Category: personal

Plugging Back In

Coming back to work after an extended vacation is always a process. Scratch that. Coming back to¬†life after an extended vacation is always a process. And each time you might think you’ve thought things through ahead of time, but in my experience, each time there’s always a bunch of things you didn’t account for. So today, I’m getting back up to speed in practically every arena:

  • Emails are always the biggest troublemaker. I took some time while I was away to check in now and then, but all that really does is put out any immediate fires and cull out the easy emails that can just be deleted. What remains are emails that need me to actually take some actions. No fun.
  • Weight/Health is another area where I need to get back in line. I stepped on the scale this morning and discovered I’m still not over my goal weight of 195, but only because I’m literally 195 right now. While I was away I didn’t exercise, ate way too much sugar, and didn’t watch my calories in the slightest. Honestly, I’m surprised I only gained 7 pounds. But I’d really like to get down to 175, believe it or not, and now that I actually don’t have any trips scheduled in the next while, I’m hoping I have the time I need to just get back into my routines and stick there for a while.
  • House work. We still have a bunch of stuff around the house that needs doing. The biggest thing is the batch of furniture we got a month and a half ago. Denisa and I need to finish putting up pictures and deciding what goes where, and then we need to sell the pieces we’re no longer using. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem. Especially since the place we’ve been sticking all the stuff we don’t know what to do with is the guest bedroom. And we have guests coming in a few weeks. (Uh oh.)
  • Lawn work. That lawn keeps growing. It’s been mowed recently (thank you friends!), but it needs to be mowed again. (More on that in the hopefully near future.) I know Denisa is really stressing about the garden, too.
  • Writing is there as well. I managed to get some done while I was away, but not nearly enough as I should have. That ends today. Back to the grindstone.

Beyond that, there are the tons of little chores that just need doing. Cleaning and shopping and letters and who knows what else. As always, I know that we can get on top of all of them, but it’s going to take concerted effort. I’ll make way too many lists, but one way or the other, we’ll get there.

Starting by finishing this post. More to come tomorrow as I go back to my regular blogging routine, as well.

Riverdancing for Fun and Profit

Back when Denisa and I were dating, we went to see a Broadway show. I’m pretty sure it was Kiss Me Kate, but it’s been a while, so I might have that wrong. In any case, on the way into New York, she told me all about how her ex-boyfriend in London had taken her to Riverdance back in the day. How awesome it was. How much she loved it. And somehow, that stuck with me. I don’t think she meant anything by it other than to mention another cool show she’d been to, but in my head, I wasn’t sure if any of the shows I was taking her to were ever going to live up to Riverdance. Denisa’s big time into dancing, even though I (as a non-dancer) am fairly disappointing in that regard.

It didn’t help that it came up in passing in the intervening years. She’d see a dance number on Broadway or television and talk about that one time she went to Riverdance. She’d hear a song and it would remind her of Riverdance. And each time, it was reminded me that her ex-boyfriend had one upped me before I even had a chance to get in the game.

So this year, when I saw the Riverdance anniversary tour was coming to Bangor, I saw my chance. I bought the tickets and surprised her with them for her birthday. Months later, we finally went to the show last night.

It was our first time trekking out to Bangor just to see a show. We went to dinner first at The Fiddlehead, which was fantastic food and I highly recommend to anyone looking for a good restaurant in Bangor. Not cheap, but not overly expensive, either.

The show was at the Cross Center, which wasn’t necessarily designed with dance performances in mind. I had bought tickets close to the front, thinking they would be the best, but the angle was bad from the floor, so you couldn’t see the dancing as well. We ended up moving a bit further away at intermission so that Denisa had a better view of the footwork.

I’m not a huge dance aficionado by any stretch, but there were some very enjoyable numbers in there. I was surprised by how much it focused on music as well as dance. They had a fiddle player and a soprano sax who were both very good, and a drummer who was excellent. The dances focused on traditional Irish for the first half, and then added in some more modern elements and other cultures in the second half. There was an extended “dance off” number where Irish immigrants competed with American to see who could tap dance the best. Kind of like Gangs of New York, Riverdance style. That was the highpoint of the evening, I’d say. Really impressive tap dancing. I have no idea how those toes and heels can go so fast.

There was a Russian routine that was also lots of fun. High leaps and twirls and acrobatics mixed into the dancing.

All in all, it was a very successful experiment. I think Denisa and I would like to go to quite a few more shows out and about. We’d tried to go to a touring Broadway number in the winter, but a snow storm got in the way. Still, I see more of this in our future. Lots of fun, and great to get out for the evening.

Maybe now I can stop mentally comparing every show I go to with Denisa to Riverdance . . .

Stress Coping Techniques

Here’s the situation: you’re in a meeting or middle of a slew of work. You can’t step away from your desk or the meeting. You have to keep going, even though you’re super stressed. What do you do to try and control it?

My personal approach dates back to the single semester I took martial arts at BYU. At the end of each class, the teacher would have us kneel and meditate, focusing on our breathing. He’d tell us to inhale slowly and imagine that we were inhaling everything good around us. Then we’d exhale slowly and picture ourselves breathing out anything bad that was inside us.

I’ve used this ever since as my go-to panic button to help myself when things are going south and I can’t go for a walk or take a few minutes to play a video game or read a book. (Sometimes even when I can. In the middle of a flight when I feel like I’m just going to lose it, for example.)

Prayer works too, but I find to calm down and lower my heart rate and suppress that icky butterfly feeling in my stomach, that breathing technique works the best.

However, as I’ve been slogging my way through meetings and emails and work this week, trying to catch up with everything I missed (and prep for another trip next week, a second the week after that, and a third the week after that), I’ve found myself using it a bit more than I’d like. And I wondered if, perhaps, there might be better approaches out there. Not that mine doesn’t work, but you never know unless you ask.

Any suggestions?

Back in the Saddle

I’m back at work today. Back at life, it really feels like. There’s so much I just put on hold over the past bit, and I need to get on top of so many things. Often when I’m in this sort of a situation, it helps me to make a list of the things I need to be focusing on. Today I figured I’d do that as part of this post, so you can share in the fun.


  • MEMORY THIEF 2 Second Draft–This is the biggest item on my list, and the one I need to focus most on. I finished the first draft, but after reading it through, there were a lot of changes I wanted to make. I’m well into them, but I need to really plow through them and get them incorporated. Some of them are going to be pretty extensive, so it’s stressing me out. But the changes I’ve already made have felt solid, so this should be a good thing.
  • Weight–I’ve gained 7.4 pounds in the last month. That’s a lot of pounds. I justified it to myself as I downed sugar galore, and I’m honestly okay with the fact that I stress-ate my way through the last week, but there comes a time when enough is enough. A time to remind myself that I’m avoiding sugar and overeating so that I feel better on the whole. That starts today.
  • Getting caught up at work–There are tons of emails to write, meetings to reschedule, etc. Little things that pile up, so you can feel like you’re drowning in them when you return. I’ve been working on this all morning and will keep at it until it’s done.
  • Trip planning–I’ve got two coming up. One to Virginia to get some furniture and drive it up to Maine. That should be fairly straightforward, but I need to iron out the little details. The second is larger, first to Chicago for ALA, and then on to Utah again for the original trip we’d planned for this summer. That’s one that I need to figure out a bit better. Having just gone and having things change so much, I need to work out what we want to do while we’re there. It’s still a month away, so I’ll let that percolate some.
  • Getting back into chores–Now is the exact sort of time that goals like the chore chart could easily slip into oblivion. Which is why now’s the most important time to stick with them.
  • House renovations–We’re having a ladder and railing put in at the house sometime soon. A second bathroom will be coming in the fall. It will be very good to have the space completely finished.

That doesn’t look too terrible, I suppose. The biggest stress is the book revision. If I just tuck my head down and really focus on that, I should be good. Right?


On Dying and Funerals

A month ago or so, I watched Guardians of the Galaxy with my kids. The movie opens pretty bleakly, with the main character shown as a young boy in a hospital. His mother is dying of cancer. She sits in a hospital room, bald and frail and surrounded by grieving family. Her son is brought to her, and they have a tearful scene where she asks him to take her outstretched hand. He refuses, and she pleads again.

And then dies, all at once. The heart rate monitor goes monotone, and she’s gone. Here’s the scene. See for yourself:

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Hollywood would show idealized versions of death scenes, but this past weekend was my first real encounter with what an actual death vigil is like. Perhaps it’s different for others. Perhaps there are occasions where Hollywood gets it right.

But it didn’t this time.

Death is incredibly hard and difficult. It involves sleepless nights. Uncertainty. Despair. You go from wanting the person to stay with you and have as much time as possible to being convinced they’re going to pass at any moment. But they don’t. Hours and days go by, and you realize there was so much further to go.

Part of me really wishes this were talked about more. Perhaps it would have prepared me for what was coming. I certainly scoured the internet once I was in the middle of it all. Trying to figure out what to expect and how it would all play out. I get why it isn’t discussed. Death can be frightening enough without people going around saying just how miserable of a process it can be. Even in this post, I’m shying away from really discussing it. Putting it down in written form would be a way of reliving it, and I have no desire to do that again. Even though I know I most likely will at some point in my life.

Actually, the thing it reminded me most of was a birth. How nature is suddenly in complete control, and you wish you could have some sort of an influence over any of it, but you’re just kind of helpless, waiting for things to take their course.

Of course, it’s not over once death has arrived. This trip has been so tough in so many different ways. We arrived Thursday in time for us to say goodbye, and then we were here at the house with our kids Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning as Laurie passed away. Then there was planning for the viewing and the funeral, and of course the actual events themselves.

I understand why they’re important, but those two meetings just about did me in. I can’t imagine how difficult they were for my father. I’m a person who doesn’t even like going to the barber’s, because I don’t like making small talk with people. The viewing Tuesday night was three and a half hours of standing in a line, shaking hands with people and thanking them for coming and for their support. Then there was another hour before the funeral. If death was like birth, the funeral is definitely like a wedding, only so much sadder.

I’m not trying to complain about any of this. Just trying to wrap my head around everything that’s been happening the last few days. The viewing and the funeral were both lovely. The talks were poignant and inspiring. The burial service touching. But it’s all been so. hard. I was asked to give the family prayer right before the funeral, and I just about lost it during that. But you can’t just break down into a sobbing wreck. At least I can’t.

And of course my children are with us through this all. Tomas and DC are both old enough to know what’s happening. MC still doesn’t really understand why Grandma isn’t coming back, though she’s now worried that she’ll die the next time she gets sick. And she can see everyone else being so sad, and it definitely rubs off on her.

I had hoped there would be a feeling of completion after the funeral. That I’d be able to move on. I’d been able to do that with most of the other funerals I’ve been through. They were times I could visit with loved ones, reminisce on times gone by. But I found out there’s a big difference between attending a viewing as family and attending one as one of the people who were close enough to the departed to mean that you’re standing in the line greeting people.

Some holes are just too deep to be filled so quickly, and some wounds can’t help but leave a scar.

This last week will leave a permanent mark on me and my family. I told Denisa last night that I probably have a fair bit more gray in my beard after yesterday. I hope and pray that I don’t have to go through anything like that again any time soon.

Thank you to everyone who came and all who have offered support, whether in person or on social media. It does help. It’s been so nice to see everyone again. I just wish it were under better circumstances.

And I suppose that’s all I’m going to say about that for now.

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