Today

Just Checking In…

Today. It has been most of a month since I last posted. This post is mostly just a “state of things” post. I have homework to do for my relational database course and for my C++ data structures course, so I’ll keep things brief. This semester is almost done– woohoo. I also have tutorials I want to watch for work so I can keep working on learning how to develop web applications using Java, Spring and Maven– learning never ends. While they may be a tad outdated, I am learning Java server pages.

Learning About Relational Databases

“In a third normal form relation, every non-key attribute must depend on the key, the whole key, and nothing but the key, so help me Codd.”  If you understand this,… well you know what I am talking about. I have been trying to relate aspects of relational databases to everyday things and experiences. For instance, an update anomaly is an update of a single data value that ends up requiring multiple rows of data to be updated. To my mind it is kind of like buying a whole new wardrobe after too much pie. The whole point of normalizing data is to reduce redundancy and deal with the various anomalies that could happen.

C++ Pointers

In C++, pointers are a programmer’s best friend. Being able to keep track of the pointers without a scorecard is a handy skill. I have been practicing. It is like doing drills.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is over. I have a strange relationship to Thanksgiving, so I will focus on the gratitude part. I don’t understand a holiday celebrated by eating to excess and then spending excessively the day after. When overconsumption is killing people and the planet, Thanksgiving as it is celebrated in my opinion feels off.

Also, I am vegetarian.

Thanksgiving equates with turkey and no sculpted pseudo-turkey from whatever protein substitute quite cuts it. It is ok to let the notion of turkey go if you are vegetarian. I think Thanksgiving lasagna might be a good new tradition to start. Or just have pumpkin pie. The absurdity of those massive inflated balloons bouncing down the streets in the parades make me giggle.

Gratitude

I am grateful for many things, people, situations, opportunities, etc. in my life. Things are off and on again very challenging. I am tired often. That is just the way of things. But all of this is good because it means I am learning.

Practicing violin is magnificent because I love the feel of the violin in my hands. I like the sense of accomplishment when I move through the scales and hit the notes with precision. I am working on songs.

When my classes are over, I will do some sewing. I bought fabric earlier today. I am grateful to have money to buy fabric. The textures of the fabric and the colors please me greatly. Booker, who keeps me company while I work on homework, daily makes me smile.

Christmas is coming

We put up the Christmas tree yesterday. I am not Christian so I have a very uneasy relationship with Christmas too. Yup, most holidays I annually spend trying to figure out how I relate to them. Examined life and all that. Giving things to people I adore, please me. I like the lights. And cookies. I usually give myself a 12 cookie limit for the whole season and then spend my cookie allotment wisely.

Next time, I’ll post something with more substance. Maybe Java naming conventions because that stuff really isn’t trivial. Or how to set up a Java programming environment and just get started. Time to put my head down and work through the next few weeks. If you can spare the positive vibes, send them my way to help me get through finals.

Invisibility

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Invisibility

The Fox in Colorado

When I was in Colorado, I lived near a field. Looking out my back windows, I could see the Rocky Mountains. I watched a herd of elk move through the field. Once, I saw a mountain lion cross the grass. Near the end of the time I was in Colorado I started to catch glimpses of another creature. The fox in the summer blended with the tall grass and moved stealthily. While in winter, the fox was invisible.

The elk, the deer, the eagle that would drop rabbits on the roof, the magpies, the mountain lion, or the coyotes that ranged up and down the valley never piqued my interest as much as the fox. Sometimes, the fox would play a game of peek-a-boo with me as I walked down the road. I began watching for the fox when I went to my car, came home from work, or went for a walk. I would see him in snatches, flicks of a tail, or ears and a nose hiding in the grass.

Research

Because I watched closely, I learned the fox had a family. As a result of learning this, I did research on foxes. They often mate for life and where you find one, there is frequently a second one. My fox had a vixen and pups. Further, the fox family was always there, hunting the rodents in the field, and moving among the snow and grass, but largely invisible.

I found myself relating to the foxes. Researching deeper on totem animals and I found that the fox were associated with invisibility. Maybe I was just silly, I began to be distressed about my seeing the peeking foxes and my relating to them like a spirit animal. I did not want to be unseen. I did not want to be invisible. Invisibility is not desirable when you want to be a published author or an artist, when you want to be loved, or when you want to do great things.

The Fox in Michigan

That was three years ago. I am in Michigan now. I have gone through much. It has made me question who I am, my beliefs, my worth, what I expect from others, what I expect from myself, whether I have anything to say or do that is worth saying or doing, what I enjoy, what I want the meaning of my life to be, and more. I saw a fox in my yard the other day. It stood and looked at me before trotting off.

The fox is a koan.

Bridges


Last week I went to a permaculture design certification training at Midwest Permaculture in Stelle, Illinois. While I was there Bill Wilson, one of the incredible trainers and the owner of Midwest Permaculture, told a story about two brothers. I want to relay the story because sometimes our hearts and minds don’t reside with the same thoughts and it is important to listen to both.

Once there were two brothers who grew up as close as any two brothers could be. They were inseparable and people often thought they were twins because they were forever seen playing, talking, and running together. When they grew up they inherited their father’s farm. The brothers split the land and lived side by side. They married at similar times, had families, and their families were close.

One afternoon the brothers had a disagreement. Each was hurt by the words of the other. Each was angry and felt they were in the right. They separated and stormed off.

The first brother told his family they could no longer talk to or visit his brother’s family.

The second brother told his family the same.

Everyone was unhappy.

One afternoon while the first brother took his family in to town, the second brother began to stew. He thought about the argument. His anger was renewed. In a fit of self righteousness and anger he took out his backhoe and created a deep trench between his farm land and that of his brother (incidentally creating a swale and capturing all the water on his property– but that is another story for another time). Tired and feeling vindicated he went home.

When brother number two came home and saw the deep trench, he was furious.

The next day a traveler came down the road. He always carried his tools and when he needed a little food, a place to sleep, or some cash, he would knock on the door of a farmhouse and offer his handyman services. He knocked on the door of brother number two’s house. The brother opened the door and listened intently to the traveler’s proposal. He looked across the yard at the trench and a plot hatched in his mind. He said to the traveler, “I have lumber in the barn. I want you to build me a fence. A tall fence. A mighty tall fence. My brother and I had a falling out and I don’t want to ever see him, his family, or even his farm ever again. I have to go in to town today. Could you build this while I am gone?”

The traveler tilted his head, squinted his eyes, and nodded. “I can set to work right now.”

The brother said, “I will come back from town around dusk and I will pay you for your labor then.” The brother then showed the traveler where the building materials were and left the farm.

All day long the sounds of a hammer and a saw could be heard as the traveler worked.

When the brother pulled into his drive, he looked towards the property line between him and his brother. His eye scanned the length along the still visible trench until he saw a beautifully built bridge. He was furious. He pulled into the yard and jumped out of his pickup truck. He marched towards the traveler.

And then he saw his brother coming across the bridge, wiping at his eyes. He stopped. The traveler stood aside. The first brother walked up to the second and said, “I am so ashamed. I was so angry I was willing to destroy the love between us. I dug that trench to hurt you. And instead of hurting me back you extended a bridge.” The first brother wrapped his arms around the second brother.

As his brother held him the second brother realized he had missed the first brother and he embraced his brother and the two men held one another tight. The second brother said, “We should get everybody together for supper. We need to catch up.”

The first brother nodded and went back across the bridge to collect his family and some food to share.

The second brother turned to the traveler and asked, “Why did you build a bridge? I told you to build a fence. A tall fence.”

The traveler shuffled a bit, shrugged, and said, “Your words said fence but I could hear your heart and it was crying out for a bridge.”

The second brother smiled and nodded. “I have missed my brother. I will come clean and tell him you were the one who made the decision to build the bridge. Because of you we are talking again. I will pay you ten times what I offered this morning. I don’t think I could pay you enough.”

The traveler smiled and said, “Just pay me what we agreed, work things out with your brother, and leave me knowing I did a good deed.”

They shook and everyone broke bread together.

Maybe we can’t always build bridges, but a few more in the world and a little more connectivity between people wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Time


The concept of time changes over the course of a lifetime and for different circumstances. When I was a child summer vacations felt as though they went on forever and the distance between birthdays was just unfathomable. It felt like I had all the time in the world. When I visited South Africa the time went by all too quickly. Currently some mornings I read and research for several writing projects I am working on and two hours seem to fly. Other days I have to wait for service people and the time drags. Time is very relative.

A year ago I sent my mother flowers for Mother’s Day just as a part of the annual routine. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would send my mother flowers for Mother’s Day. Currently, I am receiving daily emails from the company I ordered flowers from asking if I would like to place an order for my mother this Mother’s Day. Last Mother’s Day feels like an eternity ago. When I sat with my mother last fall as she was dying the time went too quickly. I regretted not spending more time with her over the last few years. Her death was a smack upside the head that we really do only get so much time on this earth and being conscious of this and choosing how we spend time is important.

Currently I am working on being the person I envision being. I find I need to project management my efforts and my time. I also will easily work 80-90 hours per week and not acknowledge my accomplishments. I need to make lists to both organize myself to get everything done and to recognise when things are done.

Never before have I had quite such a grasp of how valuable my time is. Currently every morning, I review my schedule for the day and create a list of things/tasks to get done. And then I start. Never have I felt so compelled to get things done and to not waste time.

I am in a kind of transition time right now. I came to the awareness a while ago that whatever we put time and energy into is what will develop. In part I came to this on my own and what solidified it was researching and writing a biographical essay about Ai Weiwei. Ai Weiwei is probably the most influential modern artist alive at the moment. For years he worked as a day laborer (and incidentally learned to gamble and is a top-tiered blackjack player) and refused commissions that would lead his art away from his vision. He worked tirelessly and remained committed to his ideal.

I have been reading about permaculture and ecology lately. When old growth forests are cleared, if the land is allowed to regenerate on its own a type of scrub will grow in to protect the soil and water table and begin to heal the land. Weeds are beneficial to the land because they bring nutrients to the soil, can penetrate the hard pan, prevent erosion, etc. Don’t underestimate the benefit of weeds. But then as caretakers we have to come in and make choices about the use of the land. If we are wise we will imitate the progression of a natural forest and plant plants and trees that will create a full habitat for animals, insects, birds, humans, and the plants.

During transition times for people, it is a little like the time of scrub growing in. Opportunities pop up that relieve anxiety but may not be in alignment with one’s vision for what one would like their life to be. There is great deal of flailing around and trying to figure out what will work and be beneficial. More than a few weeds will come in and present ideas and more. I guess it is this task in this time period to envision what one’s life should look like in the end and engineer backwards. And then no matter if time seems to move slowly or fast, be productive or flailing, just keep working towards the vision. Try out different things and figure out what will work.

So the quality of time is relative. Time in terms of how it feels in passing is relative. But if one invests time and energy in a vision of what one wants to accomplish this is the only way to make it happen. We only have now and I want to make the best of it.