Accidental Fudge

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Tag: vacation (page 1 of 2)

Song School 2017

Last week there was no blog, because my partner and I were at the Rocky Mountain Song School at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, CO. I spent the week almost entirely unplugged: away from my phone, not thinking about work, not focusing so hard on the news. It was…

Well, it was incredible, really. I didn’t get a lot of writing done (there are classes pretty much all the time, and they’re all fascinating, and it’s impossible to get to all of them), but I learned so much. I met so many amazing, beautiful people doing amazing, beautiful work. We talked about songwriting generally, but also about songwriting as survival, as resistance, as revolution. We held space for each other, cheered each other on and pushed each other to do better. 

I’ve never been in a new place around so many new people and felt so safe to be myself. 

It was an amazing experience. I don’t have adequate words to describe it. 

The road trip there and back was pretty great, too, although we did have some moments in small towns where we didn’t feel so safe (being an obviously queer couple in small town rural America can be frightening). I remembered, once we were finally in Colorado, that getting out of the city and into nature sometimes is essential to my mental health. It’s a thing that’s easy to forget in the convenience of living in Chicago, where I can get everything else I need, but it’s important. 

I’m going to be processing what I learned and working on the new songs I started for a few months, I think. I can’t wait to go back next year!

Adventure Calls

This past week has been a fun one. Sunday, I got to take a class on hand-sewing bow ties, taught by the fabulous Franklin Habit. The bow tie I made turned out a little snug, but I’m already gearing up to make more (with some adjustments to size so I don’t strangle myself when I wear them).

My partner was visiting his family in Minnesota for a few days, so I got some time alone in our apartment, which is a weird and rather uncommon thing. I definitely missed having him there, but it was nice to be a hermit for a few days, too.

I’ve been struggling to focus at work this week, after a couple of weeks that felt uncharacteristically (but refreshingly) productive. I don’t really mind that I’m a little scattered right now, though, because tomorrow, I will be on vacation.

My partner and I leave tomorrow for a grand adventure we’ve been wanting to take for years now: we’re headed off to a week-long songwriting camp in Colorado.

I was feeling pretty anxious last week, mostly, I think, because I started worrying that the experience wouldn’t live up to expectations, since we’ve been looking forward to this for so long. I feel like yesterday I finally hit the point of accepting that the journey is just as important as the destination, and that even if it isn’t perfect (which it probably won’t be, because life is messy), it will still be a new experience and a thing worth trying.

Besides, my partner and I love road trips, and this will be the biggest one we’ve gotten to take together.

There will be no blog next week, because I’ll be busy making music and ignoring my phone/the internet as much as possible. Catch you all in a couple of weeks!

Homemaking

It’s Shavuot, which means that this week, in addition to getting Monday off for Memorial Day, my office is also closed Wednesday and Thursday. Since my birthday is on Saturday, I decided working Friday was for chumps, and am taking it off as well.

I didn’t make any official plans for my five-day birthday weekend, but I went into it knowing that, in addition to taking time to relax, I wanted to spend some time tidying the apartment. My partner is fantastic at envisioning ways we can make our space more homey and inviting, and while I am, in theory, more than willing to help those visions along, I have historically not done the best job pulling my weight in that regard.

I’ve never been great at cleaning. Past roommates could tell you stories of my mild hoarder tendencies. When I lived alone, I mostly managed to keep my apartment from falling into complete chaos, but I rarely vacuumed, tended to put off the dishes until they were spilling out of the sink and over the counters, and ended up throwing out a fair number of what should have been reusable food containers, because the food in them had probably developed sentience and I didn’t have the mental space to deal with it. On more than one occasion, I decided to go to Target and buy underwear and/or socks to avoid doing laundry. The only time I remember dusting my old apartment (aside from when I was moving out) was the night my partner came over to my place for the first time, and my nerves demanded I do something while I waited for him to arrive.

When my partner and I moved to Chicago and into our first official shared apartment, I was determined to do a better job of housekeeping. I had visions of equally divided labor around the house, and was convinced I’d be able to develop new habits in a new space.

It didn’t happen. I had convinced myself long before that I functioned better in a cluttered space, that a tidy home was a home that didn’t feel lived in, and that wasn’t what I wanted. (I have all sorts of theories about why I had such a major mental block against cleaning, but that could be a whole blog on its own, so we’ll skip it here.) There were all sorts of reasons things didn’t work out the way I was hoping, of course – for the first nine months we were in Chicago, I was underemployed and miserable at my job, and while my partner was kind enough to share his (already established) friends with me, it took a while for me to feel like they were really MY friends, too, and not just putting up with me because they liked him. My mental health was in shambles, I was increasingly dysphoric, I was wracking up all sorts of credit card debt just trying to get by. By the time things got better, I was even further entrenched in my bad habits.

Eventually, though, I started to realize that having a tidy space actually felt…nice. (I wouldn’t have figured this out without my partner’s Herculean efforts to keep up with housekeeping when I was being less-than-helpful – neither of us are perfect, but I wouldn’t have experienced “tidy” on my own.) When my partner read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and suggested that we actually go through all of our stuff, I decided to go along with it, ostensibly to make my partner happy…but I also realized that a lot of the stuff I had acquired over the years had stopped bringing me joy (or had never brought me joy in the first place).

It’s been a couple of years since we started the process of going through everything we own, bringing a greater intentionality to our purchases, and trying together to keep the house tidier. I still feel like I’m not great at housekeeping, but I’m basically a different person for how much I’ve changed and grown in that regard.

So this week, since I have so many days off, I decided to make a departure from what I often do with long weekends (read: overpack my schedule and/or avoid responsibility), and actually try to tackle some areas of the apartment that have felt neglected recently.

Yesterday, I tackled the kitchen and dining room. I don’t have before pictures, because I didn’t think to take any, but I did all of the dishes, completely cleared and wiped down the kitchen table, cleaned the stove, and swept the floor, and when I was done, I was actually surprised at how much better I felt about our apartment.

clean stove, empty sink

Clean stove, empty sink

The kitchen table hasn't been this clear in at least a month

The kitchen table hasn’t been this clear in at least a month

I have other things I want to get done this week/end – particularly laundry and cleaning up some areas of the apartment that are distinctly mine (and distinctly disorganized) – and I know there is more I could do in the kitchen, but I feel really accomplished. Not just because I kicked ass and cleaned a bunch of things, but because I actually recognized an area of the apartment that was stressing me out because it wasn’t tidy, and I did something about it instead of pretending it wasn’t there.

Last week I ran across the idea of the “hearth” for the first time in a while, and how most modern homes don’t have a hearth in the traditional sense of a fire in the center of the house, but there’s still an area that is the gathering place, the metaphorical center of the home. Our kitchen is tiny, and our dining room has not always been the most comfortable place, but it felt like an important (and perhaps even necessary) place to start what will hopefully be a more extended cleaning spree than I usually go on. Of course, the trick is to keep it tidy once I’ve lost steam, but I’m less worried about that than I used to be. Because I’ve learned that I really do like my space tidy. I like knowing what stuff I have and where it is in my home. I can be creative without clutter. It may not seem like much, but right now it feels like a huge victory to be able to say that.

Weekend Adventures

As many of you may know, I work for a Jewish organization, and one of the best things about this is the fact that I end up with lots of extra days off throughout the year for holidays I don’t personally celebrate. Passover was this past week, and because of where it fell this year, we ended up with a couple of days off last week, and Monday and Tuesday off this week. I had just enough Southwest miles saved up for a free trip to the Twin Cities, so I decided to use my long weekend to catch up with family and some friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

I flew into MSP Saturday afternoon, and dropped my stuff off at my partner’s parents’ house, where I was staying for the weekend. That evening, I got dinner with my parents and brother (which went more-or-less okay – sometimes it’s hard to find things to talk about), and then got drinks with an old friend from church youth group. Catching up and reminiscing was a lot of fun.

Sunday I went over to my parents’ house, where we were joined by my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. The time went well (better than I was expecting, to be honest). I was able to modify the Yoda hat I’d knit my nephew when he was just 7 months old so that it will continue to fit him for at least another couple of seasons (it was still big enough around, but was no longer covering his ears), and deliver the blanket I’d knit for him as a belated birthday gift. We enjoyed watching my nephew (who is three) and my parents’ dog (who is almost fifteen) chase each other around – they are best friends. We went for a walk to the park. All-in-all, it was a nice way to spend the day.

That evening, I went back to my partner’s parents’ house and was able to spend some time with them. We watched Moana, which was great, and I’m a little ashamed I didn’t get around to seeing it until now.

Monday I ended up seeing two of my best friends from college: one for breakfast, and one for dinner. It was wonderful seeing both of them and catching up. I also got to unexpectedly go out to coffee with my best friend in the middle of the day, after she texted me saying her afternoon meetings were canceled. I spent the evening watching baseball with my partner’s parents while we all talked to my partner on speakerphone. It was easily the most delightful Monday I’ve had in ages.

Tuesday morning I got up for an early breakfast with my best friend before leaving town. My flight out boarded on time, and then sat on the runway for an hour – evidently, because of some crosswinds, they were using just one runway for all arrivals and departures, and didn’t really communicate this to anyone ahead of time. But I made it home eventually, and was ridiculously happy when I did. As much as I loved seeing people over the weekend, packing that many visits into such a short time frame really drives home the point that I am an introvert. Being social can be fun, but it is also exhausting.

Thanks to everyone who made time for me this weekend, and apologies to those of you I didn’t see – there are so many of you that I just couldn’t get to everyone!

Returning to Reality

Last weekend, I finally went on the solo retreat I’d been planning for over a month. I went camping by myself up north near Lake Superior.

Before I left, I had sketched out a rough plan for what I wanted to get done while I was away. I was going to spend a lot of time meditating and playing my guitar and hiking around the north woods.

Almost none of that happened. The weekend wound up being somewhat different (at least in terms of activities) than I had planned…but it turned out to be exactly what I needed:

  • I didn’t talk more than was absolutely necessary. (I was appropriately charming with the waitstaff and cashiers I encountered, but other than that, I didn’t say much.)
  • I didn’t check social media at all. (I had my phone on so I could use the flashlight feature and keep track of the weather, but it spent most of the time in airplane mode.)
  • I rested. I went to bed ridiculously early both nights I was camping, and spend a fair bit of one of the days napping as I listened to the wind ruffle the leaves of the trees.
  • I spent a lot of time thinking, but not much time worrying.
  • After I was done camping, I spent a little bit of time debriefing and catching up with a couple of particularly dear people.

And then I came home, feeling much more human and much more alive than I’d felt in several weeks. I have a lot more thinking to do, and there are other things that need to be done in order to stay in a place where I feel human and alive. But taking time to be quiet and relax seems to have been an important first step.

Dreams and Schemes

It’s been a week of weird (and sometimes unsettling) dreams, which have run the gamut from unknown attackers trying to kill me to being unable to beat a level of a video game. It’s been full of particularly restless nights and disorienting awakenings. I think it’s a sign that I’m heading into a more manic phase. I’m in that space where my body is constantly tired and achy, but my brain is running a thousand miles a minute, and I’m just hanging on and hoping to reach equilibrium relatively soon.

With the arrival of September comes my month of shortened work weeks thanks to the variety of Jewish holidays that are happening (I am not Jewish, but my employer is), which I suppose makes this as good a time as any for me to be more than a little distracted.

The one area in which I’ve been strangely focused the past several days has been my knitting. By the time this post goes up, I will have finished the second sleeve of one of the sweaters I have on the needles (with plans to start the body at knit night tonight), and I’ve gotten it into my head that I should finish this thing in time for a little solo retreat up north that I’ve planned for myself at the end of the month. In theory, it should be possible…we’ll see if my enthusiasm is maintained over the next couple of weeks (and if the weather cooperates and goes back to some sort of reasonable fall range of temperatures so I can actually wear the damn thing).

I’m getting excited about the aforementioned solo retreat. I’m not particularly outdoorsy if I’m truly honest with myself – I quite like the convenience of city life (and air conditioning, at this time of year) – but I go a little mad if I don’t get out in nature on occasion. So I’m renting a car and going camping for a couple of nights (in a tent, but armed with a cot – I’ve come to grips with the fact that I can’t sleep on the ground anymore), and bringing my guitar and my tarot cards and journaling materials and a camera, turning off my phone, and spending a few days getting reacquainted with myself as an introvert. I’m not making a lot of firm plans for my time, so I’m not particularly worried about anything not going as planned (aside from weather, which I am confident I can work around). My hope is that disengaging from my usual routine for a few days will allow me to come back at it feeling refreshed and refocused.

Until then, I’ll be spending most of my time adjusting to life at the office without my boss on site, and knitting like mad. While I’m not thrilled with how achy my body is, in general I’m looking forward to the adventures that September has in store.

I’m Back!

Hello, internet! I have returned from my tiny hiatus! I honestly didn’t give a whole lot of thought to what I’d kick things back off with once I returned, and I haven’t really done any writing in the past few weeks. So in order to shake some of the rust off the writing gears in my brain, I’m going to go with the old fallback of a five-item list of things that happened while I was away:

  1. I went to Seattle for 16 hours to attend my high school best friend’s wedding. It was lovely; she and her husband are adorable, and I am so, so, so happy I was able to be there!
  2. Between Seattle and another trip with my partner, I went through airport security four times in two weeks…and got patted down every. single. time. Dear TSA: your security lines aren’t moving slowly because someone forgot to empty their water bottle or take their laptop out of their bag. They’re moving slowly because you’re making everybody go through those goddamn useless body scanners twice. (The first thing you see once you’re through security at Midway is a Ben & Jerry’s. Well played, sirs. We definitely had coffee ice cream for breakfast on our way out of town.)
  3. I threw out my back. Thankfully, it hasn’t held a candle to whatever the hell I did back around Christmas, and I’m already feeling better. But since my partner currently isn’t supposed to lift more than five pounds and can’t raise his arms over his head, it’s made for an interesting week.
  4. I had my intake call for mental health services at our local LGBT clinic. I’ll find out later this week if they’re able to fit me in with someone there; if they can’t, they’ll work with me to find a competent provider elsewhere. It’s definitely time for me to work through some of the heavier emotions I’ve been ignoring.
  5. After a couple of weeks of letting it slide, I started getting back into the habit of taking at least a few minutes each day for guided meditation with my tarot cards while we were out of town. Since I’ve been feeling a little rocky this week (mostly, I think, due to the back pain), it’s been a really great, stabilizing influence.

Silver Linings

I’m still feeling pretty rattled as I try to figure out where to go for this rheumatology follow-up. I’m feeling a lot of things, really, and not many of them are particularly pleasant. But I’m trying to look for reasons to smile, and really, if I take the time to step back a little and breathe, it’s not hard to find them. So here’s a short and sweet list of some reasons I’ve found to smile this week:

  1. Even though the humidity has caused an uptick in my general discomfort and has most of my joints feeling pretty stiff, I’ve managed to keep knitting pretty regularly. I’m on a sweater/vest kick at the moment. None of my projects are progressing very quickly, but I’m enjoying them all.
  2. Next weekend I’m headed to Seattle for a wedding. I’m super excited for the couple (my high school best friend and the great guy she’s been with for several years), and looking forward to a little 24-hour adventure.
  3. I’ve been digging deeper into some friendships here in Chicago, and it feels really good. I am reminded every day that I have an incredible support network, and that makes everything else life throws my way feel a lot more manageable.

Post-Vacation Musings

Vacation was, on the whole, lovely (though I more or less forgot to take pictures, so I can’t show you how lovely it was). Here are some things I’ve been reflecting on when looking back at the weekend:

  1. Driving through Wisconsin in the fall is actually a pretty great things to do. The trees were gorgeous, and there wasn’t as much construction as we’ve run into on some other trips, so it was a pretty relaxing drive. Being a Minnesotan, I tend to poke fun at Wisconsin quite a bit, but this trip made me think that maybe it’s an okay state after all. 😉
  2. I completely adore my nephew. Every time I see this kid I get more excited about being an Uncle Ommer and about knitting him all sorts of cozy things. (The Yoda hat was a smash, and I will shortly be starting a sweater for Christmas and a blanket for his birthday.) I was quite nervous going in, because I know he’s at that age where stranger anxiety is a thing. But though he wasn’t immediately sure of me, he never got upset, and warmed up to me pretty quickly. We were buddies for the handful of minutes I got to hold him, and that makes me unspeakably happy.
  3. While there were some frustrating things surrounding spending time with my family, none of them were so egregious that they couldn’t be outweighed by time with my partner’s family or with friends. We didn’t fit in visits with as many people as we often try to do, but the time we did get with friends felt extra special and left us feeling refreshed. Deep conversations were had, and I was able to vent when I needed to and move on.
  4. I’ve been working meditative time back into my schedule (not quite on a daily basis yet, but close). Making that time on vacation helped me feel much more centered and grounded, and I hope I can continue developing that habit.
  5. I have truly wonderful people in my life. I’m incredibly lucky.

Vacation in a Three-Item List

Between the 24ish hours I drove while we were on vacation and the fact that I may have picked up a cold in the process, I’m feeling pretty muddled. I can’t even come up with the usual complement of five things for a blog. So here’s a three-item list of what happened on our trip to Minnesota:

  1. The most vacation-y part of vacation was probably our day in Duluth on Friday. It was really wonderful to not be in a big city for a day. Neither of us was feeling particularly great when we woke up, and we almost didn’t go. It wasn’t the best day ever, but I think my soul really needed that time by the lake. We didn’t really do much; mostly, we sat on a bench by the boardwalk overlooking the lake, and my partner knit and I sketched some things and we talked and got a little sunburned. It was a nice day.
  2. I got to see my nephew, who is now five months old and increasingly fun to interact with. It’s been really cool to see him more and more aware of his surroundings each time I’ve visited. This time around, he smiled at me a lot, and let me tell you: there’s something incredibly wonderful about having a cute baby smile at you. It gives you the feeling that really, you can’t be all that bad if this kid thinks you’re worth smiling at that hugely. Before that, we had breakfast with my best friend (who is wonderful and who we don’t see nearly often enough), and I had a massage, which was much-needed. (My massage therapist pointed out that I kind of did things backwards in getting the massage before spending time with my family. Thankfully, cute babies are good buffers for potentially uncomfortable situations.)
  3. We saw Paul McCartney live. It was incredible. The man played for nearly three hours and never once took a drink of water. May we all be so full of life at 72. I wasn’t raised on the Beatles, and to be honest the most exposure I’ve had to their music has come from the movie Across the Universe and the Beatles Ensemble at the Old Town School of Folk Music that meets across the hall from the school’s Resource Center where I volunteer each week. But I enjoyed the concert immensely, both because Sir Paul is incredibly good at what he does and because my partner’s family (who we were with) were enjoying themselves so much. It was great, and I’m so grateful to have had that experience.
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