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Life in Light and Shadow

The month of May has me feeling off. Mother’s Day is complicated enough, but it falls near the anniversary of my brother Tom’s death. The erosion of human rights in this country doesn’t help (incidentally, I was born the same year as Roe V Wade). Spring has sprung late around these parts so my son and I are both doped up on allergy meds and still miserable. And, sadly, one of our sweet elderly cats is in steady decline. Our 17 year-old cat is in good health, thankfully, but the 15 year-old has Stage 2 kidney disease and heart problems. Recently, life has been all about trying to administer meds to him three times a day. While also feeding him expensive prescription cat food and keeping the other cat from eating his food and vice versa. Dude will be having another pricey echocardiogram today. Vet bills have depleted my savings account and I’m now racking up credit card debt. But Fred is worth it. He is family. Something we don’t have a whole lot of.

Five good things:

  • The Newcomers podcast had me from the jump.

    Lauren Lapkus and Nicole Byer take a deep dive into cultural staples they haven’t gotten around to just yet. So far, they have covered Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Tyler Perry’s body of work, and the Fast & Furious franchise (with guest host Jon Gabrus). This season, Lauren returns and together she and Nicole tackle the long-awaited Marvel Cinematic Universe (abridged).

    The most recent episode tackled Captain America: Civil War with my longtime crush, Jason Mantzoukas. I highly recommend it.

  • A New Yorker interview. Parker Posey Is Dead Serious: The fifty-three-year-old actress discusses “The Staircase,” ceramics, the state of indie film, and her idea for a show about dogs playing poker.
  • We are living in interesting times, with more television shows to choose from than ever before. I’m unable to watch shows with unlikeable characters behaving badly, so no Succession or Ozarks or We Own This City for me. But I absolutely adored Severance. While I eagerly await season two, I now have Star Trek New Worlds to keep me occupied. I went in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. And it’s now the top-rated Trek show on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • British comedian Adam Buxton talks with interesting people. He seemed to be on hiatus for a few months, but thankfully his podcast is back. A few of his recent episodes have been with Taskmater-related folks too. And Taskmaster is another thing that has kept me going all pandemic. Both bring me such joy. I would love to see Buxton on a future series of Taskmaster.
  • Next month I’m taking myself on a solo trip to Santa Fe. But I will be meeting up with a few friends while there. I look forward to visiting the Meow Wolf Mothership, House of Eternal Return. I’ll also be driving around bits of Colorado and soaking in some hot springs.

It’s week three at my new job and I’m still finding my feet. Feels like peeling back an onion. The onboarding has been mostly self-directed. I think I’m balancing it pretty well without burning myself out. I’ve been able to take a fair number of long lunchtime walks when the weather is cooperating. I suspect I won’t be feeling confident in this role until after a few months or even six. There’s always so much to learn.

Amusing drawing of a long-legged bird wearing big boots, drawn in white on an outdoor municipal electric box

An Organizing Principle

In July 2021, I was part of The Great Resignation. After 6.5 years, I’d become emotionally invested in a company that never loved me back. It was time to move on to something else. More recently, I was part of what is now being called The Great Reshuffle. I never intended to be so trendy. But after just 10 months, I was recruited by another org. The new company provided more time to deep dive into conversations with the team and leadership, and do some research on my own. I accepted their generous offer. It seems like a better fit for me, all around. Earlier in my career, I never would have dared leave a position in under two years. I stayed with one company for a full decade, despite being woefully underpaid. No job is perfect. Not even when you are your own boss. Every position will have its flaws. But I’ve reached a point in my career, and in life in general, where I know what does and does not serve me. It took me too long to learn about and understand healthy boundaries. Now I enforce them with glee. But no bridges have been burned. I met some wonderful colleagues along the way and we will stay in touch. The tech community is a small one and the accessibility community is smaller still. Speaking of, I did some minor reshuffling on my professional site. The landing page now features accessibility-related blog posts instead of my resume, which moved down a level to an about page.

Between leaving one job and beginning another, I gave myself a week off to recharge. I spent extra time with my son and friends. Had some fun headshots taken at soona (see below). Went in for an overdue eye exam and ordered new glasses. And took a solo trip up North to stay in a gorgeous dome for a couple of nights. I’d intended to tackle more Spring cleaning at home, but feel like my energy was directed exactly where it needed to go.

Sharyn shouting hey

So May We Start

It is officially Spring in Minnesota. And we had a stretch of weather tolerable enough that I spent hours and hours outdoors, socializing with friends. It felt good. Four consecutive days spent outside of my home, with friends I adore. It was almost too much. But it was a great reprieve from the solo doom scrolling I’d been doing. And it feels like it could be the calm before the storm, again, of a future (Fall?) Covid surge. We also saw Sparks at The Fitzgerald Theater. I’m a longtime fan but this was the first time I experienced them live. It was very theatrical and fun.

Since the pandemic started, I’ve only taken two trips out of state with my son. And both were hit with comically bad weather. First, the heat dome in Seattle last summer. Miserable. Humans aren’t intended to survive in such temperatures. More recently, a road trip to Denver through blizzards where we encountered several multiple car pileups but somehow made it through unscathed. But shaken. Boulder was beautiful. And we made it to the Denver Meow Wolf location, which was magical. I’m uncertain if we’ll take many more trips this year but at least we can start spending more time outside.

Mother and son inside a humid plant-filled building at the Denver Botanic Gardens
My son standing in front of a sunlit Chihuly piece called The Ellipse at Denver Botanic Gardens

The Illusion of Control

The winter weather persists, as it does in this neck of the woods. I miss my daily outdoor walks. Even when the temperatures are warm enough, the sidewalks around here are garbage. Unfortunately, our small condo doesn’t have room for a treadmill. I’ve wondered if it’s time for me to become an early morning mall walker. I desperately need more exercise.

Other things on my mind:

Last summer one of my favorite artists commented on a pic of our chonk, Fred, asking if she could paint him. Of course! I enjoy her art so much I had one of her pieces tattooed on my shoulder. I’d forgotten all about the cat pic until she tagged me the other day. The painting is done and prints are up for sale. Naturally, I bought one.

Pretty ribbon of pink clouds against a blue morning sky

Now Bring Me That Horizon

COVID cases are finally on the decline in Minnesota. But we’re still remaining cautious. Sadly, the case numbers are climbing in Mexico. The CDC has added Mexico to the “Do Not Travel” list. Last Fall, before Omicron emerged, I must have been feeling optimistic because I booked a trip to Playa del Carmen. To a wonderful resort we enjoyed back in 2016. While I would love to lounge on that ocean-facing private porch again, it is just too risky right now. Last week some acquaintances tested positive for COVID while on vacation in Mexico and it has delayed their return to MN. I canceled our trip and will be receiving a full refund, thankfully. And I quickly came up with a backup plan. It won’t be quite so tropical but it will still be fun. We’re driving to Denver, with a pit stop in Omaha. We haven’t been back since 2018. We had a nice time then and now there’s even more to see. Like Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station, which I’ve purchased tickets for. And the botanical gardens that we missed last time. And the AirBnB I reserved will be roomier than our lodging in Mexico was. Honestly, I’m excited. A domestic road trip reduces a lot of the anxiety I was feeling and saves me some money to boot.

A rest stop in Colorado with a view of tree and snow covered mountains

Honoring the Complexity of Life

Last weekend, I removed everything from our refrigerator and freezer. Tossed what needed to go and deep cleaned all the shelves and drawers. Dried everything off then returned the food being kept in an organized manner. I know it won’t last. But every time I’ve opened the fridge since, it’s a reminder that I can still unlock achievement mode. Also on the bright side, literally, the days are very obviously getting longer. The sun hasn’t yet set when I wrap up my workdays now. A welcome change. And speaking of light, my indoor houseplants were looking pretty sorry. I finally bought a grow light. And installed and configured the Planta app (I had very obviously been over-watering the poor things) and the plants are already perking up. I’ll take any wins I can.

Today’s five things:

At the end of last year, I started dating someone. It didn’t take long to determine he wasn’t for me. Oddly, I’m not bummed out. Instead, I’m celebrating all the progress I’ve made. In the past, I’ve been a people-pleaser. Before, I would make myself smaller to accommodate partners. Stifling my own needs to put the other person’s needs first. I sucked at setting boundaries, even though a lack of boundaries invariably made me miserable. Not anymore. I stated my needs, set my boundaries, held my ground, and walked away with no regrets. Feels good. I accept myself with enthusiasm. I am no longer available to the things that do not make me feel good.

The whole family - my human child and our two cats - hanging out in my bedroom / office

Everything is Optional

We’re in the thick of a Wind Chill Advisory until tomorrow. Shut-in mode INTENSIFIES. I’d intended to pick up takeout from our beloved Zen Box tonight, but it’s too damned cold. Though I did manage to stay out on the ice for about an hour last Saturday, for the Lake Harriet Kite Festival. I wore so many layers. And managed to get some decent shots. There were some particularly cool kites this year. But I skipped the “frozen yoga” at the nearby Art Shanty Projects. Today’s five things:

Undiagnosed ADHD is such a delight. All the symptoms without the certainty. This morning, I nearly missed standup because I got hyperfocused when I was in the shower. Started scrubbing the tub and took a magic eraser to the grout lines on the subway tile (so satisfying) and lost track of time. Wondering if I need to bring my pomodoro timer into the bathroom with me.

winter window bokeh

Every Fortress Falls

We’re still hunkering down in our household. Because of omicron, but also…we’re waking up to weather of -11° F with -26° F windchills so who wants to leave the house anyhow? More and more people I know have been impacted by this surge though. Here are some wise words from Dr. Scott Gottlieb on twitter:

Most people will end up getting covid over their lifetime. But the more people can delay their reckoning with this virus, the further along we will get on widespread availability and uptake of oral therapeutics, antibody drugs, and vaccines; to mitigate the risks of infection.

We’ll continue riding it out, because we can. Thankfully, distractions abound. And we’re quite good at keeping ourselves occupied over here.

This Saturday I will leave the house for a bit. The Lake Harriet Kite Festival will be happening on the ice next to the Art Shanty Projects. I haven’t been inspired to use my DSLRs much lately but I’ll be busting my cameras out for this confluence of magically Minnesotan winter events.

New headphones, old me

Existence is Chaos

The news continues to be bleak. The world is in crisis. But I’m trying to focus only on what is in my control. That has been my mantra for a while now. To keep my chin up while also keeping my head down? With that in mind, yesterday was remarkably productive, at work and in my personal life. I’d been putting off a call to my carrier. I had a bit of a hassle with an iPhone trade-in promotion. But after finally calling to sort it out we now have an unlimited data plan and will be paying $52/month less (for two lines). Works for me. I also scheduled my first International Association of Accessibility Professionals exam for next month. I’m starting with the CPACC. After that, I’ll study even more and take the WAS exam a month or two later. Thankfully, there is an option to take these exams from home. It involves giving a third party control of my personal laptop, which isn’t ideal, but I’ll make it work for a two-hour test.

Five things relevant to members of our household:

This afternoon’s breaking news? Minneapolis, St. Paul To Require Restaurant-Goers To Show Proof Of Vaccination Or Negative Test. This doesn’t go into effect until January 19th. Our household will still only be getting takeout and not eating inside restaurants during this surge. I’ve noticed some splintering in my friend group recently. Between those who remain vigilant, like us, and concerned about the ableism of the “everyone is going to get omicron” crowd. But that YOLO/Vax&Chill contingency just wants to get on with their lives, even if it means getting sick (and getting others sick). I hate it here.

Drove for the first time this year and was treated to this remarkable sunset downtown

Tomorrow is a Mystery

Donations are being accepted for the Matt Gray memorial Computer Science scholarship. The goal is to raise $25,000 so the first scholarship can be awarded for Fall 2022. If you would like to donate, please check the box for “Make this gift in honor or memory of someone” and enter Matt Gray’s name. His memorial was yesterday. I had hoped to attend in person but the risk is far too high. Our household has managed to avoid COVID so far and would like to keep it that way. I viewed a livestream of the memory-sharing portion of the service instead and, once again, cried alone at my desk. Grief, the modern way. It’s harder to hang on to much hope or find joy these days but I’m trying. Here are five interesting things:

A friend pointed out a highly relevant piece in the NY Times:

Another Covid Winter, but Our Quarantine Comforts No Longer Work
Americans have spared little expense over the past two years turning their homes into cozy havens. That doesn’t mean they want to spend another winter in them.

While we may not want to, my two-person household has the privilege of staying put and staying safe for our third pandemic winter. And we are committed to doing so. I’ve ordered yet more puzzles (and puzzle storage). I have a new cookbook on the way. And Chris and Andy of The Watch just had an episode about their most anticipated TV Shows of 2022. We’ll make it work.

First 2022 selfie after bleaching and recoloring my hair silver, at home