James, relaxed

Canada travelogue and kitty relocation

Three weekends ago: Katrina and I spent mostly in Portland visiting Mick and Misty and seeing Storm Large perform. We also dropped in on the house in Colton, packed and sorted, moved the cats South to a bedroom in her home in Eugene, and set up the room for them. Katrina (and I when I was there) slept with the cats on the futon sofa the rest of the week.
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James, relaxed

Post-International Women's Day Thoughts

A friend described a man's scornful words towards women on International Women's Day and asked for support. This is what I wrote her.

Fear is the process by which we decide we are less powerful, less wonderful, less amazing than we truly are. It is a way we accept less than our full potential.

Fear is a way others control us. Sly crooks exploit us for their own power, advancement, wealth accumulation, or political advantage. They know many of us will take the hook and be lead willingly to our own doom.

Those who teach the story of fear align themselves, either on purpose or unwittingly, with the haters, and permit their own exploitation by others.

Stand up and let yourself be seen! Your strength is immanent... you are human and your body, your mind is a gift from the divine. Let no man or woman tell you you are not beautiful, strong, or that your feelings or thoughts do not matter. Let your love shine forth and ring true. Let those who fear or hate have no dominion over you.

You are not perfect, but you are good, and you seek the path of kindness, truth, and equality. That is your birthright. I am proud you are my friend, and that you can and do see farther than the misogynist.

I love when you look into my eye and we see the loving, breathing, beautiful human being within, worthy of respect for others, and worthy of respect of self. I will stand shoulder to shoulder or back to back with you against the forces of fear and hate.

Love sustains life.
James, relaxed

Co-planning my Move with Katrina

I had a really wonderful weekend with Katrina here. We went through all the in-house belongings briefly, and filled out a spreadsheet. Per item, the spreadsheet identifies item name, location, rates whether in present use, has sentimental value, has an application at her place, has an application if I lived elsewhere, a determination (use immediately, store accessibly, store longer-range, sell, give away, or dump), a destination room at her place, and any other notes.

This adventure served multiple purposes... it allowed me to share significant stories about items. It allowed me to identify my 'carrying set' of stuff for short vs. longer range, cohousing vs. independent. It helped us both visualize what her home will look like with my stuff in it. It helps me size up the quantities of stuff and think about transportation of them all to various locations they need to go. It helps me provide a list of what I'm bringing to the house, and would remove if/when I leave.

We also wrote up a rental agreement indicating goals of a working cohousing relationship, as well as specific objectives and understandings, including rent requirements, guest and activities, chores, what is shared, what is private, personal belongings, and varied ways in which the agreement may be amended or terminated.

There is a lot of emotional safety in knowing more of what to expect. Writing up specifics makes that explicit. It also builds bridges and helps us think about what we are co-creating. It leads to better understanding of what both of our vision for home space is, and we are finding it largely compatible. Visualizing my future there makes it less cloudy and uncertain and more real. It also helps me see my current home as a container for my stuff which is not the shape and size that I need for my life going forward, so it's part of being able to say goodbye happily. All these things validate choices and draw us toward something better, away from something which has been good or at times burdensome.

I expressed a lot of concern with her about how much focus she is giving my needs right now, and my own frustration that my focus on the big shuffle of my life is actually making me a little less attentive to her and me and the more romantic side of our relationship, as well as outward discovery and exploration (camping, activities, friends). I realize this is just my emotional centers barging in and telling me stories about what a relationship 'should' look like, and that the midbrain/emotional mind does not have a sense of past and future, everything is the present.

When I engage the rational mind and when I really hear HER feedback, it's clear that sure it is out of balance at this moment in some ways, but I have already been there for her many times and we have built a track record of giving with each other... her needs are being met at present, as are mine. So, the need there is for affirmation and identifying that the 'should' is a mismatch with the reality... and she was able to provide that assurance... very wonderful.
James, relaxed

Some are friends for a season, some for a reason, some for a lifetime

James Kathryn Wheatland Ferry“I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason,
bringing something we must learn;
and we are led to those who help us most to grow - if we let them -
and we help them in return…
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true,
but I know I'm who I am today because I knew you.

It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime,
so let me say before we part,
so much of me is made of what I learned from you;
you'll be with me like a handprint on my heart.

And now whatever way our stories end,
I know you have re-written mine by being my friend.
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you, I have been changed for good…”

This makes me think of my dear departed Kathryn, and all the wonderful friends who were inspired by her life. She wasn't always easy to be around, but she touched all of us and left us richer and fuller of heart.

The woman who introduced me to her, Gayle, read Wicked to me over the course of several weeks, and I read the book in turn to Kathryn. The same stories are relevant to others coming from other paths... it connects us to who we are as people.

Thanks to my friend Carole for sharing these words from 'Wicked' in her blog.
James, relaxed


I'm pondering my relationship to a houseful of stuff today. Some of the stuff is important, much of it is not all that important.

There was a time in my life a few years ago when it was temporarily unsafe to live in my home, and so I learned what it's like to live with just my truck, laptop computer, phone, and a half dozen changes of clothes in my Mother's furnished spare room. This unfortunate situation happened several times, off and on, as I tried and failed to make my old home living situation work. I learned what was really essential for me... which is really - myself. Everything else is optional.

Each time I was 'out of the house' for a few weeks, I had a slightly different set of things. There was one point where I also had my radios, home computer, guitar, and some of my office records with me, and I set them up and made them functional at my Mom's. That was definitely an improvement over the leaner times.

Now I'm selling my house, moving to another cohousing situation, and I'm considering my relationship to each thing I have... my actively used items, the active but redudant items for which furnishing exists where I am headed, and the huge pile of occasional use or entirely inactive items which belong better with someone who can use them.

I am home-oriented in a cohousing situation and enjoy sprucing up a shared abode, but I'm not very interested in home maintainance when I live alone. When I live alone, much of my attention and time is either active hobbies, sleeping, or about planning and spending time with others - not on the joy of maintaining my completely independent space. So, this means that 'stuff' accumulates and I don't really pay much attention to it, and assume it has a right to be there... clutter sets in.

I'm trying to triage all this clutter. It feels like a very large task, but I know it will come together and I'll be able to see its true size by working my way through it.

As for the stuff it feels like too much to drag along after me: It occurs to me that much of the stuff has attached memories, which are invaluable, but for most of this stuff, I can also keep memories in my head and see the items are of use elsewhere. It also occurs to me that some of the stuff has monetary value... it's likely time for craigslist or ebay for some of this.

It's helped that one of my LJ friends has talked about going through her mother's belongings. The insight she discovered there resonates with me... my generation is used to relatively inexpensive items that are discarded or given away when no longer of use, but the older generation tended to see the value in keeping and maintaining old things, not letting them go. Generationally, my values are probably a result of living in a time of plenty, and the older folks living in a time of austerity, I suppose. I feel that Kathryn (my deceased wife) had much more of the austerity mindset than I did, and hence her tight clench onto her things and investment with memory. My software engineer lifestyle has resulted in a 'I'll just buy something like it later if I need it' perspective.

It all feels like a whole lot of stuff to get through, and I already grieve some of the loss of the reminders of memory, and the dollars invested being said goodbye to... but these THINGS stand in the way of a life freer of obligations and having too much that's just not actively useful to look after. My time for just ignoring this is past, it's time to give sight to the blind eye and turn toward the reality.
James, relaxed


I've been on an extended weekend and head back today.

Saturday made french toast and fried up lots of bacon. We did several errands including picking out glasses frames for Katrina, and clothes shopping the sales racks at Freddy's. Katrina really perks up when someone helps her shop and weigh options that have an aesthetic component. We returned home and made a vegetable lamb soup that is outstanding.

Sunday we got up very early and drove to Beaverton. We toured a rental house about a block from my Mom's in Beaverton, which I like and will seriously consider. After that we went to Gustav's for lunch with Mom, including cheese fondue. We then drove the hour to Colton and broke down my old L-shaped computer desk. We proceeded the two hours South to Eugene and reassembled the computer desk in Katrina's front bedroom. Next I set up the computer and we stopped at Freddy's to pick up a wireless adapter, setting up the whole house on wireless.

Monday I toured Lane Community College's Massage program and class spaces. I was impressed and there are certain advantages to a program here... indeed it appears to be an excellent program, but not marketed as intensively as all the for-profit and massage-specific schools I've toured. After that I visited the Buy and Sell and eyed the Oud and some books on finger picking. I was hungry and was sucked into the Rose + Thistle Fish and Chips place where I pigged out. This gave me tons of fuel to set up bath shelves, assemble cube drawers, clip the long hedge, sweep the driveway and sidewalk, start raking leaves, have a bath, eat a light dinner and go to Connie's party with Katrina.

Today's been lazier - some dishes and laundry. I'll have lunch with Katrina, meet Mags to talk massage and chiropractic for dinner, and try to get in on the tour at Oregon School of Massage. Eager to see my kitties. They need me.
James, relaxed

Survey of 6 Massage Schools

I have visited six massage colleges in the Portland area. My overall impressions:

Everest Institute - Tigard (fka Ashmead): Great cozy learning environment in the upper floor of an office building overlooking 217 just off Greenberg Road. The handouts are cozy too, good brochure design. Only 3 programs, one of which is Massage Therapy with about 150 students split between morning and evening groups on 12 month track. Spa techniques may be added on for additional cost and the fifth study day each week. New sets of students start every 6 weeks. I sat in on a chair massage class and experienced a good learning environment. Followup by admissions and teachers has been prompt and excellent. Program is most expensive, up there with Pioneer-Pacific, but is a lot of hours of education. Less than average pass rate in Oregon Board test results... maybe not harsh enough grading? There is some outplacement capability. I know I'd do well here, and it's close to Mom, and very warm connections with the small staff. Like.

East-West College (Lloyd District): Big city building with spacious well-equipped rooms - not at all cozy, and lots of students waiting between classes sitting in on the floor in the hallways. Only talked with administration, will get chance to see a class Friday and looking forward to that. Lots of students - 440 enrolled, 150/year taking Oregon boards. Quarter program. Great electives and mix of adjunct instruction. COMTA accreditation which carries well across states and nations. Talk with Admissions was heartfelt but I found myself wondering if I would find the environment comfortable enough to really enjoy. Consistently best board pass rates of all the schools, so it prepares people well. Lots of mixed messages from former students who feel prepared but didn't always enjoy the choices made by the administration. Unless the class feels really great, I will probably cross E-W off my list for now and save it as a post-graduation Continuing Education option. Unlike.

Anthem College - Beaverton (fka High-Tech Institute - Phoenix): 400 students in 5 health study areas. Massage has 53 enrolled. There are four tracks/day so up to ~20 students in the busiest time of day, fewer in early morning and late afternoon tracks. Students join every 6 weeks and join a wheel of courses, and then spend the last couple months doing supervised Clinic (the course wheel is novel). Extensive followup with recent and later graduates. Vast improvements in pass rates and placement to recently excellent. Rock star Program Director, Barb, appears to have been responsible for this. The interleaved course material may make transfer of credits impossible. I felt a little uncomfortable with a basic skills computerized test and the seeming inflexibility of the program, precisely tracked, but came to understand this is how they complete a large hours program in only 11 months. Probably easy to work and study because of the four instruction tracks. Like.

Oregon School of Massage (SW Barbur) - Comfortable, lived-in feel, good admissions knowledge, with smallest number of hours of other programs, apparently the hands-on massage time may be quite a bit less, and maybe some scrimping in pathology and surveys of modalities. The focus is on Body-Mind-Spirit integration, so this may be the "energy worker's" massage school. Program includes a weekend of instruction at Bagby Hot Springs. Comfortable lived-in look to the offices. I'm hoping to get a chance to sit in on some instruction (I've asked to see Kinesiology). Good set of continuing education and enough buzz for people to have opportunities for outplacement (but you're on your own). Hours to dollars is reasonable though, maybe just a lot less body hands-on time. I'll have to ask. Really Like.

Pioneer-Pacific College (Health Technology Institute, Wilsonville) - It's crammed between Interstate 5 and the office park land in a very suburban sprawl area, feels rather lifeless there. Inside, very business-officey. The admissions did not have strong knowledge of massage itself or the specific pass rates or placement rates. The published materials are inspecific about hours spent in which standard area in 10 month-long program. I do not have a confident view of the program. They will have the program director contact me. I'm not going to spend much more energy on this school. Unlike.

University of Western States (fka Western States Chiropractic College, near Gateway and Parkrose) - outstanding views of favored Cascade peaks adjacent to I-84 near I-205 in what was a Catholic Girl's School turned college in the 70s. Most of the 500 students on campus are working towards Chiropractic degrees, and the massage program was started 5 years ago, now getting consistently good as far as pass rates are concerned. Up to 26 students enter the program in either April or October and are out in a year. Massage has 50 students who do night school as the facilities are packed daytime. Students get to practice with Chiropractic students in a clinic setting, a lot of hours there. There's also a gross anatomy lab available (cadavers), an extensive medical library with cross-loans to OHSU and other medical schools, and pubmed access. The accreditation makes much of the coursework portable to other regional schools toward Nursing, Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and related programs - and the school has an application for COMTA in progress. My geeky innards feel this could be the most rigorous, medically based option for me in town, and I liked the tour and feel of the classes. I'd have to live East-side almost certainly, and become a nightowl, forgoing most weeknight activities - but it may be worth it. Cost of program is notably lower per hour. Unique learning opportunity. Really Like.
James, relaxed

Massage School

So, why does a man with 25 years of experience in embedded software industry have a mid-life crisis and retrain for a trade? Aside from the fact most people retrain several times in their life, and this is my first, and I am about due, here are some reasons:

1) Work-life balance. A 40 hour a week salary position can mean 60 hours a week in preparation, making up slack, meeting deadlines, and so far. This leaves me too little time for self-care, and I loathe time off for all that I delay getting done during that time off. I need a career where I can plan exactly how many hours I put into it, and the income from changes from this are predictable.

2) Confident Delivery. Working at the margin of what I can do in software every day is exhausting, and more work is always being added. I feel like I'm a shark that has to keep swimming ever faster just to keep up. A trade-based skill which is almost always welcome, is a way for me to have confidence that almost every bit of the work I do will be welcome and appreciated. I already know that I'm quite bright and I'm sure if I apply myself that will give me an edge up and I will be competitive.

3) Working for myself. I don't want to work at the whim of big business deals from giant companies influencing the content and timing of my work, adding changes and demands unknown to me, business failure leading to layoffs, business success making my role too narrow to shine, and bad management change-outs. I'm ready to have direct relationships with clients who see the value in what I do, hour by hour, and pay me for that.

4) Immediate Feedback. Working very independently under very general direction, but still subject to long-delayed feedback, is a pressure cooker of anxiety for me. I'm more likely to be anxious about this than I used to be, after all the life I have lived. I'll be paid for my work hour by hour, by the people I benefit.

5) Relationships of Trust. I've always been good at creating and maintaining relationships, and this will be a key focus.

6) Out of the Chair. For 25 years I've been sitting in a chair 5-6 days a week staring at a screen trying to get my work done. My eyes are more prone to being tired. My muscles are tired from lack of use. Massage Therapy will get me out of my chair and more into my body.

7) New challenge. I can learn more about how to read the health in a body and help urge it toward greater wellness, freedom, and clarity.

8) It's About Life. This is a deepening of my work in building teams, mentoring new workers, understanding balance, what's needed for physical and mental health, and communicating in a way that values people's feelings, needs, and finding ways to meet them.

I'm actually ready to be a student again, and this will challenge me in that way, and give me a whole basket of new skills to master, an application of all that interest in health and biomechanics.

I'll make a lot less money in this career, but if I make 'enough' to take care of myself, I think I will be fine. I could learn a little more about thrift. Afer all, what good is money when you're stuck in one place, at the whim of others, not getting out and exercised, and feel the work is abstract and disconnected from what's really important about being alive?

So, I'm interviewing schools, budgeting, and planning to take a year and a half off in retraining. I'll put the house up for sale and move into town - probably Beaverton, maybe Southwest, closein East side, or (long shot) Eugene - during this time. I welcome feedback, encouragement, tips and tricks.

I'm so lucky I can put ALL the pieces in play right now, that I have the resources and the health to do so, and that this is all my show - I have no dependents and my mind is free from dependency on a specific preexisting career. I kind of feel like a very wise teenager. Wish me luck!