Day 15: Thai food and a beer, turkeys and mindfulness?

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This is sunrise in my front yard. I love the views so very much!

I am sitting at my computer having leftover Thai food for lunch, accompanied by a Shipyard Chamberlain Pale Ale, I love Maine and it’s pile of breweries, while ruminating on my morning and the past few days. While searching for words, I looked up and saw a doe with her fawn grazing under a tree in the back yard and I am reminded that I need to put up “No hunting” signs on the perimeter of our property.

Something I haven’t really mentioned much is that I see a therapist. I see her for anxiety and depression, and help with getting through the shit show that has been our private lives since September. The shit show is very private, and very personal, so I will not delve into the details of that, but it has made all of the mind gnomes I have even more active and malicious.

The entire episode has been heartbreaking to deal with, but the flip side of the coin is that through all the rage, pain, and defeat, we as a family have found strength, unity, and a better sense of self and center.  We have more family time, we hang out more, communicate better, and overall we seem to be on a good path forward.

The point of the above is that I have always been a fairly high-strung person, and it has only been in the past few years that I have been given a clinical diagnosis of what is going on, and anxiety is a major part of that diagnosis. You wouldn’t know it to look at me most days, but my brain is working overtime, and my muscles are in a wad. I am thinking 15 different things, two scenarios where my world comes to an end, and 25 conversations I have had or will be having, and what I should say, have said, or wished I said. I don’t sleep well, and I have cracked a tooth thanks to grinding my jaw.

A major source of my issues is that I can’t sit still, and even if I do, I am rarely calm. Because of this, my therapist wants me to try mindfulness meditation. She tried using Heartmath on me last week, and to say I was an outlier would be an understatement. When I was focused, or in a place where I should have been fully focused, calm, and mindful, I was at the opposite end of the scale from where I should be, and when I should have been revved up, excited, not mindful, I was in the area where I should have been if I were totally centered. We both got a snicker of that, so today she tried an actual app that forced me to relax.

Today’s exercise was with Headspace, and it did seem to work a bit. I was able to take full stock of my physical self, and see what my brain was doing, and by that I mean it was running amok. As usual. Know what happens when you have spent several years learning to bird by ear? Shutting out the sounds of birdsong becomes an exercise in frustration. I did feel that there was no muscle group in my body that wasn’t tense, and I wondered why all of my weight was shifted left. In other words: I have a long ways to go.

In other news: we have a flock of Wild Turkeys in our yard, and they come in every day for food. Some times it is the full flock of 11, most of the time it is nine or five of them. My favorite thing about them is how darned big they are, and the dinosaur footprints they leave all over the place in the snow. My last favorite thing is the piles of turkey poop all over the place, though I suppose the grass will appreciate it as spring comes along.

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Part of the flock of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallapavo) that think the feeder table is for them.

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I do have Hobbit-sized hands, but these tracks remind me of what dinosaur tracks might look like!

Day 14: The Doctor

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The Doctor’s TARDIS. Credit BBC America

I think most of us have been exposed to the somewhat trite, but ultimately touching and resonating poem (Zog knows where it came from at this point) about friendships and the cycles they provide in our lives:

“People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed or just felt. They have come to assist you through a hard time, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. Then, suddenly, the person disappears from your life. Your need has been met; their work is done.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share or grow or give back. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They give you great joy. Believe it; it is real. But only for a season.

Lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons—things you must build upon to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all your other relationships.

Think about the people in your life over the years. Whether they were there for a reason, a season or a lifetime, accept them and treasure them for however long they were meant to be part of your life.

And when they are gone, be thankful for the gifts you received from them when they were here—for a reason, a season or a lifetime.”

Back in 2011, I would have told you that The Doctor* was someone in my life for a reason. She was there to teach me applicable laboratory lessons in intro to biology for majors lab. Even back then, I had a HUGE fangirl crush on her, because she was IT. Smart, funny, driven; everything I wanted to be. I loved the days when I could stay late in lab and continue an experiment, dissection, conversation, what have you, because it meant I had an opportunity to talk to her more and have the door to science opened even further.

As a female in a nontraditional track for a STEM degree, I can not overstate how much it meant to me to see a strong woman in front of the class.

As things turned out, I would be tossed into her path once more a few years later, and again, I thought it was for a reason. I was there to assist her with her research for her doctorate dissertation, and I was gaining necessary and valuable research assistant and surgical assistant experience to further my academic career. Our mutual academic advisor facilitated this, but I will devote a later post to him.

Luckily for me, an inquisitive mind, the ability to follow instructions, and a good sense of humor opened bigger doors than the clearly labelled ones in front of my face. Through surgery times on weekends, early mornings, and cage cleanings when required, a bond stronger than a season formed. The Doctor was more than just a friend for a season: she turned out to be the sister I never had. A friend for life. The woman that will be responsible for my kids should a disaster happen.

She is younger than me by nearly 10 years, but she is my senior and mentor in so many ways, and I look up to her, perhaps more than she knows.

In the years since she was my TA, and I was her RA, we have formed a bond that gives me both the warm fuzzies, and strength, plus laughs, reality, a confidant, and a compatriot. The longer I know her, the more I find to admire, aspire to, and love.

The best part about her? Despite her nearly heroic status in my mind, she is still human. She laughs at my stupid punny jokes, she loves music, she appreciates her dog dancing in the ocean, cooks a mean ethnic meal, cries when things hurt, rejoices in the successes of others, gets vexed at annoyances, nearly comes out of her skin with excitement when she sees her favorite band. I have seen her cry, I have made her laugh so hard she nearly peed her pants. She tolerates my want to be near the water, and just breathe for awhile.

She has exposed me to new ideas, new cultures, new foods, is great to go on a hike with because I never know when she is going to wrestle a reptile, and she has helped me get more than one life bird. She never stops learning, exploring, expanding her horizons, teaching others, striving to help with justice for others…

I could sing her praises until the Great Auks return, and that still wouldn’t be enough time to list how great I think she is. The Doctor, you know who you are, and you know I think you are the bees knees. Now the world knows how kick ass you are, too, albeit via a pseudonym! Thank you for being my friend, my world is brighter because of you.

 

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Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea), the first lifer courtesy of The Doctor. Not my image.

 

*Not her real name.

Day 13: SPRING HAS SPRUNG! Er, under the foot of snow.

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Boothbay Harbor, Maine. March 18, 2017 – Snow on the beach?

Today marks the Spring Equinox, which means even more daylight every day, leading up to the Summer Solstice here in mid-Maine, where we will have around 16 hours of daylight. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to actual consistent warm, but as far as winters go? This one did not bother me nearly so much as any of the ones in Indiana, even with two blizzards, want to know why? In one, simple, glorious word? Sunshine.

In Indiana, the best descriptor for the months from November to April is a big, cold, gray ball of suck. The sun is a somewhat rare visitor, which makes the months even harder. Here in Maine? The sun will disappear for a day or two during a weather event, but then it will be back in full, glorious, radiant UV splendor. I have to admit that the usual wintertime blues were mostly absent this year, which was a great relief to the entire family.

Back to this being the spring equinox: some folks here don’t think it feels very much like spring at all, but I disagree. Yes, we might have piles of snow in excess of 10 feet in some parking lots, and drifts up to my hips in the yard in some spots, but those obvious signs of winter aside, it was 51 degrees here today, and I counted no less than five species of birds singing. For an ornithologist, singing is a great sign, it shows that yes, the photoperiod is getting longer, and it is time to really start thinking about the gardens, the bluebird trail I want to start, and watching the sun rise out of my bedroom window at 05:00. It’s not as awful as it sounds; life starts early and is lived in glorious color for hours!

Now, back to the picture above: this past weekend, Youngest Spawn had a two-day basketball tournament in Boothbay Harbor, which is a cute little tourist destination here in Maine during the summer months. In the off-season? It’s a little deserted, but it affords a great opportunity to wander and figure out what in on the menu for the warmer months.

My list, in short, for Boothbay Harbor this summer:

Basically, we have decided that we are settled into Maine now, so we are going to become a part of the state fun. Acadia, Downeast, Machias, kayaking, hiking, Birds on Tap, you name it. For a state with a small population, there is so much to do, and we are looking forward to doing a bunch!

A bit of fun for the weekend: we finally tried the famous Red Barn this weekend. This place is a one-stop place for great food, friendly people, and a huge helping of the best of Maine hospitality. The owner, Laura, has made it her mission in life to be a stellar and shining example of the best of humanity. Have a cause that is near and dear to your heart and needs funding? Laura will have a donation night. Hungry but out of money? Folks here pay it forward by buying extra meals and putting a note on a board, you don’t go away with a gnawing belly. Need an uplifting hug because your day has sucked? She has you covered. This place is where you go to know that humanity still exists, and will hold out a hand to anyone that needs it to get up.

Now that I have lit a spark of happy in you, I am off to tackle more data. I have gotten through more than 30 pages today, and missed volleyball to keep working because I am in that kind of mood. Have a great one, whomever you are, wherever you are, and know: you matter!

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Me, in a nutshell.

P.S… I also netted a life bird this weekend: Kind Eider in breeding plumage with three ladyfriends. Whoooo!

day 12: silence is overwhelming.

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The “Gloryhole” overflow area, Lake Berryessa, California. Photo from CBS News

I have been quiet lately, and it’s not because I have nothing to say, but because I have too much to say. The image above is a good visualization of my mind lately, it’s too full, and somehow I have to open a spillway to let the excess out, but unlike this structure, which has a volume limit, and then passively lets all the gallons of water it can’t hold fall out via gravity, I have to sift, decide what to deal with, think about, let go of, and which items swirling in the morass of my mind are like a sore tooth and need to be left alone for now.

I tend to take people at face value most of the time, and allow them to be who they are. To that end, there is a saying that I keep in my mind:

“When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” ~ Maya Angelou

This is, I believe, pretty good life advice. It falls in line with the idiom “A leopard doesn’t change its spots”. So many of us don’t heed that advice, and it is not new by any means. People can have an off day, they can have an on day, but on the whole, they are going to behave and react in a predictable to them manner, and we have to open our eyes and minds and see that.

What is the point of the above? Our little family has been dealing with some serious issues, ones that are way above and outside the pay grade of all of us that currently reside in this house. I look back at the root cause of the entire thing, and I mentally kick the shit out of myself, because I had seen the spots on the leopard, and rather than taking several big steps back, I thought I could be a stabilizing and positive influence.

I have a feeling that anyone with a modicum of common sense that is currently reading this is yelling at their computer/phone, etc. “No, no, no! You can’t ‘fix’ people!”, and if it were me reading this, I would be doing the same thing. Amazing how blind we can be while in the middle of a situation, thinking we can be a savior of a sorts. That’s not how it goes, and millions of broken-hearted people across the globe can attest to this.

Adding fuel to the fire of all the things in my head: the chinchilla we adopted from Maryland didn’t survive the trip. As a prey species, they are incredibly sensitive to stress, and go into shock somewhat easily, with death following. Waking up Thing 1 first thing in the morning with that news sucked. Fortunately there was no school that day, and we were able to spend the day mourning, discussing what happened, etc.

What surprised me the most about the chinchilla dying was how hard I took it. I spent most of the day in tears off an on, and 20 minutes in the shower sobbing. I was trying to figure out how the situation could gut me to that point, and then I realized it was the catalyst for releasing a whole host of hurt and pain. Thank goodness for bathroom fans, running water, and loud music. The kids needed to see me be sad over the death, but not nearly hysterical.

I realize in writing this I sound like a complete wreck, and in a lot of ways I am, but I am working through things with the help of a professional that holds me to account in a way that none ever have. She forces me to deal with things, helps me understand my brain, why I think the things I do, and how to move in a better direction.

I may still be a little quiet, though we all know I am not a prolific poster, but I am trying to see the good, work through the bad, and come out better on the other side for myself, and for my family. Some days are more difficult than others, and on those days, I take a quiet hour for myself and color. If you are someone that deals with depression and anxiety, or feeling overwhelmed, I can’t express how soothing a good coloring book is. My choices tend to be vulgar, but my new favorite is therapy in a pile of pages, and it is by the ever funny, delightfully forthright, and always real Jenny Lawson. The book is YOU ARE HERE and it is a great way to feel better.

In all of the anger, guilt, frustration, rage, pain, hurt, helplessness, and other negative emotions I have been dealing with, I still try, every day, to find a positive. I look for something good, I look for a golden ring to grasp on to, and every day finding that gets easier.

If you are having a rubbish day, if you are feeling helpless, hopeless, overwhelmed, find one thing. One tiny thing, nothing is too small, to be your candle, your spark of light in the dark. Right now mine is Google Play Music, and the pile of 90’s music that is streaming in my ears, and despite how broken I feel inside, I am able to smile at others, and know that I probably make someone’s day by being kind.

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Be kind to yourself, it’s the best gift you can give.

 

 

Day 11: I am still alive, and I have so much to say!

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The newest member of the Maineiac Family: Chester the Chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera).

Know what happens when I leave the state, and my family, alone for five days? They get more than two feet of snow, have no school, and I wind up road tripping 560 miles home with a chinchilla.

It is times like this when you stop, take stock of your life and ask yourself: what choices have I made that have led me to this juncture? And the answer is, inevitably, really awesome ones!

Some backstory on the whole event:

My best friend in the whole world is hubs, and after that, I have a cadre of folks that I would trust both mine, and my children’s lives to. One of those that is at the top of that list is The Doctor. I met her when I was an undergrad and she was my TA, then I was lucky enough to be her SA for a semester, and we realized we really hit it off.  Lots in common, since we are both in the same academic field, and with the same basic background for our graduate degrees. Add in the fact that she is an awesome person, and you have a recipe for a great friend. This friendship has grown stronger over five years, and now, thousands of miles.

A few months back, she called to inform me that her most favorite band of all time was coming to her area, and that I had to come with her to see them. The band in question? The Red Hot Chili Peppers. *swoon* I have liked them since my boyfriend in freshman year of high school introduced me to their music, so this was a treat and a half! Add in time with The Doctor, and it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I will go on a tangent here for a minute and note that it is darned near impossible to fly into or out of Maine in the wintertime, and that includes both Portland and Bangor. Something about our silly weather, and the Northeast not being a high demand winter vacation destination means it’s a good idea to have a backup plan with a backup plan to get where you are going from November to April.

Anyhow, keeping that in mind, I purchased a one-way ticket out of Bangor with three days lead time to get to where I needed to be for the concert. Good thing, too, because my initial flight was cancelled, then the next flight was cancelled, and I was finally rescheduled onto a flight the day after. I made in to my destination easy-peasy, but as I was taxiing out of Bangor (which resembled a frozen tundra), I realized I was not going to make my connection. Also unfortunately, The Doctor’s cell phone croaked. Somehow, through the wizardry of the internet, I managed to convey to her that I would be coming into a different airport, which was no big deal because it was the same distance as my original arrival airport, just in the opposite direction.

I made it in safe and sound, and an hour earlier than I would have had I gone on to my connecting flight, and the fun began. Great chats, I got to meet The Doctor’s new puppy, who is insanely adorable, get a pile of year birds, learn some new songs, and about some artists new to me.

I will come back later and do a day breakdown, including some thoughts I had along the way. This trip was good for me mentally, and physically. I think on a day to day basis, we forget the constant grist stone that rubs down our souls, and a break from the everyday to reconnect with someone that can help lighten the load in new ways is a must.

I think that was the overarching thought I had whilst away: as individuals, we are hard on ourselves, we beat ourselves up, we shoulder the weight of the world, and it becomes something we no longer realize we are doing until we aren’t doing it anymore and our shoulders relax, our blood pressure decreases, and we no longer have transient chest pains.

I will get to the road tripping chinchilla soon, I promise…

 

Day 10: In which i finally figure out the dratted email, finish some data input, and generally ramble.

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I am mooning you!

I will be the first to admit that I am rubbish at keeping up with this blogging thing, and part of it at this point is this blog is public, and there are things that are no ones business but mine. For those, I would probably be best served to write a pile of no-send letters, then burn them. Have you ever heard of a “No-send letter”? It is basically spilling your guts, all you have to say, everything you are feeling (predominantly negative feelings) onto a piece of paper, and never sending it to the addressee.

I am neither religious, nor spiritual, but I find something cathartic in telling someone exactly what they can do, what they can do it with, where they can stick it, and where they can go when they have finished that insertion. After I am done telling them that, instead of leaving my toxic rage on a piece of paper that can be accidentally read by anyone, I tend to go outside and (safely) burn the letter, let the atoms go back out into the Universe, and hopefully provide nutrients for something that needs it. Positive out of negative, right?

I have finished inputting a lot of data for my thesis, still a handful to go, then it’s on to data analysis, map making, writing, and a ton of back and forth with my thesis advisor. I am bummed that I am not still on campus to do my revisions, because honestly, sussing out the info, what I am writing, and general conversation with my advisor was one of the highlights of my days. Talking about birds, their behavior, their habitats, politics, theories, jokes, and general conversation was always a hoot. Even better at all of the aforementioned was my lab mate, especially since he had a better feel for the pulse of politics than I, and was studying a different subject for his dissertation. I really miss the banter, and his assistance when I felt out of my depth, which was an awful lot!

The highlight of my day today: I finally figured out my email for this site, so if you want to tell me what a loon I am, you can now do that!

I am currently listening to the soundtrack from Gladiator, as it has no lyrics (for the most part) for me to get lost in while working, just a good, full, rich sound that makes my fingers go. I love music, all genres, and I love that a song can evoke a memory for me, some stronger than others!

I am assiduously avoiding news right now, because I know I am going to lose my ever-loving mind when Ms. DeVos is confirmed, despite the nation begging their Republican congresscretins for weeks to not do so. *sigh*

Nope, nope, not getting dragged down into the quagmire of politics, because doing so severely tests my resolve to abstain from weekday tequila shots for lunch.

On a lighter note, how about an odd list of some of my favorite things, in no particular order?

  • Hubs
  • Thing 1 (offspring)
  • Thing 2 (offspring)
  • Nutella lattes
  • Upcoming trip to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Birds
  • Wine
  • Music
  • Maine
  • Fleece sheets
  • Watching the sun set over the trees in the yard
  • Driving with the windows down and the sunroof open (when I have one) on a warm summer day
  • The ocean
  • The quiet place in my mind where I work out life’s issues
  • Snuggles from Hubs, Thing 1, and Thing 2
  • That Things 1 & 2 still want hugs and kisses from Mom and Dad
  • Egyptian mythology
  • Documentaries (much to the chagrin of my family)
  • Sunshine
  • Plants
  • Cooking

And that will about do. DeVos was confirmed, and I am angry, so it is time to go listen to Drowning Pool.

Bodies.

 

 

 

Day 9: Is it safe to come out yet?

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Sunset from the stern of the Disney Dream, August 2012

I am not going to lie, the past week plus has been one horrid story after another coming out of our government, hate, exclusion, outright lies, and there are many folks out there that are scared. Not a little concerned, downright scared for themselves, loved ones, friends, and communities. I am, though accident of birth and geography a member of the privileged class, and because of this, I feel it is my duty to shut my mouth, listen to these groups, and pitch in where they say I would be most helpful.

These feel like dark times, but in wave after wave, I see a whole host of my fellow Americans saying: “Bullshit! This is NOT our America!”, and it makes me proud. Proud in a way I haven’t been of my country in a long time. It seems that the masses are rising up, pointing to our founding documents, the motto we present to the world when it arrives on our Eastern shore, and saying: “This is what we were founded on, and this is how we want our country to run”! I am seeing the America so many believe in beginning to peep its head out from behind the clouds. Will it be easy? No. Will it happen overnight? No. I do believe that humanity will win over humiliation, though.

And that is as tall of a soapbox as I can stand on right now. There are those who are better able to explain, discuss, and enlighten; one of my favorites is Jim Wright, who writes over at Stonekettle Station: he’s retired USN, brilliant, eloquent, and when he’s not pissed off, he has tales that will make your stomach hurt from laughing.

Life goes on here in Maine, though I find I am careful to avoid politics, as are many folks here, it seems to get folks too fired up, and I avoid it like the plague since I am the new kid in town. No way do I want to alienate folks I just met, and would like to remain friends with for years to come.

We have had snow on the ground here for nearly a month straight, and the few inches down now are pretty much compacted down into ice, which makes it super easy to explore the woods behind the house, which is what I did this afternoon. No milkweed to trample, no wild berry vines to tangle, no excess of leaves obscuring the view. I got to the top of the ridge on our property, shut my eyes, tipped my head back, and just took deep breaths. The cold air, tinged with pine from the fallen branches, the scolding of the chickadees, the calm I brought into my mind, willfully.

There is something about this state that meshes with me. I wasn’t completely sure about small town living, but I really enjoy it here, where kids grow up together because their parents did, and everyone knows all the stories from years gone by. The clean air, the constant bright sunshine, water everywhere, and honestly, the smaller population.

Okay, so it doesn’t hurt that I checked on the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nest across the street today, and there are “nestorations” going on, and I am pretty sure I will get to see eaglets this year!

Life for the family has been both busy and a little difficult, but because we have always had an open conversation policy, it is nowhere near as bad as it could be, which I am grateful for. Both kids do multiple sports, along with theater, which leads me to feeling like a chicken with its head cut off most days, running them around!

I have been more thoughtful lately, and by thoughtful I mean “more in my head”. I have been pondering more, thinking things through, trying to decide on many things. I think one of the biggest things I have decided on is that I am going to go get more life birds this year, and that I am choosing happy. Not every day is assured, not every tomorrow is promised, so for right here, right now, I will do the right thing, and let the universe handle the rest.

Sometimes that means dancing outside in a short-sleeved shirt in January, and realizing you are going to be okay.

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