Thursday, February 22, 2007

Digging my ditch

Last Friday, we went south of the city to visit a few old project sites, only to discover that one of our ever-rising creeks (thanks, development!) finally exhausted a client's already short fuse. He was tired of it eroding his property line and threatening the hundred year-old stack of sticks shed at the water's edge. So, he did what any rational person would do.

He made a pond.

And by "made a pond," I mean borrowed a neighbor's backhoe and dug a 10-foot hole in the middle of his yard, near enough to the creek that the crumbling bank is likely to collapse at any time. Surprisingly, officials noticed the sudden emergence of a pond where no such thing had existed previously, and they told him to fill the damn thing up again before they fined him.

But the pond, having been made, is apparently staying. The officials are probably too afraid of his massive pond-digging tools to mess with him.

His next door neighbor? That guy looked at the creek, looked at his sloping property, and decided, "Hey, I know where to build a great house! Right in the depression next to the creek!" Just to be sure he really enjoyed the full benefits of annual flooding, he made sure that nobody put any pesky stilts under his house. No sir, just wet, wet floors for that man.

Naturally, of course, both the pond and the soggy house are our faults. Stupid third parties, trying to mediate. Should've just dredged the damn creek and buried the channel in concrete.

Meanwhile, a third party is busy sabatoging our tree plantings by using deer antlers to scrape away all the bark. In February.

I really want to be there when the person's in action, just to wander up and innocently ask where all the antler-wearing deer come from in the middle of winter.

Gotta love my job. Beaver management and landowner pacification. At least I'm never bored, right?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Constantly unfolding

Keeping busy is the name of the game these days, so I'm taking photography classes next month and starting a shoreline naturalist training program a little later. Not a lot else going on, but these did show up at work a few days ago:

He's a very smart boy. Not only are these flowers beautiful (and fragrant), but they're also sustainably harvested:

We aren't usually big on Valentine's Day, but this year I couldn't wait for a little bit of romance. Flowers and gifts do make a difference sometimes, especially when you know they put some thought into the why of the gift.

I've also discovered that we're a source of inspiration, which anyone who knows us should find unsettling. The maniacs wreaking havoc at Crate and Barrel? Inspiring? But I've had several friends tell me recently that whenever they're despairing over their LDRs, all they have to do is think of us. Presto! Instant mood elevator. Sure, this sucks, but at least we're not Eco and CB! These friends have spurred me to set a new goal: find a friend whose partner is even further away, ideally in a country where U.S. citizens can't enter legally.

Hmmm. Anybody know any couples separated by an ocean or two for at least three years?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

It's just a little crush

Poor CB. He has competition.

Some of those pictures do not do Kate Walsh (aka Addison Shepherd of Grey's fame) justice, but seriously, she is the most smoldering on-screen presence since, well, I don't know what. Sure, it might have been better for my self-esteem to never realize how uniquely attractive some women can be without trying -- but I gotta admit, after marathoning my way through the second season, I sure do enjoy looking at her anyway. ;)

Sorry, love. We can now update my lust list to include Zach Braff, Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Kate Walsh. Hey, a girl can dream...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Just another day at the office

You know, going from zero bike miles per week to 14 bike miles per day probably isn't the best decision one could make. Although, I'm not the only slightly crazed outdoorsy person in my office. Here's how my first conversation went this morning:

Me: "Hey."

Alex*: "Hey."

"How are you?"

"Not so good." Grimacing, Alex tries to stand. "I kinda busted my ankle on a run yesterday. Check it out."

I admire his battle scar, which, judging by the large purple contusion around his entire calf, is likely more than a sprained ankle.

"How're you?"

I wince. "Not great, either. Did you know that sore glutes can actually make migraines feel pleasant by comparison, when you force those glutes to propel you up one of our city's finest hills?"

Alex looks sympathetic. "How're they doing?"

"Tight as rocks."

I look at him. He looks at me. I realize it is my tenth day on the job, and I am talking to a co-worker about my butt. In an entirely nonsexual, frankly off-putting manner.

"This isn't really a normal office, is it?"

"No. Not at all."

*not his real name

Monday, February 12, 2007

With love, from me

Dear Internet friends,

You are all lovely people. I can't tell you how much better I'm feeling after your calls, posts and emails. Just having you in my life makes it much, much easier to bear things of late.

Well, that, and getting to meet with landowners in a place I will never dare mention by name. It's always enlightening to see firsthand what happens when government agencies don't handle rural landowners with sensitivity. Namely, Operation Sneaky (no, I am not kidding), in which you drive the county off your property with some help from neighbors, then declare war on the resident beaver population while the county gnashes its teeth at your front gate. Damn beavers, damming everything.

We also encountered a recently exploded meth lab while investigating a giant beaver dam on a different site. Clearly, the mammoth proportions of the dam indicate a positive correlation between beaver production and exposure to methamphetamines. Drugged-out rodents with giant teeth are fearsome creatures.

And then, there was the guy who didn't have a phone, or electricity, and who's fondly referred to by his neighbors as "that guy who's always spending time in one of our finest correctional facilities." To quote one acquaintance, "He's a real nice guy. I'm just surprised you found him. I thought he was still in jail." He was sitting in the driveway when we showed up after trying fruitlessly to reach him on his imaginary phone. He didn't seem overly surprised to see us, just a little taken aback that we hadn't called.

So, here's to friends, meth labs, and beavers. And an extra toast to whoever finds me Googling for porn and drugs after I post this. Sorry about that, buddy.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Be calm, be brave, it'll be okay

Fuck. What was I thinking when I thought I could do this?

We haven't even been apart for two months, and there are fissures running the length and breadth of me. I can't touch him, hold him, kiss him, see him. The curse of multiple time zones means we're lucky to talk more than a few hours per week, and we usually can't help but catch each other right before bed or just before dawn.

It's quiet and rainy here tonight, and suddenly I don't know if I can fight hard enough to get through this. Two years? Twenty-four months of this? I feel like my whole world is coming to pieces. I'm just scared that without meaning to, we'll drift apart. We're busy people, busy by nature, most satisifed when we're flying between half a dozen tasks and events, brains chattering at dizzying speeds. When we live together, it's hard enough to "be" together for any amount of time. When we're apart? Like any couple in an LDR, we fill the hours to avoid thinking about the hurt and the loneliness -- but in cramming the waking life full, we don't let ourselves have time to miss each other. It's a double-edged sword: it doesn't hurt as much, and it's probably the only thing that lets us slog through every day without collapsing -- but it almost means we have to detach to survive. And what if we can't stop detaching? What happens when we get to see each other for a whopping two weeks this summer, and then go apart again? And again? And again? What if we grow apart without meaning to? Without realizing the space between us until it's too late?

There aren't any easy answers. It's happening to more and more people we know: if you aren't fortunate enough to share the same career interests (and, sometimes, even if you are), you may be bound for a time apart should you marry young. We knew it, and we knew it, and we knew it...but then it comes down to the wire and you realize that what we knew doesn't compare to what it feels like when it happens. But what are we supposed to do? Is one of us supposed to give it all up, which doesn't do anything but sow seeds of resentment that spring up overnight like dandelions? Is it even possible to find a middle ground where we can both do what we like without going apart for what we love?

Fuck. Sometimes I wish I could just be happy doing anything, and it kills me that I can't. And yet, I get frustrated when people suggest that this is the problem. No one ever asks why he can't give up his path. It's like it all comes down to me, the onus is on me, the problem is me. And the only one who doesn't see it that way -- even when I'm questioning whether they're right -- is him.

In the end, maybe that's why this has to work, even if it hurts in ways I didn't think were possible. Because the only one who understands me is eight thousand miles away. And I'd be a damned fool to let that keep us apart without a fight.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Warning: temporary depression ahead

Sometimes, I miss my husband more than I ever thought possible. Like now, when I work an 11-hour day, completely alone in the office, trying to organize and run an entire auction on a budget that might not even allow for real letterhead.

In the future, I'd better be able to look back on the last two years and say, "Oh yeah. Now I see the reason for all of that," because if I can't? If I can't, then I don't really know why I'm perpetrating self-inflicted torture now by moving back overseas and trying to establish a career in a field that's alternatingly invigorating and insomnia-inducing. For real. I don't know if I'm going to sleep tonight because I'm so worried that we can't even afford the postage for the freaking bulk mail solicitations I need to send.

I miss him so fucking much.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Let's go exploring

I'm sorry for leaving you in suspense for so long (and the fact that anyone cares is really sweet).

But yes, I have a job. An Official Title job which entails real responsibilities, as there are fewer people in my office than fingers on one hand. The position includes orchestrating our annual fundraiser auction (scheduled for spring, and no work done yet! Eeep!), co-organizing the volunteer projects; doing public outreach, presentations, etc; digging into restoration policy; and a few other things. Hence, the slight panic: this is a serious, serious job. I insisted I never wanted to be an admin assistant again, and it remains true -- but I'm realizing that the perk to admin was that I never really had to be held accountable for anything. The worst I could do was transfer a few phone calls to the wrong desk or missplace something of moderate importance, like our housing bills. Now? Now, I could singlehandedly throw an organization into chaos by double-booking the auction venue or wrecking the company truck. (Have I mentioned that both trucks are stick shifts, which I can't drive? Do you SEE why I'm working on my first ulcer?)

As strange as this may sound to anyone who's been in the workforce for awhile, it also feels very, very odd to have a "real" real job. This isn't something I can leave in a year to finish grad school (that comes later), or something I can just do on a whim to keep me occupied in between classes. More than anything else I've done, this feels like serious adulthood, and I'm feeling a little ambivalent about it. While I'm thrilled to actually be in the field I wanted and to have a job which will challenge me by making me stretch in a dozen directions at once, I also feel a little wistful. So much for doing the over-romanticized coffeehouse job while writing my novel between shifts. No spontaneous "pack it up and travel" moments coming soon. I'm really envious of people who can do those things, but I think I learned this year that I can't. I need more structure, as well as a role that feels like it's really "doing something"...and I'm a little disappointed in myself as a result. I'm afraid I won't finish that novel, or do that traveling, and even though I know those fears are exaggerated right now, they still nibble at me when I'm lying in bed. Here comes the nontraditional student in grad school, the mortgage (if we can ever afford one), the itemized taxes and IRAs and scheduled vacation time. Part of me's relieved, and the rest wants to run screaming to the nearest bar...which probably explains why I spent Friday night in the tub with a giant Bloody Mary.

At the same time, I'm totally stoked about this job and think that it will be a perfect way to launch the environmental policy career I'm hoping to have. This is going to let me get involved with every aspect of an organization, and it's a group which straddles the nonprofit-government border while also working with the private sector. I wish I could tell you all about it, but I don't feel like getting dooced anytime soon...and with such a small office, you know I'll have stories to tell.

Tomorrow is my second day, and I'm already going to be alone in the office all week. In that time, I have to select two or three venues for the event while remaining mindful of our microscopic budget, and I also need to prep all of our PR materials and start identifying potential donors. So much for easing into things! But life is good, and I just hope I can perform well enough to convince them to keep me. On the bright side, I do get to keep the eyebrow, the jeans, and the bike-to-work habit. I may be getting dragged into full-blown adulthood, but I have a healthy clump of my less-responsible side clutched between my fingers. Aren't you thrilled you get to come along for the ride? ;)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Shout it out

One guess what finally happened today, based on these two back-to-back reactions.

Let's see...utter elation (note to self: do not be elated often, as it looks like I could frighten children and small dogs with that expression), followed by actual situation setting in...well, I'll let you stew on it. ;) Full meditation on the event coming tomorrow.