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BouckFamilyFB-45(1)Hi there friend, and welcome to my blog. I started writing on the internet more than ten years ago, first anonymously as “pilgrimgirl” and later under my own name.  I began as pilgrimgirl because at the time I was studying journey narratives and had a feeling as though I was starting on a new path with an unknown destination. Since I began writing online I’ve started and finished a PhD program, left the Mormon church and became a Quaker, got divorced, started a history podcast, found full-time work in academia, took up rock climbing and outrigger canoeing, and traveled across the globe (China! Belgium! Italy! Chicago! Montana! Portland! Gettysburg! and oh-so-many points in-between).  For my 38th birthday and 25th anniversary of my bone cancer diagnosis,  we (meaning me and you) bought legs for a young double-amputee from China.

You might have happened upon this blog because you’ve heard of my work in the digital humanities or because you are curious about living with a disability or because you are also in the midst of a faith transition.  Click on any of the links above to find my posts about those particular topics (or use the dropdown links in the nav bar on the blog header).  Or, feel free to read a little bit of anything and everything by using the archive links on the right sidebar.

This blog is eclectic and random–it has poetry and cooking and books.  And cats.  And flowers.  And the ocean (my ocean).  But in that sense it’s a good reflection of me and my wide-ranging, far-reaching, magpie curiosity.

It’s a Known Issue

We just barely saw the sun through the clouds  as it slipped into the horizon.

We just barely saw the sun through the clouds as it slipped into the horizon.

“I need some ocean air” I texted to him, as I was packing up to leave work.  So I drove towards Newport Beach, picked him up from the office and we pulled a parking spot just as the sun was hovering close on the horizon.  Then we hopped out of the car and headed across the street to the bench where we’ve sat so many times before to watch the setting sun.

I noticed that when I stepped off of the curb my knee felt a bit stiff, but I ignored that feeling.  I was focused on the sunset and not on my gait.  But then when we were about a foot from our bench, I dropped to the pavement.  My knee had completely given way and had buckled underneath me.

The jogging couple walking behind us stopped abruptly.

“Is she okay?” they asked.

Meanwhile, I was gauging how bad it was.  I’d fallen just as I should.  No obvious scrapes or sore places, although I suspected that I’d torn a hole in my skirt.  And I didn’t want to stand back up immediately, knowing that if I did I would probably fall right back down.

As the couple from behind us hovered in concern I almost said to them, “It’s a known issue.” But checked myself and said cheerily “No problem, I’m fine!”  And they passed, confused as to why I was still on the ground.

It happened yesterday, too, this falling–on the blistering hot asphalt of a cafe parking lot, which was really not a very fun place to try to troubleshoot the malfunction.  Because of that I almost headed into the repair shop first thing this morning, knowing that a failing knee wouldn’t be a plus as I navigated my workday.  But the knee acted normally as I tested around the house and in the garden before heading to work.  I figured that the fall yesterday was an odd blip and the quick reboot of the microprocessor that I’d done in the parking lot had resolved the problem.

But now that it’s happened twice, I’d say that it’s gone from a one-time blip to being a “known issue” that’s got to be escalated to a professional.  Because falling can be risky (and painful) and particularly inopportune if I’m carrying food or my laptop.

So I’ll get a loaner knee ASAP and send mine back to the factory for service.  And as I do so I will marvel at the fact that I can swap out my knee almost just as easily as I upgraded my iPhone last week, with all of the settings and customizations are preserved “as is” so I can get back to my everyday routine just as soon as possible.

When “the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time…”

A favorite tea (which always reminds me of my friend Sara, who first introduced me to Kusmi)

A favorite tea (which always reminds me of my friend Sara, who first introduced me to Kusmi)

Recently my office moved and I acquired a new set of colleagues, as well as gaining a new set of IT-related responsibilities.  Such changes bring challenges–not the least of which is the necessity of solving problems with new-to-me team members.

As a result of these changes, I found myself at my desk later than I’d expected tonite, trying to understand some messy data and longing for a crystal ball to appear to give some clarity to a process that was feeling really murky.

And then a colleague came around the corner and offered me a cookie.  It was a small gesture and a generous one given that he, too, was staying late and staring at that similarly messy data on his screen.  But that moment of solidarity meant a lot and was so-so much bigger than a few carb-calories.  In a very good way it reminded me of this night and the stranger who offered me a cookie at a moment when I was hopeless.*

It reminded me that I want to be the kind of a colleague who is always there with a cookie when the going gets rough. Because even at the hardest of times (and after the longest of work days), there is always space for kindness.

*And because Proust and because I also had a cup of tea at the ready to enjoy with my cookie…

 

 

returning

A view of the veggies #inthegarden #theresnoplacelikehome

A photo posted by @janaremy on

It seems a season of returns, for me.  I just barely returned to work after having to take off three weeks due to an urgent medical issue.  I am about to return to the classroom, after a summer away from teaching responsibilities.  Earlier this season I returned to vegetable gardening, a hobby that’s been on hold for about five years.  And perhaps most largely, I feel as though I am returning to being myself again, after several months (years, even) of struggling with health challenges that left me drained of my typical vim.

I have intentions of other returns, soon.  As soon as my doctor gives me the thumbs-up, I will return to outrigger canoeing and to daily yoga and to evening neighborhood walks and to globe-trotting.  I expect that not to be far away(!).

It seems that I also have the inclination to return to writing.  For so many (many) months I simply lost interest.  It felt like anything I wanted to say had already been said.  Or that I simply wanted to read long novels and putter in the soil and giggle with friends and watch BBC comedies, instead of throwing out my thoughts at a keyboard.

But those writing feelings are coming back again.  I don’t know if they’ll stick or if they’ll get subsumed in the other stuff that’s keeping me busy these days.

We shall see.

 

31st anniversary

Today was the anniversary of the day that I was diagnosed with bone cancer, probably the single worst day of my life.  It’s generally a tough one for me, although some years are better than others.

Some small pleasures from today:

  • sharing my salmon dinner with Ellycat
  • lighting candles on the fireplace mantle of my new, but still empty, house.  Imagining what it will look like once I get the furniture all moved over
  • teaching a workshop on one of my favorite digital tools, Zotero (because I can wax rhapsodic about the beauty of my footnotes)
  • some of my students dropping by the house, to chat and munch on cookies
  • walking to and from work, with confidence.  Not taking even one single step for granted.  Feeling grateful for mobility and strength.

moving right along…*

grapevine

Photo taken of the grapevines on the front fence of our current home. I’m sad to know that we’ll be leaving these behind, but the new house has a huge avocado tree, orange tree, and a well-developed herb garden…

Last night my son and I were watering our vegetable/herb garden at dusk and the smell was so achingly familiar. Of lavender and tomatoes and sage and basil.  And dark wet soil. Grassy and fecund.  It was the smell of the community garden plot that I nurtured for a decade.  What rich and pleasant memories that scent evoked.

Oddly enough, our garden is not at the wee corner bungalow where we moved last fall.  Our garden is at a house down the street, where we will move at the end of this month.  After eight months of living on this busy corner we realized that it was time to seek somewhere a bit quieter, with a bit more space and no grass (because who wants grass when there are so many other lovely less-thirsty plants to enjoy?).  It also has a pergola-covered back patio for our late summer evening parties and a small back house for a robotics workshop/guest lodging.

So, a few weeks ago we moved our raised garden bed plantings over to the new place, a barrow-full at a time.  Everything survived the move and is thriving in its new raised-bed location.  We even picked our first tomatoes and peppers yesterday!

While I am over-the-moon excited about the new house, lately I’ve been wondering whether I simply move too much.  At last count, I’ve moved 14 (soon to be 15) times in the past two decades, which doesn’t even account for my sabbatical wanderings last summer. There’s no moss growing on this rolling stone, that’s for sure!  But…I am starting to think that it’s time to put down roots for awhile, rather than living lightly and moving on so readily.

Being mobile is exciting and freeing, but it also has its consequences–one never has to invest much when one knows that everything is only temporary.  In so many ways, my mobility has been a defense mechanism, to prevent me from caring too much about any one place or any specific community. It also simply doesn’t seem to fit me anymore.  After all these years of being able to pack up and move on a dime, I want to stay put for awhile and accumulate a bit too many things and let myself settle into a home and a community.  I want to know my neighbors.  And their kids and their dogs.  And whether they like red or white…so when I see them coming I can make sure that I have a bottle at the ready.

*this phrase always reminds me of Super-Sara.  I still miss her so much.

a small list of advice for getting through a divorce

A few friends have recently asked me for advice about getting through the tough few initial weeks of a divorce.  My advice to them, based on what I did well during my first few weeks separated from my then-spouse:

  • I exercised every single day. This was my obligation to myself because I knew I would have imploded otherwise. I lifted weights/swam/yoga’d/paddled/rock-climbed/etc.
  • I surrounded myself with a tribe of supporters that I could call or text at any time of day or night. Most of these friends had been through a divorce themselves, so they “got it.”
  • I threw myself into meeting new people that had no idea about my divorce. I met them online or in cafes or at the gym or at the Huntington (where I was on fellowship at the time).
  • I re-made my home into a place that I loved, room by room excavating every bit of my ex’s junk out if my life. I started with the bedroom–new linens & rearranged the furniture. If something brought bad memories of my marriage, it went into the trash. I only kept the things that I loved and that made me feel good.  If there were “important” documents that I couldn’t face in the moment but I also couldn’t throw away, I put them into a box to deal with later (FWIW, I just barely went through that box and I’m glad that I waited a few years so I was clear-headed as I made choices about what to keep).
  • But perhaps most importantly, I kept working.  I didn’t miss a day of being at my desk and in the off-hours I was pounding away at my dissertation.  Despite the turmoil in so many aspects of my life, work was a bedrock-constant dependable thing and that kept me well-centered to face everything else.

off-season

Some of the off-season crew on a Saturday morning paddle.

Steering some of the off-season crew on a Saturday morning paddle.

Winter is “off-season” for outrigger canoeing, so my team doesn’t practice regularly.  It is a  much less-desirable time of year for being on the water–it’s cold, stormy, and the days are short.

But it’s precisely all of those undesirable reasons that make off-season paddling so fun to me.  There’s a small hardy band of half-a-dozen paddlers that comes together every Wednesday for a nighttime jaunt–an easy 8 miles or so of canoeing from the Back Bay to the Harbor mouth (and when we’re lucky, all the way out to the bell buoy).  There’s an irreverence to the off-season that is potty humor and in-jokes, plenty of near-misses with docks and channel markers and whatever mysterious dark detritus floating alongside our boat (a dead sea lion? a dead bird? a bag of beach trash?).  But it is also the beauty of bioluminescent plankton and a sky full of stars.  It is a Jerry moonlight serenade after we cross the PCH bridge and it is Lynn’s unmistakable and infectious laugh. It is pirates at Halloween and twinkling lights for the holiday parade.  It is cold toes and noses and ears and fingers, and that occasional balmy Santa Ana breeze that greets us as we round the bend of the Back Bay. It is paddling for the for the sheer joy of being on the water and in the water, with friends.

But tonight regular Team Imua season practice begins.  It is time to prepare for races, to polish our form and build our strength.  Of course that’s all good (especially the strengthening part), but I’ll still be missing the off-season, more than a bit.