taste BUGS!”

There is so much I miss about my kids being little, the funny stories, the Lego building, reading to my kids at bedtime, problems that can be fixed with a band-aid or hug or book.

But there is a lot I forgot about that I don’t miss…the lack of sleep, (I heard my sister up at 2am this morning, and then again at 6am when she got up for the day), the relentless Saturday schedule of extracurricular activities (though in truth I love going to my niece and nephew’s activities, but I did skip the soccer games in the pouring rain).

I don’t miss the whole process of packing lunches, getting backpacks ready, making sure kids have used the bathroom, have their gym shoes packed, are buckled into their car seats. I don’t miss the evening schedule of making dinner, cleaning up after dinner, getting the kids bathed, in their pajamas, read to, in bed on time, doing the laundry, feeling badly that I didn’t have enough one on one time with each kid and then starting it all over the next day. I forgot how hard and exhausting it all was.

The great thing about being an aunt, is that you get the good parts, without the exhausting parts! I will so miss my sister, and these two little people when I leave. I still have a hard time thinking that it will always be this way…only seeing them once or twice a year. Likely not seeing them again until summer, or maybe next year. The thought of it pulls on my heart strings.

Also pulling on my heart strings… I miss my own big kids! My son just got his license before I left and my daughter was just finishing her transfer application to the University of Michigan. I miss their faces and their own funny stories from the day, though my daughter is still making me laugh every day through texts and emails.

photo 111: assignment 8, hard light with detail

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photos:
1) wakefield chair and our puppy finnegan (deaf and nearly blind and nearly 12)
2) finny and his bunny, see how finny’s tail uncurls when he sleeps? it also uncurls when he’s upset
3) my favorite creamer, though it has never held cream, usually maple syrup
4) experimenting with salt on a black mat board
5) i loved the shadows these wooden rabbits made, i used them for my shallow depth of field post as well

It has been some time since I have written about my photography class. Being without photos today, it seems like a good day to get back to it.

According to my instructor’s assignment sheet, alternative titles for the Hard Light with Detail assignment include “sunny light”, “directional light” or “undiffused light.”

My instructor included a specific requirement of ensuring there was good detail in both the shadows and the highlight. This is tricky, which I think is the point!

When you are shooting in bright light, it is both easy to have have light areas blown out and over exposed, and shadows underexposed. The goal is to get the exposure as close to perfect as possible, by bracketing and then making minimal corrections with the exposure brush (in Lightroom). Bracketing is trying a range of fstops.

The top photo is the one I turned in for a grade. But you can see in the other photo of my puppy, that the light has blown out the detail in the rug.

My instructor suggested shooting in the early and late hours of sun, with the sun at the side of the subject, and shooting from a low angle. The texture of the subject will be more dramatic. I’m not sure I’ve captured a lot of texture, but I love shadows, so I enjoyed this assignment.

I have 4 more assignments to cover…and then maybe I’ll try the assignments all over again, before I forget things like bracketing!

interviewing anxiety

September 21, 2013

interviewing anxiety

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photos:
1) first fall leaves
2) low morning sun = long shadows
3) sun bathing student in front of angell hall
4) stunt planes above our house, prior to um vs. notre dame night game
5) no parking signs and construction on madison and fifth, so tired of this endless street project, also for those of you who live near the stadium and want to reserve a place on the street on game days…free no parking signs…madison and fifth people…

the only thing that the photos above have in common with this post, is that both are a glimpse into my life…

I sometimes see certain people in my family avoiding opportunities for fear of failure, or judgment. Oh how well I know that behavior…because, sadly, even at my age, it is often my own behavior. My recent words of support to these certain people include, “What have you got to lose? Worst case you get interview experience. If they offer it to you, you can decide then to turn it down if you don’t want it.”

Of course those words came back to haunt me, as words of wisdom will do.

I have written before about feeling antsy about life and my current job. It is a job many would be grateful for—almost complete autonomy, ridiculous flexibility, lots to do and lots of variety, and feeling like I’m making a difference…. But I’ve been doing it for nine years and sometimes, autonomy can be lonely and the work never finished. Sometimes I want to be part of a thoughtful team of people. I have also been concerned about my program losing funding…there has been a lot of change around these parts.

So I applied for two jobs and got called to interview for both.

This initially made me feel great, until I learned the first interview was going to be 7 vs. 1 for an hour, followed by a 1 vs. 1 with the program director for the next hour. I started to get really nervous. Even more nerve wracking, I found out that 3 of the 7 were people I know professionally, but marginally.

I am not a great interviewer, or at least not a confident interviewer. I have had 4 interviews in the past 15 years and I have been offered every one of the jobs, so I can’t be completely terrible. But I do think my experience and references weighed heavily in all of those cases.

So many negative thoughts went through my head: What if I screwed up? What if I embarrassed myself? They would all know I’m lame.

In the meantime, I was assured that the funding for my program of employment was secure, so I conveniently decided that I really didn’t want a new job. My current job was PERFECT. I would withdraw my application.

But my own words of encouragement started sparring with the negative thoughts, “What have you got to lose?” (my dignity) “Worst case you get interview experience.” (and lose my dignity) If they offer it to you, you can decide then to turn it down if you don’t want it.” (I already know I don’t want it so why lose my dignity?!)

I was very nervous on my walk across campus to my interview, still wondering the whole way, “Why am I putting myself through this?!” And there I was in at the end of a long table packed with people who took turns asking me questions. “What are some examples of reports you’ve written or presentation you’ve given?” “Why do you want this job.” “Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?” “How do you currently measure success in your programs?” and so on.

I felt pretty good when that interview finished and so the one-on-one interview with the director felt much more relaxed. When that was over I was walking on air back to my office. I felt elated to have it behind me and to have done so well.

Hours later, and then periodically throughout the week, while in my office, or driving, or making dinner, I would suddenly remember one of my interview answers and cringe. Really? I couldn’t remember one report I’d written? I write many every year.

I answered many questions pretty well, but others…Ah well, I am who I am. Imperfect. Best they know that before they hire me.

I had lunch with my mentor the next day and told him that I didn’t think I wanted the job. But now my reasons were founded. The interview raised some concerns for me, including a concern about too many chiefs and about management styles. I tried to come up with a salary figure that would tempt me to take the job, but I couldn’t. He told me that I’m spoiled, and also that it’s good to be in a position where I can be choosy. I agreed with both statements.

I had a phone interview for the second job the next day and it was incredibly easy in comparison. I was very confident. The job seemed great, one I would have loved, but the salary turned out to be very low; too low for me to take. I had to withdraw from the interview process.

At the end of the week I had a call from the first job, and I was feeling guilty about having to turn them down. I had sent a follow up interview email, as one does, further explaining my excitement for the position, when in reality I had little excitement, and now I was going to have to turn them down.

It turns out I didn’t have to turn them down, because they didn’t offer the job to me! At first I felt relieved, and then…slightly miffed. Haha. Spoiled indeed.

In short long, I feel great that I interviewed, and in particular for a job I didn’t want in the end. Practice is the only way I will get better. I have renewed love for my current job. Also, when I get antsy again (next month?), my resume is updated, my references are primed and I will definitely be more confident for the next interview.

In the past, external job offers have resulted in counter offers and raises for me. But for this position, I wasn’t ready to leave and let my boss know it. I think you can only use external offers as leverage for a raise, when you are really ready to take the outside offer.

It’s a mute point anyway, as I didn’t get the job offer. I know my boss wants me to stay, so maybe I can negotiate something else…classes? meetings with others in the country who are doing similar work as me…maybe I’ll work on this when I return from my week-long visit to my sister in Seattle….ah flexibility.

Another great outcome from this adventure is that I have more credibility with my loved ones when I tell them they have nothing to lose by interviewing, and I have much more compassion for the anxiety and self-doubt they experience as they approach seemingly scary opportunities.