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Mediocre

I told one of my friends from grad school that I am ready for mediocre. Growing up I always felt like I wanted to do something important, something that made a difference. It’s probably why I chose nursing, although it wasn’t my first choice of careers. But I was good at science and wanted to make a difference. I also had a problem with wanting to be a people pleaser which meant I never did work without thinking most about how it would be received. That is, graded by teachers, received by patients, viewed by coworkers. Everyone else’s judgement of my work was always more important than my own. Because of that, I regularly felt crushed by feed back. I constantly thought I wasn’t good enough. A lot of ideas I had early in my adult life I would never attempt or quit because of fear of failure or criticism.

But as I got older, I started trying more doing more and trying to work past my work not being received well. I started believing I was good at some things and I worked very hard at them. But I still struggled with anxiety about failing or doing things poorly. But mostly I kept looking for ways to work hard to make a difference.

The pandemic has changed the way I think about work. Lately I’ve been thinking, I am tired of work. What’s the point of work? What’s the point of 40 hours? Who is my work for? And can my work be for me?

I think this is really an exploration of the idea that I, personally, can let go of working for others in a way that leaves very little for me. I have known this for a while. But practicing it regularly has been a challenge, because I constantly find myself jumping back into old ways of thinking. I think I should be working harder, proving my worth as an employee, looking for advancement, helping the organization be better, etc. But at the same time I feel compelled to do that, I think to myself why? Why should I? Why should I be a model employee? Why can’t I be mediocre and let things go instead.

So the other day, I told my friend I want to be mediocre. I want work to shrink in it’s importance and to let all of the other things grow. More books, more art, more hiking, more time with people I love. I am ok with not being significant and just being average.

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Newly Empty Nesters buy Van to build into a Camper Van.

#vanlife

We bought a van. We’ve been looking at vans and talking about this for like a year. We saved up the money over the last few months and bought a 2013 Ford Econoline 150 passenger van. We plan to rip out the bench seats, the carpet, etc and turn it into a camper van. I think it will be a fun project to keep us occupied in the remainder of the Pandemic and my husband has been wanting a camper van for years.

The next steps include cleaning it out and planning a floor plan for the campervan. We aren’t quite 100% on the same page with the van but we are working on it.

Things we definitely want in the van:

  • Bed long enough for me (5’10)
  • Sink for hand washing/meal prep
  • Toilet
  • Window coverings
  • Good air circulation
  • Storage
  • Room to put a mountain bike
  • Lights
  • Fridge?
  • Ceiling fan?

I’m excited about all of the possibilities for this van. So much of the things that have been hard in a pandemic in winter and that includes not being able to be out traveling and enjoying nature. Also, I have been telling my husband I want to have adventure. We all know tomorrow is not guaranteed. But we have competing priorities so we say, I can to do that later. When the kids grow up. When I retire. When I have more time. And now, the kids are grown up and later feels like now to me. So adventures, here we come!

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So this is the New Year

And I don’t feel any different.

I find that the Pandemic gives me ups and downs.

Ups: my husband has now had 2 vaccine doses. We have no debt! We have a good savings. We both work. The kids are ok. One is moving to Canada! We could do lots of things with our future.

Downs: the country is a wreck. Half of the country voted for a wreck and I find those people unrelatable. Is there going to be more vaccine? Will we ever be able to travel? I am tired of being away from people. Are we stuck in this crappy present? How much longer do we have to do this.

I’ve been reading a ton. It’s been a good way to cut the bad. I’ve read a lot of books around WWII.

Last weekend we took a trip to a little cabin with no cell signal or wifi. It was a lot of fun. I read, hiked and wrote. I did nothing for a purpose, only for enjoyment. We had no news so it was like nothing bad was real for a weekend. Time was suspended. I decided to give myself a weekend of that every month. Maybe it will get me through the next few months while things possibly get better?

My husband has seemingly adapted to living here after 3 months. He loves it, he says. He’s buying a mountain bike. Me? I’ve gotten used to 40 degree weather, but 30s are hard. I’m still cold a lot. I try to get out and walk or hike. But I still feel like this is a place we are visiting. I’m not sure what happens after April.

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So much depends on the weather

I hope you had a good Christmas.

Recently, my husband told me that Death Cab for Cutie was formed right here in the city we moved too. If you don’t know, DCFC is one of my favorite bands. And Transatlanticism is the perfect album to play with the gray winter days. I am definitely going to be listening the New Year for the new year.

We got snow on the winter solstice, and it was pretty while it was falling. It didn’t feel so unbearably cold. I even went outside in it. But the next day it was cold and icy. Poor Teddy almost fell on the steps and in the street. I almost slipped on someone else’s driveway.

It rained the day after Christmas so the snow is gone now. And luckily so is the ice. But while it was here, mornings were 27° and we were wondering how long Teddy could be outside in it. I’ve seen lots of people take pictures or videos of their dog in snow, but now that we are here, I’ve been wondering how long his paws can be out in the snow.

When we were moving here, my friend Amber told me about what’s different in Washington from living in California. Like how some railroad tracks don’t have arms that come down when a train is coming. But she also said, she had to adjust to how the weather plays a big part in what you do. And honestly, in Southern California, traffic plays a bigger role than weather.

My husband was playing a video where a guy said there is no bad weather, just bad gear and bad attitudes. I am definitely in the needs better gear and a better attitude department.

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I Am Tired of Living Through This

Will started working last week. It’s a little bit of a big deal because he worked at the same hospital for almost 20 years. This was a big change. New people. New electronic medical record. Even new IV start kits.

That’s something that people outside of nursing may not know. That when you move from one hospital to another, the charting system can be totally different. I don’t know if that happens in other jobs. I mean, microsoft word and Excel stay the same from place to place. But for nurses, everything you click on looks different. And charting is like 40% of our work.

I’ve been working at home still. We’ve been busy too. My work from home job involves reading a lot of medical records and typing up summaries about people’s cancer. It’s a lot of reading and writing mostly. With a side of worrying. I never was like that before. Maybe because most of my work has been with leukemia and lymphoma, more rare occurrences. Now I am reading about people’s melanoma, breast and colon cancers. And all of the stories are “was in their usual state of health until abdominal pain and constipation.” I know, it’s totally vague. Lots of these start off seemingly benign sounding, and then it turns out they have a malignancy. Like back pain or something and then they already have mets.

I’m glad to be at home during this covid time. Every day we hear about someone else we know who had it. Is that the same for everyone else? But I know it means I am not a priority for vaccines. My husband will probably get one soon but who knows when I will. Maybe summer? I haven’t heard an exact time line beyond healthcare personnel and there seem to be a lot of logistics with that much vaccination.

Lately on my mind is how long should we stay here? What if I can’t go to Canada? Should we go somewhere else? How long do I stay at this job? But mostly, I am tired of living in a pandemic. I am tired of the enormity of it. All of the things add up. The vigilance, the distance from people, the worry about your own health and your family’s, the economic cost, the sheer amount of loss we are all enduring…it’s just so heavy. Most days I am lucky enough to keep it as background noise. But sometimes, if I think too long on it, it feels so exhausting.

I also keep thinking, is this how the roaring 20s happened? They came off of WWI and a pandemic and just let loose. Will that happen to us too?

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Vignettes

Trash

The trash service is a little more customizable than we are used to. At home, we signed up for trash service and on the trash day, they came and picked up our green can, our regular trash and our recycling. Here you can set up your account for every other week, every week or monthly. You can also choose different size containers. The previous tenant had ever other week

We made the service every week and the first 2 weeks, we had a lot of trash. The first week, they didn’t pick it up because they thought it was still every other week. We had just moved and we had so much trash. On trash day of the second week, it was super windy in the morning. The recycling containers are 3 small plastic bins with no lids, not a big bin with a lid like we are used to. Paper, cardboard, bottles and cans are divided up in them.

Shortly after he put the trash out, Will looked out the kitchen window and saw paper, cans, and cardboard blowing across the ground. It was our trash blowing down the street and into the neighbor’s yard. He ran after it all trying to find all of the pieces.

White people

This town is 82% white. Every where you look, it’s white people. The city we came from was 63% white. It doesn’t seem like a big difference but going from 8 to 1.5% Black people and 35% of people being Hispanic/Latino to 9% is very noticeable. It’s weird to have so much less diversity. There are Black Lives Matter signs on like 50% of the businesses, which you don’t see in LA. When I say signs, I mean lettered onto the windows, not a hanging poster. I’ve been trying to figure out if it’s marketing or genuine.

We went to the farmer’s market yesterday and there was a guy making a few different filipino lunch combos. We ordered some lumpia and pancit. While we waited, ever other person who came asked what each item was and asked if it was spicy. What’s chicken adobo? What’s pancit? It was brand new to them. He told us he is trying to get a food truck.

Mushrooms

I’m not a fan of mushrooms 🍄. I don’t eat them much. Mainly in salad, preferably not cooked, and usually the basic white ones. Will has been buying different ones and trying them out. I’ve been fascinated by what we see out on the trails. On the sides of trees and under ferns. But I am still not going to eat them.

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Here Comes Christmas

We got a tree.

I made it back from Sacramento just before they locked down even more than they already had. I did a pretty good job of avoiding people on the trip, getting food to go, staying mostly in my hotel room. The airports were pretty empty and I was glad I had missed the majority of the Thanksgiving folks. My plane strategy was to sit in the back so everyone would be facing away from me if they took their mask off to eat or drink or talk.

And now we’re are headed into the holiday season. And I know for all of us it’s very different. For us there is no annual dinner and a show. Normally we eat a nice out and go to the theater with the kids. We are talking about buying tickets for the online nutcracker. You can do that to support all of those ballet companies not currently touring.

We also are probably not seeing 2 of the kids. They were planning to travel over the holidays, but as the pandemic has worsened and hospitals have gotten more full, the kids decided to stay home. I am trying to come up with fun ways to celebrate despite being apart. Even tree decorations are something we do all together. We do have one of the kids here but it’s definitely harder.

Aside from trying to manage upcoming holiday changes, the weather is getting colder. We’ve been waking up to ice on the windows. Our friend suggested a mixture of alcohol and water, but so far we haven’t been in a big hurry so we just let it melt after we start the car.

Will starts working tomorrow. He has orientation full time and then is planning to work only a couple of days a week. Weekends are still ours for walks and hiking adventures. One thing I like here is that we are in between a lake and a bay. So we have lots of opportunities to see water. I hope you all have holidays full of love despite distances.

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I Forgot How to Fly

Travel is one of my favorite things. I love trains and planes and road trips. I also love airports for people watching. But the last flight I took was back in March. We were coming back from Mexico just when they started telling Americans to hurry home. Back then we didn’t know how serious the pandemic would get. We weren’t that stressed about travel but we starting to get stressed about what would happen when we got home. My work ended up keeping me home for a week before I could go back to work.

Skip to Dec 1st. 9 months later and you’d think I have ever flown post 9/11.

I had to take a trip for an appointment. I had to go to this appointment and it was one I worked to get way back at the beginning of the year. And even though I tried to get it as a virtual appointment, I ended up having to book a flight back to California. I wish I didn’t have to go, but it is what it is. I would have driven but that would mean 4 days of driving, multiple hotels, and a lot of missed work.

It’s a little disorienting at first. The set up for TSA is a little different in keeping people six feet apart and plexiglass around TSA folks. Disorienting enough that it took an extra second to figure out where to go when. And that extra second I looked like had never flown before. Where do I stand? Where are the bins? The TSA agents were like come on lady, get it together.

I think there are going to be a few post pandemic experiences like this in our future where we will definitely be disorienting. Things we previously loved like travel. Or even simple things like eating in a restaurant.

How is the airport? Mostly empty. People wearing masks. And like every where we go, some people wear their mask like a chin strap. I just tried to stay away from everyone when possible.

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We’ve Arrived, now what?

Anyone else ever move across the country in a pandemic?

No?

A guide to relocating in a pandemic would be good. How to find a new dentist via email because you just can’t walk into a place and chat up the receptionist guide. Or how to get to know your new neighbors from a distance with a mask on but still seeming friendly guide. How to find your favorite neighborhood coffee shop when half of them close for the next month.

The bay at night

Luckily a lot of people here are friendly. But that’s a lot of what you get, friendly strangers. I am not sure how it moves past that without time near people. We did attend our first feast. Feast is like church for Baha’is. We hang out every 19 days and pray, go over the business of the community, and then do the social portion. Of course feast was on zoom. The social portion was in break out rooms. We did meet someone whose mom lives in Pasadena. That might be an avenue for meeting people.

But we are also a little uncertain about how long we will stay. We have a 6 month lease. But will we be able to go to Canada if it’s still a pandemic. And also, I prefer my work from home life over hospital life during the pandemic. Today Will and I were talking about hanging up art. And he said, if we aren’t staying should we even bother? I say yes because I care about what I am surounded by.

The unhung print I got as a gift in Israel for my husband

Those are the kind of questions we have when we aren’t working or trying learn how to exist in the rain. Teddy seems to be getting used to the rain somewhat. But if we take him out in it I worry about how cold he is. How do you know if it’s too cold for your dog?

I watched a video on snowshoeing on you tube. I’d like to try that out. It seems less intimidating than skiing.

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Weather

I knew that weather would be the hardest part of this move. I usually tell people I am allergic to frozen water. I hate the snow. I’ve lived in Southern California for 20 years. I don’t know how to live in actual winter. But here we are.

Before we left we did things like scheduled maintenance on our cars and replace the windshield wipers. Do you know how often we used our windshield wipers in SoCal? When we drove long distances and bugs were dying on the windshield, we would turn them on with wiper fluid. That’s basically it. It rains like 5 times a year. So they were sunbaked and cracked. I also bought a gortex rain coat and trail runners that are water proof. I knew I’d have to get used to existing in rain that lasts days. I also got some smart wool socks. I basically shopped the clearance at REI.

While I was unpacking, I realized I have like 3 long sleeve shirts and like 25 tank tops. And the long sleeve shirts are either for hiking or dressing nice in an interview. I have like 3 pairs of pants that aren’t capris or leggings. I don’t actually have very warm clothes. And now that I am here, I am feeling it. I’ve been trying to layer up but I also find myself working in my office with a blanket on.

And today when we got up there was ice on my car and it was 35 degrees. And I realized it’s not even as cold as it is going to get. I knew this but I was pretty focused on the rain aspect that I forgot about the cold aspect.

I know, I am being dramatic. It’s not that bad. I will live. People live in winter, right? But it is definitely an adjustment.

A 35 degree morning. Berries on a path near our place.
The wind was so cold on this evening by the bay.