James, relaxed

Signing Over The Round House

I worked all weekend, including a late night software release project with my coworkers ending at a little after 2am this morning. I'm short on sleep and tired out. Katrina has been amazingly supportive. She is a saint. She picked me up for a picnic lunch at the beautiful park at Fern Ridge Reservoir and then brought me back to work. Katrina also brought my team pizza late last night, even though delivery was an option.

The title company officer called and woke me up at 9:10 this morning to schedule a signing appointment. She pointed out I had misunderstood and misread the columns of the settlement. I was not and am not under water after all. Even after the price reduction I will actually receive a little bit out of the sale. Hooray!

That wasn't what I had expected, but a good turn. All that fretting I did throughout last week over IRA withdrawals or personal loan was unnecessary. While I would have been happy to have been spared that concern, it is no big deal. I dealt well with my worries and by Friday had set up a good backup plan, and have no tax or penalties the way I worked it out. I can leave it behind. What a tremendous sense of relief, though! It puts me a ways closer to being completely debt free, which has been on my bucket list since I started borrowing money back in college.

Katrina took a long lunch to meet me at the local title company office at 1pm today. I signed seller's papers. Documents will be sent overnight delivery to the Clackamas office. It should be possible for everything to close almost immediately. I am very happy that the new owner will be able to move into her new home.

As soon as I get word the deal is closed I will call the electric utility, home owner's insurance, and my auto-withdrawal service for my mortgage and finalize them. I think those are the only remaining things that I need to be concerned with (no garbage, no land line phone).

I think when it closes I will rally friends to come out to a bar and toast progress with me... it feels momentous. Then all I will need to deal with are all the belongings I couldn't part with that I have stored in the house and the storage rental... and life will continue forward.

Step by step the pain becomes less awful. When I found the death certificate this morning so that it could be recorded and Kathryn released off the deed, I re-read the police and medical examiner's reports from Kathryn's death, two and a half years ago. I felt grief reading the stories, but I'm continuing to do better with it. Even still, I recognized the same feeling that I have there on Girard, memories of feeling overwhelmed, unresolved arguments, distortions from Kathryn's illness, long distances separating me from supportive friends and family, and there's my former self, plodding along trying to be responsible and eat, work and survive.

When I stand there in Colton I feel encased in glue, and what I can accomplish alone is very limited. I missed a year of work and sacrificed most of my savings partly because the need to move out of that place and deal with it was so difficult. I needed so much help to make this move happen. All of you who have helped, I hope you can see your care and help made such a difference. Professionals I've hired have often treated me with the care and attention of a friend. I hope that all those who have helped are able to reach a little farther toward their own dreams this week.
James, relaxed

Price Reduced

Spring is the most wonderful season in the forest as all the wildflowers take their turns blooming, from cherry and maple to apple and dogwood, Oregon grape, iris, dandelion, Shasta daisy, phlox, fireweed, Trillium, and the seemingly ever blooming selfheal. The line of snow reappears only briefly on the mountains. Warm sunny days make the greenhouse go gangbusters.

I'm thinking about it with some ennui. The price reduction went live today on the forest home I own which is too far from my new life. Asking $249,700. Details at Windermere.
James, relaxed

1.5 Years with Katrina, 3 mos. Working

Pin the Head on the Elephant!

Katrina and I have been a couple for 18 months as of tomorrow. It has been working out wonderfully. We both stay present and awake for our relationship and are kind and loving toward each other. We are always willing to listen and to figure out what our real feelings are and how to meet both people's needs - all of the needs of each person are important. We try not to leave things unresolved... maybe overnight to get some sleep until we can think more clearly, but never longer than that. I predict a long and mutually rewarding future for us. :)

I have also thrown myself into my new job. It's a great team of folks, and we are making progress toward meeting our goals. The system is a large, impressive supermarket scanner with dozens of cameras and processors in it. As each alpha and beta release looms we are each contributing significant pieces. Mostly I've been cross-porting bits and pieces of experimental code into an application built on a commercial embedded Linux distribution, so that it may be compiled in the native development system, for an Intel Atom-based PC, and for a plethora of ARM-based microcontrollers. My experience with networking and system administration in Linux is also helpful. It is fun to be a part of this all coming together.

Zahara, Nov 2011

Time and energy demanded by work have left most of my hobbies and social activities aside. My photography is almost stalled as I do not have the quiet, unstructured time to post-process the photos on my computer. I will, however, teach a workshop on Better Dance Photography at Saqra's Showcase on April 28th. I still pick up the guitar a couple times every week. I have been trying to bike commute to work and look forward to more nice days on which to do so. I am hoping to get away to do some camping and backpacking this summer with Katrina.

Aaron is going to have more of moms ice cream

I miss my Mom and brother. I now only get to see them about once/month, now that I live 120 miles South of them. I miss my Portland friends, too. I'm glad I get to spend time with my sister Cathy, her husband Jeff and sometimes their (in his 30s now) son Aaron, more than I used to (they live in Eugene).

My beautiful mountain home in Colton is still for sale. It went on the market four months ago. Realtor's listing, an awesome Video, and great photos by Kris Tabor. I'm guessing I am going to want to cut the price on it. I'm also considering having an art and music open house on June 10 featuring the photography of my friend Debi Friedlander. This would also give me some incentive to pretty up the place for that day. I'm thankful for my job so that I can afford to keep the mortgage going on this home, although I would love it if it could find new owners.

Life is always a compromise, I am feeling very happy. I love my life. I feel so fortunate.

Colton Home in Spring
James, relaxed

Paring Back While Moving Forward

Paring Back While Moving Forward: A friend of mine commented on feeling overwhelmed and wondering what major thing to drop in her life so she wouldn't go crazy. My advice to her was to stay invested in things that connect her with her future self -- that support the change into the person she wants to become. I continued with more commentary, along with some reflection on where I am and the paring back and changes I see starting as of my first day at work Monday:

Take a look at each thing in your life and what it does for you... maybe a mindmapping exercise. Think about what it is you need to feel whole. If you decide to drop some things to give yourself more options, that's a good thing. There are some things you need to keep up a tempo on (more business related or goal oriented work), but other stuff can come and go on a whim.

I decided in about 2004 or so to really focus on my work success... and after a lot of years a senior software engineer, a year or concerted effort got an opportunity to work on a brand new team starting up, which was getting a lot of management attention as a development area... then after a few years at that I received a promotion to a staff level engineer. What I put aside to do that was some club and hobby activity that I had been focusing on before, which also required a lot of hours driving (much harder after my move out to the country) and some from-home geeky time. It was a good tradeoff and the advanced position opened up a lot of job flexibility.

After Kathryn's death in 2009 I chose to try to drop off a lot of social activity and focus on work to stabilize my job and provide myself enough time to keep up with house and home stuff... and after a year I just felt more isolated and more distracted by trying to keep up with bills, home management, expenses -- and had no help for it. I was lonely and felt really stuck, and angry about my situation. Job change didn't help, so I tanked the work, sunk my fangs into my retirement (my only significant savings), and took a year-plus off to realign my life.

I now had time to confront the questions and initiate and complete actions in the following areas: What did I want out of life? How do I stay healthy? How do I address loneliness, isolation, and affordability of my life? What do I want to do for career down the road? What do I want to invest my own time in to feel my life is stable? What activities will engaging my creative needs? Do I have room for relationship? How long would it take to deal with all the stuff I had accumulated and left behind by Kathryn's death? Where would I move to? How could I repair my house and get it sold?

After the 13 months off I'm much financially poorer, but personally richer. I've moved to Eugene, partnered with Katrina, involved myself in expanding photography hobby and music, spent a lot of time social networking, got rid of a ton of belongings, stored a few others, repaired the house, and got it on the market. I've gone part way in a program of study and have determined it suits me well. Finance implores I stop bleeding my savings, so I've managed to land a job which looks like it will solve that, won't create major new problems, and likely be personally rewarding, at least for a few years.

With the new job, I'm looking at another paring back here soon too. I have had unstructured days and haven't always been productive in them, but the time I have had while Katrina is at work is mine. This is going to radically change. I will have to be very choosy about hobbies. I have always wanted a extended sabbatical and I have made that happen! Now it is back to the dual income, no kids life and careful application of evenings and weekends. I think I'm ready to give it a try.

Happiness is having choices.
James, relaxed

Long Moveout

So many folks pick up and move at the drop of a hat - to change their whole life overnight. In our shifting American life, it seems to be an expected, if not required, talent. I feel envious of folks that can do that.

It was possible for me to move my key personal things out of my old home, given time - the things that pull me toward my future. All the rest of the stuff, the leftovers of the past, are very hard to deal with alone there. Old ghosts, distraction and emotion take rein. Perhaps my definition of that home was it was a shared project, but then my partner left. I suppose it probably felt similarly painful for Kathryn in her last days, after I'd recognized my total exhaustion and decided it wasn't healthy for me to share space with her illnesses there any more. Her words: "It's all too much... all this is yours now... I love you... this isn't your fault... goodbye".

What can I do? Just move forward in life. I've redefined everything, and in order to not overwhelm myself with it all at once, it's taken my time to start new life projects things one at a time. I'm delighted with my successes so far, but It sure is dragging on.

I have learned I have to ask for help to resolve stuck tasks. I have been setting up plans with some friends who will help me pack and, hopefully, load a truck with the last of my personal stuff, and the rest of the stuff which will go to various charities (I'm still open to more help!). For the list of 20-some odd repair and cleanup items, I have hired a general contractor I've worked with before who's an expert in repair houses for resale. Where necessary I've hired them to kick *my* butt when I stall on things, and find help for me where I need extra arms and legs that don't have an emotional attachment to the place. The timing is driven by *my* needs, and I know my savings will run out if I dally longer... and the house will show best in Spring through Fall, though there's no sign of real improvement in the housing market. So, there's no time like the present.

Where has the time gone? I was in Colton for something like 9 years? I reflect on the friendships which formed but went mostly undeveloped there... the spark will remain alive, but the opportunity will be less. So much of my time was dominated by focus on making my work effective, and relationship to function as well as it could, and maintenance and improvement of the physical home - I am proud of what I did there, even if others felt disappointment - I could care less - I know I did well. I showed up in two Colton Corner articles in the Molalla Pioneer newspaper, on emergency communication amateur radio and my home weather station. Still, it's part of my grief of moving, that community and friendship opportunities so often did not make it above the priority cut line.

It's good that there is so much that I'd love to be able to do. It's the nature of this life there is rarely adequate time to do it in. I have been blessed with so much opportunity in this life. Still, what's left undone is always so much more than what is accomplished. It would seem that is just the nature of things and finding acceptance, celebrating what *has* been accomplished, is key.

The peace of a Spring morning, dew on the grass, trees framing sunrise casting its orange beams on the forests on Goat and Green mountains, imagining the waterfalls on Milk Creek, the chirping birds, hummingbirds at the feeder, pear blossoms opening, a deer munching on the grass, warm comfort of home, soft carpet underfoot, coffeemaker sighing, omelet sizzling, a good day for a bike ride up and down the hills, familiar voices on the radio repeaters. I had a good time there. I loved. I was loved. I was in love with the flow of our planet. I will take a memory of Colton's forests, streams, creatures, farms, canyons and ridges with me in my heart.
James, relaxed

Encouragement for a Perfectionist

We are all so beautifully shiny deep inside. It is letting that out, even in an incomplete form, which inspires others. If you have something to share, share it. If it benefits from additional refinement, go ahead and do that later - because the weight of releasing the 0.9 version gives the inspiration to go to 1.0. Please don't sit on something exquisite just because you don't think it's 100% perfect... that would be a waste. Shine!
James, relaxed

Stasis at the Ridgetop Retreat

I left Eugene Monday and have been in residence this week in my house at Colton. My plans are to sort through belongings and pack them effectively, and transport them to places of donation, discard, and into storage and use in my new residence in Eugene. I'm also assembling repair and maintenance checklists.

On the way up I met a friend for lunch and another friend for dinner, and I forayed forth to meet friends for dinner Tuesday night, but otherwise I have been here.

I have been looking forward to this time to resolve my former residence here, but had been delayed by a need to finish up school in Eugene and not split my efforts too broadly. My pattern in Eugene has been daily moderate to high output: three classes completed along with time in the lab at the college, home furnishings set up, music and media areas configured, books unpacked, tasty meals made, dahlias planted, housekeeping accomplished, roombas supervised, and lunch breaks taken with Katrina. I ride my bike, rarely feel achey, and am relatively active. My diet and activity levels and sleep are healthy.

Here in Colton, I've been underwhelmed by the progress I have made this week. I have sampled a few boxes of Kathryn's clothing and packed another half a box of stuff. Instead of the planned activities, focus has been outward, on the Internet, researching and reading. I feel the wages of avoidance and distraction, legs ache from disuse and awkward postures at the end of the day. I am almost at a standstill. Darkness comes, and I sleep, hoping for a more productive day which doesn't really come. The stasis feels familiar: it recollects tracts of time before my relocation to Eugene.

Stasis seems momentarily adaptive, but starves me of progress and health in the longer term... so why do I do this? I am pondering the nature of the powerful subconscious forces inside my head. Ultimately, I believe these patterns are ones of avoiding the pain and triggering memory... the patterns of avoidance and stasis are triggered and strong for me here because the environment encourages me to re-live memories, as well as strategies of waiting, hanging on, accepting little day-to-day progress or change. When Kathryn was sick, it was sometimes enough for me to go through motions and make only small amounts of progress in order to just get through the day and get rest for the next day - a day when she might be able to communicate. After she was gone, there was grief, and while I was quite productive on work things and some hobbies at times, in contrasting areas more focused around the house care itself, I felt somewhat halted. I'm very isolated here, and I have no one to share my hourly plans and accomplishments with, so they don't feel very real to me. So, in some ways, I just hunker down and wait... wait for something to change (things were always changing and not always positively when Kathryn was around, so my agendas tended to be set by others and that was familiar for me).

Predictably - things don't change. I feel somewhat annoyed at this week of avoidance and distraction, staring at the computer amid unpacked home things. I don't think I can overcome this merely by pushing myself harder and continuing down this exact track... I feel that I need to work smarter and find a way to flow around the part of myself that is my own obstacle.

My new approach is this:

1) ask for presence of a friend for support,
2) focus on evacuating this house's contents, and
3) leave sorting for a more supportive environment

Having people around will give me the encouragement for meaningful hour by hour progress. Emptying the house now will allow me to move forward on repairs and listing, and make it less comfortable as a place to sit and do nothing. Leaving the emotionally complicated sorting for later this house will prevent me having to take that bullet now, which still feels like more than I can emotionally deal with all alone, and I can do it in a more supportive and convenient environment later.

So, not all is lost. I've had a week of rest and stasis. I reconnected with some of the emotions, the pain and coping I have had here, and the sense of isolation and lack of progress. I have more compassion for the person who was living that way full time. I have contrast with a more productive, happier, fuller life I have had since I moved from here three months ago - a more essential and effective 'me'. No schoolwork has been sacrificed for this experiment. To sum this up, I have a more complicated but perhaps less emotionally taxing approach for making forward progress.

I recall the intense beauty and facility of this remote place to live, which I strongly recommend for those who love rural living - which is great for me to visit on vacation, but to which I am less well-suited as a daily home pattern.

I'm ready to go home... home to Eugene. While I have been away, my girlfriend has become a grandmother, and I want to celebrate with her, and connect with my developing life in my new home... I will also need to secure the resources I need to succeed my evacuation of the old home where I'm sitting now.
James, relaxed

Random catchup

Drizzly day here inhibiting anything outdoors, so thought I'd post some random catchup items.

I haven't been blogging as much because school and home have been keeping me busy, and one of my courses, Communication from the Heart, had a lot of journaling assigned. I chose to write all my thoughts out longhand, so I didn't do much typing. School does not tie me to the computer at all, a refreshing change of pace from everything related to software engineering work, and part of the change I was creating when I chose this new study direction.

I'll get to that in a bit, but let's recount the post-school weekend activities! On Saturday Katrina and I biked 16 miles around Eugene (route map) with my sister Cathy, my nephew David, and his girlfriend Amanda.
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I would love to continue with my next quarter of classes, but this doesn't seem to be my best next step. I need to resolve the very expensive storage container I have in Colton which I have been largely ignoring the last two months. I figure taking the quarter off from school will give me a lot of opportunities on weekdays to make progress there, and I can still enjoy Summer weekends with Katrina. To that end I've already recompiled a new Gantt chart of steps to perform.

I've also felt like I can catch up with more of the move-in activity which has been delayed by having 4 days a week primarily devoted to school. Next up is some more yard and garden work, installing more media center components, setting up radios and antennas, and organizing the incoming flood of the rest of my personal belongings. I also need to catch up on routine dental, optical and medical appointments with new Eugene-based providers. It will be a busy summer!
James, relaxed

Summer planning

It's finals crunch time... a big final project due Tuesday, and exam Wednesday, and a lot of homework. I'm excited about where school is leading me, but it does require making it a priority. Priority wrestling is on my mind, as I figure out what I'm going to do with my Summer. The contenders are school, old home, new home, and outdoor activity.

First, a sidebar of celebration: So far this year I have determined a new life direction, moved all my essential things to a new home life which is going very well, my relationship has grown so much, proving to be all I had hoped it would be, and my first term of school looks like it will be a big success. I feel happy and fulfilled!
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So, looks like I have my priorities together. School may have to wait a bit, but I'll be less distracted and have the house sale project underway (I hope) three months from now, and be able to study knowing that its going to get resolved. I'm very excited about this coming to pass!
James, relaxed

Apocrypha and Evolution

So, May 21 is believed by some to be the date of the second coming, when Jesus will return and lift up his believers into heaven, and the unbelievers and sinful will be cast into damnation forever.

I've seen a post-rapture looting event invitation on Facebook, and have steered away from it as it breaks my societal code for behavioral conduct, although I understand the humor in it. I too have wondered what will happen to the possessions of the believers after they are gone.

Some less things-oriented friends of mine who are non-Christian have also invited me to a relaxed backyard barbeque where we can celebrate our revelationist friends assumption into heaven and be grateful for the beautiful world we have been left.

I have felt it is quite possible that in the experience to come, for each individual, of the ending of this life, perhaps there is a feeling of rapture to come... and that we might each have our own judgment day brought upon us where all threads of our activity are wrapped up together, forever immutable... but in our inner worlds, not en masse in the shared reality.

So, I am left questioning, why do some people believe in literal marching horsemen of the apocalypse, and why do others believe in better perfecting the gifts we were each born with, in this life... unconcerned with preparing the way for heaven and hell? I really think this comes down to personal choice -- those who believe outside forces rule their lives and change them, transform them, lead them from this lowly earth to the alternate world of angels, powers with which they must align and ally and to which they must obey or be punished... versus those of us like myself who believe we are to listen to the inner voice that leads us to better life with ourselves and those around us... that the gift is in having the ability to do and make choices, to listen to and see the power radiant in each one of us.

I've oversimplified because the lesson of the personal journey coming into greater union with God's plan is a big lesson in all successful religions... and also the experience of being the conduit, a nozzle for the power of the divine is also a lesson in all popular paths... yet the dividing line I see is that some power is out there which is going to level our current society and transform it all at once... and that is what does not feel real to me.

Three days before there is a manifest answer. I will make each day count, leading up to that... and following that day, practice radical inclusivity, love for all people, recognition of the divine in each rock, stone, bird, flower, woman and man. That is the lesson that Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and others have taught me.