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My Sunshine

The worst part about living with pets is saying goodbye to them. Fred had been with us since the summer of 2007. He was an incredible companion for 15+ years. But this year his health was in steady decline, despite our best efforts with prescription food and meds. Today things took a turn for the worse with congestive heart failure. For those of you who knew Fred, thank you for appreciating our magnificent ginger. He was one of a kind and the best boy ever. Parker and I are gutted, but I’m glad we were able to give Freddy a good life and prevent him from suffering any longer.

My son shared an utterly heartbreaking obituary of his own:

Today is a very sad day for me, my cat and best friend Freddy has been dealing with kidney disease, heart disease, and arthritis for a few months, and now I have to say goodbye to him.
He was the best cat I’ve ever had in my life, he’s been by my side ever since I was 7 years old and now I’m losing him.
I will always remember all the good times we’ve had together and you will always hold a special place in my heart forever. May you rest in peace dear Freddy I will never ever forget you, goodbye Freddy.

We’re going to miss our sweet lap cat. Rest in peace, Freddy Franklin Freeze Morrow-Mackall.

An orange cat named Freddy looking up

Sorrowing in Sunlight

Low is my all-time favorite band. I was lucky enough to do a little work for them, for a while (updating their website, some light tech support for Alan, etc). Long before that, I started seeing them at the start, in the 90s. The first time, I won tickets from Radio K when Long Division came out. In those early days, the crowd would sit on the floor so we could better embrace the slowcore of it all. Their music has been with me through the best and worst times of my life for the past three decades. Mimi and I were both pregnant when Low played Loring Park for the old music and movies series in 1999. I’ve seen them perform at other parks, in a kayak shed (at the Square Lake Festival), a former church, in museums, theaters, a potluck, and a rundown borscht belt resort in upstate NY. For a time, they would host holiday shows in First Ave’s main room. Once with the stage chock full of Christmas trees. Most recently, I drove to Duluth over Labor Day weekend to catch their brief set at the Water is Life festival. I had a bad feeling that it might be Low’s last show. Unfortunately, I was correct. Mimi passed away last night after living with ovarian cancer for the last two years. Their shows were always an incredible communal experience. Mimi will be remembered for bringing so much beauty into the world and she will be greatly missed.

Alan & Mimi, 2/3 of Low

Turning the Knobs

What an irritating week. One of the upstairs neighbors has a crew gutting and rebuilding her bathroom. Monday we were subjected to them jackhammering into concrete FOR HOURS. With no heads up. I work from home. She apologized as she didn’t realize it would be so loud. Tuesday our elderly cats were subjected to invasive (and expensive) checkups. Wednesday I was given a six-hour window to wait for an appliance repairperson. But I’m trying give myself an attitude adjustment and focus on better things.

  • Took a rare weekday early morning walk yesterday. The weather and quality of light were incredible.
  • My kid and I enjoyed another top-notch episode of Andor. It’s got that spy thriller noir angle I adore, and I love a good heist. I’ve listened to some fascinating interviews with show runner Tony Gilroy lately. First on The Watch, and then on Maron. What a charmer. And he had a wild childhood with his two brothers, who are both working on the show with him.
  • Speaking of Star Wars, for years I’ve been threatening to pull together a Jawa costume for Halloween (and year-round cosplay). I’m finally doing it. I just hope I have all my materials in time for a party in a couple of weeks.
  • A lot of people think Home Service Plus is a scam but hey, our dryer has now been repaired. It would have been $45 for the part + $130 for the labor but I was charged nothing. The dryer’s gas coil needed to be replaced. No way I would have figured that out on my own. And the tech threw in a bonus. I complained that the dryer door opened the wrong way. He flipped it the other way around for me. Thanks, guy!
  • I finally started watching Los Espookys, thanks to a reminder from Pop Culture Happy Hour. It is delightfully absurd. And it feels good to see more queer representation on screen.
  • Speaking of, Velma from Scooby Doo is finally canonically queer. It’s about damned time.
A tree with bright red and orange leaves set against a blue sky
Looking up at a tree with sunlight filtering through bright orange leaves

The Blues

Where did the summer go? It’s true, I’ve spent too much time in my head, being overwhelmed by all the dire news. For now, just the highlights…I’ve been getting up to speed at my new job of nearly four months. At the end of June, I spent my birthday week driving around Colorado and New Mexico, catching up with some friends. In July, I drove my Dad out for another event with his newfound birth family. I’ve hung out with many friends on various patios and attended outdoor events. I renewed both my state park pass and my passport. We attended the Internet Cat Video Festival with our usual crew. The Yo, is This Racist podcast crew came to The Parkway Theater (and I wound up on the recording, eep). And I returned to The Parkway to see W. Kamau Bell on his book tour for Do the Work! An Antiracist Activity Book. His co-author, Kate Schatz, couldn’t make it in person, but joined via video on the GIANT movie screen, which was comical. I also stopped bleaching my hair and switched over to an easier-to-maintain (myself) dark blue.

My kid continued to go climbing indoors while not getting outdoors nearly enough. He continued to obsessively collect expansion decks for Red Dragon Inn (he nearly has them all now). And has been playing the game with me and with his anime club friends. He spent time cat-sitting and attending CONvergence. We attended his friend’s Fringe Festival show together. Yesterday was a strange milestone. My son returned to class on campus for the first time since March 2020. He’s been online every semester since. But it hasn’t been the best environment to support the way he learns. I’m excited for him while dreading our increased covid risk. He’s still President of the college Anime Club and will be tabling on campus for four hours tomorrow, trying to recruit new members. He’s also got a weekly Student Senate meeting to attend. Back-to-school always makes me nostalgic for the autumns of my childhood, with my brother and his October birthday followed by our favorite, Halloween. Fall will be here before we know it and it is always too fleeting.

“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.” — Henry David Thoreau

To that end, I’ve booked a month-long stay in Portugal in February/March. So I can escape winter for a bit while working remotely. My rooftop apartment even has a private terrace and the temps will be in the upper 50s to low 60s. Downright balmy compared to Minnesota. And I still have five months to continue my daily Duolingo Portuguese lessons.

The blues
My son, glaring at me, in the woods after a picnic

Every Time You Find Yourself Here, It’s Because You Chose To Come Back

In February, I started watching Severance on Apple TV. I was intrigued by the stacked cast — Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, Christopher Walken, Dichen Lachman, and more. And a show directed by Ben Stiller. I hadn’t predicted how much I would connect with this deft work/life balance satire. Episodes were released weekly between February and April. During that period I realized my own job wasn’t a good fit. I found myself recruited away by another company in April. Amazingly, I just learned that my new employer’s headquarters are inside the building that serves as the stand-in for the fictional Lumen Industries for the show.

Building the Corporate Menace of Severance: Saarinen’s impeccable Bell Labs campus conveys the terror of utopian office design.

If I lived in New Jersey, I would have the option to work in this glorious building. Or terrifyingly utopian? Alas, I am far away in the Midwest and may be working remotely forever. Which has been on my mind quite a bit. Our two-bedroom condo was perfect for us when I bought it in 2019. When we rarely seemed to be at home. These days I work from my bedroom full-time. I need more space. More separation between work and life. There’s a house for sale just two blocks from us that would be perfect in so many ways. But the idea of putting my condo on the market and dealing with all the red tape of buying and selling plus the hassle of moving? Too much. I have, however, put in a lot of hard work lately to declutter and organize our place as much as possible. I need to optimize what little space we do have. And later this summer, a carpenter friend will be building me a custom Murphy bed so I can put my bed away during the work day. Though that will confuse the heck out of our cats.

Aerial view of the Bell Labs Holmdel campus

The Theater of Fear

Spring should be about renewal. But we have another Spring full of death. Officially over one million dead from COVID in the US. Along with more mass shootings in this shitty country of ours. Racist hate crimes. With the far-right indoctrinating more young men, spewing hate-filled nonsense from their platforms. It can be overwhelming. I don’t want to hide my head in the sand, but I do need to take breaks from the bleak. Here are Five Good Things:

  • The U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams will be paid equally under a new deal
  • I knew I would enjoy Our Flag Means Death but felt like I was saving it. For a rainy day or something. With all the awful news in the wider world, and some bummer news close to home (about one of our elderly cats), that was this week. I watched all ten episodes. It felt like each one was better than the last. Absolutely loved it and I look forward to season 2.

    Packed with brilliant leads and an incredible ensemble of sensitive men, strong women, and badass non-binary folks, the show is an absolute delight, dancing between serious and silly in equal measure.

  • The 99% Invisible podcast always delivers. Their most recent episode, The Missing Middle, gets to the bottom of how city policy over the last 100 years helped engineer the housing crisis in Toronto.
  • The trailer is out for She-Hulk: Attorney At Law and it looks just as ridiculous as it sounds. And I will totally watch it.
  • John Waters Is Everything You Hoped He’d Be - “I’m Tired Of Being Accepted”: John Waters Is Only Getting Grosser

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day! I posted about my experiences with GAAD going back to my first one, in 2015. It’s been great watching the accessibility movement grow but there’s still so much work to do.

self with bokeh blossoms
blossoming branches over a lake

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