Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cramming the Mini Coop

One more day before the aqua blue chariot takes me east to Virginia, a place I never dreamed of moving. A place I've barely visited. After spending New Year's with my brother in Ohio, I'll be landing at my friend Walt's house in Virginia Beach for a few days. 

Moving to New Zealand in 2008, I went from a three bedroom home to two fifty-pound duffel bags. This move feels spacious. I have a whole car and I'm mainly bringing clothes, and not much else. However, my mom is probably right that I am overconfident of my packing abilities and the car will end up crammed to the gills. 

I don't have a place set up yet, but have been searching for a room to rent on Craig's List. I've see-sawed between renting a beach house and shared housing, and decided that shared housing is probably the best option. I've been essentially living with others since leaving Germany at the end of May, whether in a hostel or visiting someone's home. I think continuing living with others will be better for my mental health. 

It feels more like I'm leaving on an extended camping trip than moving. All my worldly possessions will remain in my mom's basement while I take off for a while, a temporary reprieve in unemployment. But the whole while, I'll have to look for a permanent job. This time I hope to find one and stay long term. So I've been pretty careful in my search and I think I have a good idea of where I might want to land. But only time will reveal the next destination. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I don't think we're going to have a white Christmas this year. The grass is still green in Iowa and the temperature hovers around 36. I was worried that I was going to have a rough winter hanging out in Iowa, but it's not the case. Christmas is around the corner and I leave in eight days for Virginia.

So I will just have to imagine a white Christmas like these from year's past... 

[Photos from approx 1976.] My dad hauling me through the northern Minnesota (Bemidji) white stuff, back when every winter included white-outs and blizzards. I was a snow child, and I still am, but I'm not sure what I thought about the box-sled that they had going. However, I'm impressed with their thriftiness and creativity. I think if I had a kid, I would pull them in a box-sled too. Just so I could re-enact photos like these.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Running Therapy

Running clunks my brain into order. I thump around the track, making circles to nowhere with my tennis shoe feet. Life rocks around in my head and resettles, making more sense. What it is about making circles that creates logic?

I run for stress. I run for joy. I run for health. I run for good legs.

When it is done, I plop on the floor and push up off the ground with my ape arms, over and over, feeling strong, like I am getting ready for the Army fitness test. Like I can do anything I put my mind to.

The finale is stretches and yoga and water and washing my face with a terry green washcloth, before descending the stairs to my tiny car waiting in the lot.

How many years have I been doing this fitness regime for sanity and strength?

When I run, ideas flourish. I discover answers to life’s worries. It is like dreaming awake. It releases me from past and present pains. Anxiety dissipates. I feel used up and alive when I'm done. The runner’s high is authentic for me.

Seasonally I drop off. Running becomes a victim of a time crunch or laziness. But it always finds its way back into my heart. Free therapy for the soul and the body. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reflections on higher education

Thoughts after reading, "What is College For?" in the NYT:

I've heard increasingly over the years the argument that college is worthless, and that we can learn everything outside the classroom. It seems a symptom of our lazy intellectual culture, which has been exacerbated with the age of the internet where answers are a google away, so who needs to learn or retain anything?

I'm probably biased, having earned a doctorate and worked in a university setting for a short time. And I do agree my major life lessons were outside of university. But my years of education taught me to explore subjects which I knew I'd hate because they were required (and discovering I liked German, anatomy, writing, etc...). The critical thinking aspect of university and having a few years to be away from home with the security blanket of the university walls was a stepping stone to adult life and contemplation.

One of the greatest joys in life is a lifelong love and respect for learning. I am sad for those folks who think college is about memorizing facts and preparing for a job. It is about something entirely different. It is creating a foundation of learning and questioning for the rest of your life.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What's important

My Niece, Claire:

Christmas is around the corner. And then Virginia.

I'm ready to hit the road. This week's been encompassed with preparations: car check, packing, a physical, hunting for a beach rental. It's starting to fall into place.

I'm thankful for this in-between job. Three months to try out the VA system. Three months to re-acclimate to US life-work conditions. Returning stateside has brought a plethora of experiences. I haven't thought much about the adjustment until periodically I notice something that trips me up. Examples: ground floor vs first floor (overseas first floor is ground), portion sizes of food, airplane carry-on bags... consumerism.

Mostly, I'm thankful for my time with my family. For the career which has given me flexibility. For my mom (and everyone else) who has taken me in since I returned stateside in August. For the ability to have a full life filled with love.

I'm convinced that we are here to share ourselves and share love. I hope the holidays remind us all how lucky we are to be together in this life.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Before the sun

The darkest dark
before the seeping color of dawn.

I must go a while.
To the cave of blackness
to hide
Pulling inward with all my might.

Alone. Away.
Empty. Tight.

Unknown lies ahead.
The roller coaster of life.
Plunging through darkness and light,
forever intertwined.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shopping malls breed existential crises

This week I've been trying to get myself organized to move to Virginia. I finally opened and repacked every single box in the basement and it looks like a bomb went off down there, but I found everything I want to bring along and dumped it into my room. So now I practically need to wear full body armor to safely make it to my bed which is covered as well... do not be surprised if you soon see a photo of me in a cast from self-inflicted injury.

Government Fun Take II: In the last week, I've been inundated with government forms, though not as bad as the Germany job. That, plus trying to find housing out east from here require a massive amount of time. I may end up in an extended stay for a while and then try to move into a short term roommate situation. I've emailed a lot of potential roommates but have not had much response. Maybe people from Virginia are scared of Iowans.

It snowed here. My mom and I went to the mall today. I figured it was a good idea to rest my back after the heavy labor of yesterday. (I was a little sore.) The mall sounded leisurely but for some reason, I felt like I was going insane and started having suicidal thoughts while looking at the multicolored fleeces in Scheels. Life just seemed so dumb. I know there's no sense to think of these things. I thought, good thing I'm going to work soon.

This place I'm now is a weird spot to be in. To think of starting this new job, because it is temporary, seems like it is prolonging the period of decision making. But that's not really true, since I am going to use this job to evaluate a career with the VA system.

I would like to move somewhere into my own place again with my own things, but I don't think that is going to happen anytime soon. But then I have a feeling if I were moving into a place I might feel a sense of loss at the loss of freedom. So it's better to just enjoy where I am now.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

The world

Bird squaking in the distance. Streaming light through lacy windows. Creaking from below. The tick of clocks, out of sequence with one another. My fingers clanking the keys.

Reclined in my bathrobe.
Life is quiet.

I wonder.

Feeling a void. The after-effects of achievement. Between relationships. Before a new job. Lacking meaning. A floorless existence.

Visions of my tiny blue car headed east. The feeling of freedom, of possibility, of exploration and new experience. The open road of life.

Time to calm, before the storm of change. December.
I long to hole up. To isolate. To silence.

Heater kicks on. They're digging a hole outside. Someone's new home.

Sunlit fingers. The world, a circle. No walls, no edges. No answers.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

First snow

Drizzling rain turns into an Iowa snow globe
While we sip whiskeys by the window.
Good acoustics, I said.
I judge restaurants on sound quality.
Hushed murmurs, a fuzzy welcoming blanket
Inviting conversation & calm.
Anything else, jarring & cold.

Days on the computer, digging in files.
The data needed to achieve employment.
I think, I am not going to do this again.
I hope I love the VA.
Disorganized boxes stifle me, and I think
I understand why people never move.
It is not going to get better any time soon.

But I'm home for Christmas
And that is good enough.