Monday, August 01, 2011

I'm B-a-a-a-ck!

Hello everyone!

Yes, I'm pulling this blog out of the mothballs. I'm not sure if anyone follows this anymore, but that wasn't really the point when I started doing this in the first place, so if I'm merely writing to myself, that will just have to do.

So it's been a long time, no? Let's bring you up to speed on what's been happening. In the interest of making this blog more accessible, I'm going to start subdividing it into sections such as "Personal", "Political", etc. That way you can feel free to skip on past stuff you might not be interested in.

Personal

Well, a lot has changed over the past two and a half years, and to be honest I had to go back and look to see what was going on when I last left off. I suppose I should start by explaining why I stopped blogging, but I don't really have a good reason. I just wasn't into it, I guess. And at first, it was no big deal--I just hadn't blogged for a while, but then weeks turned into months, and the idea of starting up again turned into a big ordeal (at least in my mind), so it just didn't happen. But I never stopped writing. More on that later. But then I realized I missed blogging, so I just figured I'd start up again, and I think it's going quite well so far, if I do say so myself.

So when we last left off, we were still in the Noughties (not counting the quick plug for Out There Photography), and I had just returned from a fun-filled trip to Maui and was convinced I caught the swine flu (remember that?), but it turned out I just had a regular old flu. I had also promised a big post about our trip, but this is where I'm going to have to officially break my promise. It's not that I don't want to talk about it--it's just that it's been almost two and a half years! I just don't remember all the details. But I can summarize it thusly: We flew to Maui. We stayed in a nice condo a short block from the ocean. We played in the water a lot. We went snorkeling. We drove the "Road to Hana" and explored the wet side of the island. We visited the Maui Brewing Company's pub and tried some of their delicious coconut porter. We had fun. What more do you need to know?

Moving on. So. A few weeks after we got back from Hawaii, our landlords decided to drop a bombshell and tell us they were going to renovate our place, so we needed to be out in 30 days. We had been living there for three years, and had no idea this was going to happen. Ah, the fun of being a renter. Anyway, we scrambled and found a place that seemed great at first: it was right in town so it was within walking distance of both Cathy's work and mine (at least mine for a while--more on that later), and close to a whole lot. Well, it turns out "close to stuff" has a few drawbacks when that stuff includes a homeless shelter/clinic and a university. We stayed there for about eight months (and accumulated lots of stories, which I'll share here in the future) before finding another place, this time still in a good location but farther away from drunken frat boys and homeless people.

Just to be clear: I'm not dissing homeless people. Most of the ones we encountered were no different from people who sleep indoors on a regular basis. But some of them were different, in a mentally ill way. So whenever we'd encounter a homeless person (which was often), we were never quite sure whether or not the person would be mentally ill, and thus unpredictable and possibly dangerous, and so that uncertainty was naturally a huge stress factor for us. When you can't relax in your own home, when you're not sure if the noise outside is someone digging through your recycling for bottles and cans to redeem or someone trying to figure out a way into your house, it's time to move.

So we did. And that place was good for a while, but then life happened, and we moved to Idaho, and that's where we're at now. More on that later.

Back to Eugene. I got a job at Lane Community College doing academic advising. I had been working there in various positions since 2005, and I became a student there in 2004, so it seemed more like a new position than a new job. The new position was great for a while. I loved the people in the department I worked for, and they treated me really well. I enjoyed working with the students, and I truly felt as if I was making a difference. People would come to me because they needed help, and I was usually able to help them, and when I couldn't, I could usually point them in the right direction. It was incredibly rewarding.

But it was also incredibly exhausting. My whole job was based on the concept of giving: I was giving advice, giving encouragement, giving information, and it often left me feeling drained at the end of the day. Add to that the fact that we were chronically understaffed--as is any publicly-funded institution these days--and students would have to sometimes wait hours to see me, which often pissed them off to no end (not that I blame them), so I sometimes felt like I was in a pressure-cooker. And I interacted with people all day long, to the point that I sometimes found myself hating being around people, even people I really liked.

But as I said, it was incredibly rewarding, so on balance I didn't really mind the negative aspects of the job itself. The problem was that it was part-time work, which meant no health insurance and pay that wasn't enough to support us. For a while that wasn't much of an issue, though, because Cathy's job had great insurance and paid enough that she could almost singlehandedly support us. However, she hated her job for a variety of reasons that I won't get into on a public blog, but because my job was part-time, with no health insurance, she felt obligated to continue on in a job she hated. And that sucked.

One bonus about my job being part-time was that it allowed me time to write, and although I wasn't writing for this blog, I did start work on a novel, which I'm still working on today. More on that later, as well.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, life happened, and Cathy's father passed away unexpectedly. He was the sole caregiver for Cathy's mom, who has dementia, and I'm sure the incredible amount stress of caring for her is what caused his heart attack. Apparently, this sort of thing is quite common. People who have dementia often outlive their partners, because the stress of caring for them is so debilitating. I've come to have an incredible amount of respect for anyone who works as a caregiver, especially the ones that work at the facility Cathy's mom is at. I know I couldn't do it.

So to make a long story short, Cathy quit her stupid job, and then we took a five week long trip around the southern part of the country (one of the perks of working part-time is you can take five weeks off, unpaid, of course), and did some soul-searching. When we came back to Oregon, we decided we didn't want to what we were doing anymore, so we packed up our stuff and headed up to North Idaho. The idea was we would use this opportunity to follow our dreams and shit like that. Cathy is doing the Out There Photography gig (with my help), and I'm doing the writing thing (with her help).

It's definitely a change of pace. Here we have a nice house on ten acres that Cathy grew up on, and we're near Cathy's mom, and all that good stuff. Cathy and I first met when we were both living and working in Sandpoint in North Idaho, so it's not exactly a new experience for us, but now we're about 45 minutes away from Sandpoint, and a lot more rural than before.

I've got to say that taking care of ten acres is hard work! But I like it, though. We've got a big garden, and you can't beat the taste of vegetables and herbs that you grew yourself. We just picked a couple of gallons of service berries right from our property. I hadn't ever even heard of them before we moved here, but it turns out they're pretty tasty.

On the homebrewing front, I now have a dedicated beer fridge and a kegging system, which means no more cleaning bottles!

And as I said, I'm writing a novel. I've tried writing before, and it was hard to keep it going. Maybe I shouldn't have tried to write a book while I was in school. But now I'm doing it for real, and it's going well. I've got about 30,000 words written, or 90 pages of MS Word in double spaced, 12 pt font, and the ideas keep coming, so yay me! I know how the story is going to end, and I have a pretty good idea of what's going to lead up to the end, so it's just a matter of getting it down on e-paper now. When I come across something interesting, I usually find myself wondering how I could incorporate it into the book. It's a different sort of state of mind for me...

But I've become a fan of self-sufficiency, and that's a lot of what this move represents. And it's hard to leave family and friends, but we still see them from time to time, and we have other family as well as old and new friends up here. And of course we stay in touch on the innerwebs.

I'm rambling as I sometimes do. But isn't that what blogging is all about?

Anyway, that's the gist of the personal stuff. There's still a lot of blanks to be filled in, but that will probably happen in future blog postings.

Political

I kinda used up all my writing fuel in the personal section (in my defense, I was covering two and a half event-filled years), so this will be brief. I will say that the whole "debt ceiling debate" was an absolute farce. It's just another manufactured crisis to justify dismantling programs designed to help the poor and middle-class. When these programs inevitably go away, it will be interesting to see what happens. I'm afraid we're in for a rough ride in the near future, which is why I've been big on the whole self-sufficiency thing lately.

In Closing

Well, this has been fun. I just might have to do it again soon. In the meantime, I plan on cleaning up the blog a bit over the next few weeks, adjusting some of the links, getting rid of old/broken ones and replacing them with new ones, and maybe changing the colors and/or style. Or maybe I'll just leave it as is. Who knows?

Anyway, see you again soon!

Rob

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