Monday, November 13, 2017

Catching up (again)

It's been a little over a month, and yet again, there's been a lot of movement in the world. On the personal side, I lost my job at the beginning of November, and I'm having a bit of trouble adjusting. I've never been unemployed and out of school for an extended period of time before, and the fact that I haven't been contacted for so much as an interview yet is troubling. At the same time, being on the other side of the interview table, I know it can take weeks, even months, between the time a candidate submits an application and when they start the interview cycle, so I simply need to wait.

As for the rest of the world, well...the US has somehow managed to survive the first year of the Trump presidency, and there has been a rash of people (mostly men) who have been accused of sexual harassment and assault actually facing consequences for those actions. That, to me, is worth a lot. It means that all light in the world has not died.

Hope remains, my friends. And remember, optimism is not the same as blindness or naiveté. It simply means that one believes tomorrow can be better than today. I believe that - do you?

Monday, October 2, 2017

Rebellions are built on hope

Once again, we in the US are getting an up-close and personal object lesson in hatred. The attack in Las Vegas is leaving a lot of us speechless, and those of us who can speak can only talk about anger and fear. There's nothing wrong with that - there's fear and anger aplenty to go around, and expressing it, sharing your concerns with the people you're close to, prevents it from festering.

However, we need more. Fear and anger alone aren't enough to make the changes we need to see happen - if they were, every oppressive regime and reign of terror would end almost as soon as it began. No, we need conviction, and hope, and optimism. Those are what will drive us to make things happen.

Optimism and hope are words that tend to be very brightly colored in our society. They're the sparkly unicorn birthday cakes of words - hearing them makes one think of Care Bears and pretty, slightly dopey sidekicks who are always looking on the bright side. We tend to underestimate the power of those words. But optimism isn't Pollyanna-style thinking; optimism is the simple belief that tomorrow can be better than today. Big or small, for everyone or just for one person, forever or for just a moment, tomorrow can be better than today.

Hope and conviction are how you move from "tomorrow can be better" to "watch me make tomorrow better than today." And again, you don't have to solve all of the problems for everyone forever. Most of you are only human, after all.* But helping one person feel better for just a minute, even if (especially if) it doesn't take any extra effort on your part - that's progress. That's not to be denied. It adds up.

It's a marathon, and we all need to take breaks. I'm returning from a leave of absence at work, because I didn't take the breaks I needed until they were forced upon me. For the record, I don't recommend going that route. Be careful, be safe, ask for help when you need it, and remember that anything that improves another person's day, even just for a second, is moving us forward. So send the silly text to your folks, share the adorable animal pictures, tell that random stranger that they are really rocking their look today. It's all a Katamari of change, and it'll all roll together until it destroys the specters of hate.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Putting the call out

It's been a really scary few days here in the US. Make no mistake, the US has always had problems with racism, xenophobia, anti-semitism, and other hatred of many varieties. We just don't have daily violent demonstrations on the level of what we saw in Charlottesville this weekend.

I want to make sure, those of you who read this, that I'm here, and I'm offering any help I can give. I have a roof and food to share if you need them. I have an ear (either in person or virtually) if you need to talk, vent, cry, scream, or just be distracted from the awfulness of the world. If you need an escape, I will do everything I can to help you escape.

Please remember, you are loved. Reach out if you need anything - ANYTHING. Be safe, be careful, and keep the faith. This kind of hatred and violence only flourishes if people remain silent. As we've already seen, people aren't taking this betrayal of human rights lying down.

Friday, July 28, 2017

State of Steph report

It's been a while since I've posted. There's been a lot going on, not all of it good. I'm currently taking a leave of absence from work while I try to get my mental health back on track, which can I just say is bloody weird. I don't spend much time and energy focusing on myself, and intellectually I know it's good that I'm doing so now - it's just hard to fight the "wrongness" of it, too.

The goal right now is to essentially be a lump for the first few days - reading, watching TV, and not doing much otherwise. I'm currently on a run of food micro-histories, which has been a lot of fun. I'm also hoping to spend more time writing, but I'm trying not to make this leave all about writing - if I did, I know I would just beat myself up if I didn't get "enough" done.

So. If nothing else, I'm hoping to blog a little more often, so hopefully you'll see a bit more from me here. Take care of yourselves, everybody.

Friday, June 23, 2017


He thinks I slay dragons.
Me? I don't know.
The beasts I thought dead keep coming back
(Maybe they were hydra instead?).

I can only wound, not kill,
They bruise but don't bleed.
My blade drives them away for moment,
To wait and attack another day.

One beast, maybe two at a time,
I can fence and parry away.
But waves after waves, all coming at once
With more teeth that snap and claws that snatch
Dodging, biting, scratching, attacking,
All I can do is dance and pray
(Let my sword stay true, let my shield stay firm,
Don't let them in, please, don't let them win)
And my dance and my prayers aren't enough.

He thinks I slay dragons.
Me? Not today.
Today is for whetstones, and repair, and rest.
Today is for caves and hidden tears and sleep.
Tomorrow? Tomorrow, sword shining bright,
We'll see what these lizards bring to the fight.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Reaching a hand out

I grew up in the Southern Baptist church. My formative years were spent going to Sunday school and Awana on Wednesdays, reading the Bible and asking questions in class. That last part got me in trouble a few times, and I'm not going to say it was perfect, but it definitely left me with some strong beliefs beyond just a religious foundation.

Service is a big part of the church. The example of the apostles, who gave up everything to follow and serve the Lord and the people who needed them, is held as the Platonic ideal of Christianity. If someone has a need, you fill it. Sacrifice is part of the deal - you give of yourself to help others.

Now, I freely admit that I tend to go overboard a bit with the "giving of myself" part, and will put everyone first ahead of myself. Selfishness is still a really hard thing for me to accept, because my definition of what's "selfish" tends to include what most people consider "taking care of yourself." I'm working on it.

The important part, though, is that one of the main tenets of Christianity, one of the big pillars of the faith, is taking care of those in need. It's something I think a lot of "Christians" forget about, in their rush to keep their ideals and beliefs from being tarnished by outside influences. It's not just about faith, either - it's just being a decent human being.

If you're reaching a hand out, it should be to help someone up, not push them down or shove them aside. And it's perfectly acceptable to keep your hands to yourself if you don't have the strength to help someone up. It's even OK to reach out for help yourself.

Take care of yourselves, friends. The roads a little bit bumpy and dark, but we can make it together.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Power-saving mode

Recently, my work space has shifted, and I'm finding it's affecting me much more than I anticipated. Previously, I had been in a large team room with one other person, and we had control over the lighting in the room. As we both have issues with light sensitivity, this meant that the overhead lights were off most of the time. Additionally, the team room was in an out of the way corner, so there weren't many people who would drop by just to chat. It was a lovely space.

Now, my desk is in essentially the opposite of all of that. I'm in a cubicle surrounded by other people, many of whom are quite gregarious. I have no control over the lighting, and there are overhead lights in addition to two bit windows; as it's getting to be late spring/early summer in the Pacific Northwest, this means a fair amount of sun. It's definitely been an adjustment.

One thing that I noticed is that being in such an open space, having so many people around and near-constant interaction in person, is a lot more draining than I had expected. I've always been an introvert, so it's not completely surprising that dealing with people is draining, but it's become physically exhausting. Lately, though, I've found a way to help myself stay focused and productive - I let myself go into power-saving mode for a day, as needed.

When you look at your average smartphone, there are probably a dozen different processes running at any given time. The network is constantly checking for updates to the various social media feeds and email inboxes; different apps are in a state of readiness, waiting to reopen in an instant; and of course, it's ready and waiting for a phone call. This drains the battery, and the longer it stays in this state, the faster the battery will drain.

Putting the phone on power-saving mode helps the battery last longer until you can recharge it completely. It shuts off some of the processes that aren't completely essential - maybe you can force an update to your Twitter feed, rather than having every new tweet show up automatically. Things like that allow the phone to reserve its battery and focus its processing power on the essentials.

When I say I'm in power-saving mode, I am basically removing myself from the in-person energy drain by working from home or in one of the quiet rooms at my office. It's turning off the part of me that needs to be "on" when working face to face with people, being ready to handle any questions or random bits of chit-chat that come my way, and lets me focus on being productive with the things I need to do.

Ideally, I'll be able to adapt and not need to save energy this way every week, but in the meantime this has been helping me. I know I have a lot of introverts among my friends, so it might be worth figuring out when you can go into power-saving mode yourself, or what that would mean for you.