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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

One thing I miss about the Arizona high country is the dark night skies.  I’ve been back up in Parks for two days to do some more work on the place and I went out tonight to look at the sky.  The stars were breathtakingly bright in the cold, clear air at 7,000 feet. While gazing up at the Milky Way, I became acutely aware of the tension that I live with on a daily basis right now.  I have been so busy running to try and get everything done that I hadn’t taken the time to just look, much less to feel.

Pursuing a new life in the Phoenix area and trying to maintain my place in northern Arizona is an uneasy balancing act. Uncertainties abound and I never know from one day to the next what new surprise will come up next.  It is exciting, that’s for sure.  I feel as if I am riding a unicycle on a high wire while juggling.  Blindfolded.  I seem to recall saying something about not having enough excitement in my life, oh a couple of months or so ago…. Nowadays, I have about all the excitement I can handle.

Actually, things are going pretty well.  My student roster is growing and so is my repertoire. I’m almost done with a client’s website in Drupal. I’ve got a possible interview for a long-term temp assignment as a web developer later this week. If that all goes as I hope, I’ll be on that full-time as of next Monday, which should fill in the gaps while my teaching schedule expands. It’ll be hectic for awhile, but doable.  At least I will have a settled, predictable routine for two months!  I’m almost done with all the various projects on the “cabin.” It’s been difficult making all the trips back and forth, but it has let me see my folks more often than I would have otherwise.

It was wonderful to be able to be outside today in near 60 degree temps, scraping paint and caulking.  I could feel the warm sun on my shoulders and smell the dusty tang of the dried grasses in the yard.  I had to laugh as I took the extension ladder down off its hooks; I could hear Cap’t. G’s voice in my ear telling me in no uncertain terms how to lift, carry and place it. Angle, brace, test, climb, anchor your leg to leave your hands free- it was fire academy all over again.  I was grinning as I went up and down the ladder at each window and door.

If nothing else sticks with me from the old firefighter days, I did gain the confidence to tackle just about anything around my place. It all seems pretty elementary after learning how to run pumps, extrication equipment, chain saws, and to repair SCBAs!  (As you might have guessed, I never was much of a Barbie doll, though I have been rather mindful of my nails lately.  I don’t want to ruin my guitar tremelo!)

Some things are falling through the cracks at the moment, however, like blogging, Flamencophile.com, and accompanying flamenco dance classes. I have to remind myself every so often that it will all still be there when everything calms down. (Famous last words.) For now, the fact that I’m keeping up with practicing and my exercise program in the midst of everything else is quite an accomplishment. And, I did take a few minutes to gaze up at the night sky tonight and just appreciate the clarity and the beauty of the stars.

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Busy, Busy

In the last 24 hours, I’ve signed up my first student at Gilbert music, delivered promo flyers door to door in one neighborhood, handed out business cards everywhere I’ve gone, and labeled a batch of 55 CDs that I sold with all of the new contact information. I also made the drive back up to the high country and have been prepping “the cabin” for the winter this afternoon. I even got an hour in writing the Prologue on the next novel. If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, I’ll mow and finish up a good share of what’s left to do before shutting the place down for the season.

Calling the place in Parks “the cabin” signals the big shift that’s happened in my thinking in the last two weeks. This isn’t “home” any more. It’s the retreat, the getaway. It’s the place that still requires quite a bit of work to have ready for winter. It’s also an asset–the leverage I have into a new life. If I can keep this bit of the past without it being a drain and transform it as I move ahead into the future, fine. If I decide to sell it, it’s not the end of the world. I’ve even had moments of thinking I would feel a lot freer for that. There are good memories here, but there are many not-so-good memories, too.

One more trip back up for a long weekend over Thanksgiving should do the trick. I’ll be able to drain the water system and shut ‘er down. Then, the only things that will get me out of the Valley and “up the hill” over the winter will be a run to get the last load of stuff when I move into my new place and family visits. (And the chance to get in some snow-shoeing and skiing…THINK SNOW!)

I’m actually enjoying the Valley, much to my surprise. Yes, it’s congested, smoggy, and there’s a lot of traffic, but there’s also a lot going on in the arts, much more opportunity and stimulation, and I’m meeting lots of great people. It’s showing me just how isolated I was before I went south. The job hunt is always a grind, but there have been many positive developments this week and I’m finding time to have a little fun, too.

Now, I just need to get back on track with my flamenco guitar practice (again) and my baile. In all the hustle and bustle, those get set aside more often than I would like. But, things are settling down somewhat and I can see that within a few weeks, I should be well into my new life.

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A Year and a Day

Yesterday was this blog’s first birthday. I was at a job fair and running all over Phoenix for most of the day. So, I didn’t get this post together before the GMT coach turned into a pumpkin.

A lot has happened in a year. Last year at this time I’d just gotten laid off from my web design job, was a day away from starting on my NaNoWriMo novel, and was a total blog neophyte. Since then, this little experiment in writing has had its busy and slow times, has gone through several visual metamorphoses, and topped 8,000 hits.

In the last month, my novel has been completed enough to be sent out to half a dozen “dedicated readers” for critique. I’ve moved to Phoenix for the winter and I’m doing music seriously again.

Today, I got the confirmation from Gilbert Music that I will be a guitar instructor for them. Woohoo! I also took a bike ride this morning, the first one in several years. It was a short ride – flat ground and under a half-hour – but it was an important test. Tonight, my legs are fine!

What a difference a year makes…

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Whew! Been busy packing and practicing , writing and web designing. There’s just a lot happening right now. My brother’s wedding is tomorrow. And, I picked up a little side work as an instrument tech with my surveyor friend for Sunday.

We’ve got a boundary and topo to do on Hart Prairie, up on the north side of the San Francisco Peaks. That is going to be cool! Literally and metaphorically – for one thing, it’s at about 9,000 feet in elevation. Hart Prairie is a gorgeous area any time of year, but in the autumn it is truly spectacular. I noticed just today on my trip into town to accompany the flamenco dance class that the leaves are starting to turn in Flagstaff. I’ll take my camera with me on Sunday and see if I can find some good shots of autumn aspens. I’ll post any good ones here.

Every so often, I have a nostalgic moment or find myself dragging my feet about moving. I keep telling myself that it’s likely temporary and I remind myself of all the very real benefits of what I plan to do this winter. It should be an interesting and productive time. It will also be a big adjustment living in an apartment in a big metro area again after more than a decade in “the boondocks,” where my trip to the mail box entailed a drive through pine forests and open prairies over four miles of washboard and red cinder Forest Service road. It’s all trade-offs, decisions made on an intuitive sense that Phoenix is where I need to be and music is what I need to be doing.

I’ve learned to ask myself the crucial question, “If not now, when?” While packing two nights ago, I ran across a box of mementos that contained greeting cards from the last decade or so–a birthday wish from my dad from before dementia took away his memory, a note from my ex-husband from a time before the disintegration of our marriage, and congratulations on my graduation from Fire Academy signed by all my old fire buddies, including the young cadet who died just a few moths ago. It was a poignant reminder that disease, dysfunction, and death are the great dividers. To not live my life to the fullest right now would be to deny a number of very difficult and painful lessons from the past few years.

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Five Big Questions

I just ran across a link that I thought I’d share. It’s a fun little animation that makes some big points about life and is a different way of exploring some of the same issues that I like to write about here. Enjoy. Five Big Questions

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In the last few days, I have been around several technology breakdowns. Little things, really, but enough to get me reflecting on how different things are now than they were even a decade ago, how dependent most of us are on technology in almost every phase of our lives. I live in a world that my grandparents would hardly recognize.

Tuesday, there was a power outage in my area which affected my work. Wednesday, I went to Williams for groceries and the checkout scanner was on the fritz. It took three times as long to check out and the poor cashier was frustrated and confused. Today, I donated blood and because of a software problem in the Alyx machine, I was unable to do the “power red” procedure and had to do a whole blood donation instead. That little glitch turned a 45 minute procedure into an hour and a half visit full of power ups and downs and phone calls to support by the tech, who eventually had to switch me over to the standard procedure anyway.

I wasn’t on any deadlines and, for some strange reason, have been in an unusually serene mood, so I’ve just used these happenings as opportunities to observe and wonder. What I have seen has given me quite a bit of food for thought.

In each case, the technology breakdown was relatively short-lived and minor, a mere inconvenience. But, underneath it, is the realization how extremely dependent on software, hardware, and the power to run all of these devices we have become.

It is a great metaphor for our increasing interdependence upon one another. I can’t fix most things on my car like I once could; I can’t function in my work without using, and trusting, a multitude of lines of code written by people from all over the world, using devices that have likewise been assembled in a variety of countries. We truly are connected nowadays, on all sorts of levels. What could be ignored years ago has become a daily reality for almost all of us.

I’m not advocating cutting back on technology, but I am saying we need to be aware of our choices in relation to it. I was a firefighter long enough to get the habit of “have a backup plan” ingrained in my psyche. And, living out in the boondocks like I do, I have backup plans for a lot of things; I have kept basic functions running in my household, and with vehicles, under some fairly extreme conditions – four feet of snow in 24 hours, with nighttime temperatures below zero, and a power outage that lasted for four days among them.

But, I wonder, how well prepared are we as a society for the little breakdowns, as well as the big catastrophes? Hurricane Katrina, in particular, gave this country a big wake up call that I believe has not been adequately heeded either at the national or the individual level. And most of us regard the little glitches, the small inconveniences, as just that and look no further.

My musings the last few days have led me to several conclusions:

1) I enjoy being a techno-human. I’m geekier than many and it wasn’t easy for me to shift gears the other day when the power was out. I also need to acknowledge and make it a point to tend to the healthy animal that I am. That means being physically active and taking care of myself physically, no easy task when in a sedentary occupation. It means taking responsibility for having backup plans and ways to take care of essential activities when the grid is offline, even for extended periods of time. I’ve got a few loose ends to take care of around here before winter comes back around.

2) Our technology can give us a false sense of security. We really aren’t that much different than our forbears, though we seem to have forgotten much that they once knew and were able to do. Mother Nature, other humans, or any number of other factors, can cause us to be thrown back onto the most basic of survival skills, sometimes without warning, sometimes in the matter of a few minutes. Could you handle that?

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Contact

I’ve been having a lot of fun watching my blog stats via Sitemeter. It’s been about three weeks since I added it to my blog and the thing I’ve enjoyed the most is seeing all the different countries pop up in the visit details:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Rumania, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States

Sitemeter even has a cool map feature where you can view where the visitors to your site are located. Too much fun.

When I was an active “ham” (amateur radio operator), I never really got into collecting QSL cards from foreign contacts, but now I understand one of the reasons that some people are so into it. It’s fun to feel like, in some small way, you’re in touch with the whole big world out there.

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