PC to Mac…What Was I Thinking?

Yeah? Well, you did a SHIT job.

Yeah? Well, you did a SHIT job.

I’m writing from the screen of my twice-as-expensive-as-any-other-laptop-I’ve-ever-purchased-before MacBook Pro.

I’ve been a PC user for years. Because PCs are cheaper.

“You’re a book author now,” Lou said. “It’s time you get yourself a good piece of equipment. As a musician, I wouldn’t hesitate to spend money on a quality instrument.”

Since this thing arrived, I’ve (taking a deep breath and using grown-up corporate words) been challenged by the transition in the following ways.

No right click. God, I miss the right click. It was so nice to be able to have all my options at my fingertips (well, my right hand ring fingertip, to be accurate).

Only a “delete” key. So the “delete” key functions like the backspace key and I don’t have a delete key at all. This means I can only eliminate the text behind my cursor and not in front of it. As a writer, I require full functionality to erase my work from every direction, dammit.

Hidden scroll bar. I actually had to change settings in order for the scroll bars to show up. Come on!

Icon overload. Everything is a flippin’ icon. There are no actual WORDS on my desktop. A little explanation would be nice.

Minimizing is a problem. Here’s a new one I just discovered. I maximized the window. Now I can’t figure out how to shrink the damn thing back down. I guess I’ll google THIS basic move, too.

No right click. I already covered this. But the amount of red-eyed craziness this is causing warrants a 2nd mention.

I have many more complaints. Please tell me this gets better.

My Mom Had a Stroke. And How Are You?

I'd rather not see this again anytime soon.

I’d rather not see this again anytime soon.

When my mom had a mild stroke almost five weeks ago, I turned Lou and said, “I think I need to blog through this. It will help me. And maybe it will help someone else.”

Jesus. I’m really glad I didn’t.

First of all, now that my mom is walking on her own, fixing meals, and completing chores, it seems like a real whiny thing to do. Writing about my “struggles” during this experience is insulting to anyone who has had to endure a normal or severe stroke. Heck, it’s insulting to describe MY struggles at all. I’m not the one who can’t use her left hand.

Five weeks ago, however, I didn’t know everything would be okay. I completely lost the ability to imagine improvement. I guess that’s why they call it a crisis.

But things have improved. Including my attitude. And to celebrate, I’m capturing some of this crazy business in a list.

Ten Things About My Mom’s Stroke (in no particular order)

1. “Don’t freak out.” That was the lede when Brother #1 called to tell me mom was in the ER. I didn’t freak out. Not until much later.

2. My freak out. On her first night in the hospital, she assured us all that we should go home to sleep in our own beds. Lou, after picking up takeout for me, scooped me up from the hospital to take me home. By the time I arrived home, I was sobbing hysterically. Lou simply gathered a few things for me then drove me all the way back to the hospital so I could spend the night with Mom.

3. I ate a sandwich. This, in itself, is not memorable. But when you eat a sandwich on the drive back to the hospital mid-freak-out, it’s quite a sight. Sobbing with tears and boogers streaming, I moaned, “Why the FUCK did this happen?!?!” over and over. Meanwhile, I was shoving a sandwich in my mouth as avocado and tomato slices slid out from between the bread. I picked up the avocado slices with my fingers and ate them. I didn’t have a napkin. (This item would also make my list of top five most unattractive moments of my entire life.)

4. I forgot. Lou tells me that in the days following the stroke, he managed to sneak me away one morning for a hike on North Mountain. I have absolutely no memory of this. None.

5. Hair is down. When I arrived with Lou and Brother #3 in the hospital, Mom’s hair was down. Gray, wavy, and thick, it covered most of the pillow. She always wears her hair in a french braid because she hates having it in her face. As soon as we walked in, she burst into tears. Then she asked me to braid her hair.

6. I learned how to french braid. “Who did your braid?” I asked Mom the other day. I figured it was her friend, Sammie (the other frequent braider). “You did,” my mom answered. I felt proud. It was a fine braid.

7. Mom squeezed my hand. On day one, her left hand couldn’t do anything. One morning during week three (or so) I put my hands in hers. She looked me right in the eyes, scrunched her brow, and squeezed my hand. I squealed.

8. Spring training. Mom spent two weeks at Scottsdale Osborn Hospital. While I stared out her window, endless families flooded the streets to watch spring training baseball games. They were wearing ridiculous hats, drinking beer (or whatever), hopping in pedi-cabs, and having a blast. I was in hell. But I was happy for them.

9. I became a lady. Sorry to be gross, but this was total bullshit. The day of the stroke, I unexpectedly got my “lady-times” while we were all at the hospital. Whatever!

10. I got mad. I wish I could tell you that I handled this entire thing with grace, love, and patience. I didn’t. Not even close. But I’m not ready to write about that yet.

The National Trail

IMG_1958

This was just the beginning…

I’m cuddling up on the couch with my blanket, laptop, and favorite cat right now.

My mind keeps wandering, however, to the National Trail.

The National Trail travels the South Mountain Park from end to end. It’s like walking from 40th Avenue to 40th Street. Except that you have to walk up and down a bunch of mountains to get there. It’s 14.7 miles total. I haven’t yet calculated the elevation gain but it felt like 2,000 feet (cumulative).

This is Lou.

This is Lou.

IMG_1997

This is Stephanie (she’s the best).

Lou, our friend Stephanie, and I met before sunrise at the park’s Central Ave entrance Sunday. After searching for scorpions with a black light, cramming bagels in our mouths, and taking a final bathroom break with the luxury of running water (in most cases), we set out from the west end of the park.

Within the first few miles, we started climbing. And climbing. And climbing some more. It wasn’t until mile 9 when the endless pattern of steep ascents, descents, and then ascents to climb back up the elevation we had just trekked down finally let up.

This was unexpected. I had told my hiking companions that I anticipated just one major climb that would last 2 miles. Oops.

Close to the Kiwanis Trail.

Close to the Kiwanis Trail.

We took it like a bunch of pros. Especially Stephanie. She has joined us on a few hikes throughout this book project and though she’s in great shape, she hasn’t had the 70+ hikes Lou and I have enjoyed to refine her endurance. In spite of this, she pushed on without complaint and stayed at our heels the entire time. I feel funny saying this (because I’m not her parent), but I was so damn proud of her.

In fact, I was proud of all three of us. No one freaked out. No one got angry. No one even got grumpy.

Instead, we joked and chatted (between heavy breathing) for the entire 7.5 hours.

There aren’t very many people who can pull off 7.5 hours of constant exercise with such finesse. I feel lucky to know at least two.

Seriously...what is IN THAT HOLE?

Seriously…what is IN THAT HOLE?

“I almost want to say that hike on Sunday was spiritual,” Stephanie texted to me today.

I completely agree.

Writer’s Note: Upon further inspection, this trail was actually 14.7 miles. Not 15.5 as originally written.

Neglect

Nose to the grindstone.

Nose to the grindstone.

The photo above illustrates the reason behind my recent and ongoing neglect of this blog.

If you don’t understand what the photo above means, read about it here (each stripe represents a completed hike review for my book).

I’m so tired.

Dad Knows Best

And here it is...still limping along.

And here it is…still limping along.

I should not be blogging right now. I should be writing my book.

I’m in the total-freak-out stage of this writing project. Now that I’m settled into my corporate job (I’m very happy there), I’ve developed a new discipline to devote 9-10 hours per week to this book. I can only hope this is enough.

I’m stressed to the max.

But I’ve been writing this blog post in my head for months and it’s time to get it out.

It’s about my camera.

When I graduated college in 2006, this Canon Power Shot A540 was my Dad’s gift to me. I’m going to send the link to this blog to my dad later today so he’ll soon learn that this was so not what I wanted. At the time, I had given my then-fiance very specific instructions to tell my dad that I wanted an iPod.

Instead, I got the camera.

“I figured that, with your new job at the New Times, you could use a camera for your work when you’re out reporting stories and such,” Dad told me.

Then I started my job and quickly accepted the assignment to take pictures of party people once a week for a column called Club Candids. I despised the gig but the money was way too good to pass up. This camera was with me all the way. It somehow survived bars, clubs, and dance nights each week for three years solid.

Today, the lens is missing its cover. The screen on the back is scratched to hell. The flash only works if you flick the bulb five times with your finger before you take the photo. The wrist strap is so caked with dried booze and grime, the woven threads are now all leathery and gross.

I promised myself I’d buy a new camera so I could take excellent photos for my book. I planned to use my sad, sad Canon only for the first few hikes. But I got busy and lazy and I didn’t want to do the research needed to buy a new camera.

Today, I’m more than halfway done with my list of hikes and this beat up little thing has captured some gorgeous photos…some are even good enough for the cover (according to my publisher’s Graphics Coordinator).

Dad knows best!

Visualize This

This photo makes me think of Phoenix. Then I think of the silhouetted power lines I often see in the evening. That makes me remember a tattoo that a friend of mine has on his forearm. And then I contemplate how the imagery of tall palm trees and power lines against a skyline has been adopted by so many Phoenicians as a symbol of life in Phoenix. That leads me to wonder about our collective identity as a city…and then I remember that most of us could care less. Which makes me think about how Phoenix natives never talk to their neighbors. I COULD GO ON. All this happens because I look at a simple photo.

I’m taking a break from making maps.

It’s actually my favorite part of “writing” this book (I guess since I enjoy it, I’m not really justified to take a break but whatever). For every hike, I must turn in a map so the cartography department can accurately create another map that’s included with the trail review.

I like to do it because I get to make pictures. I use the image from my EveryTrail app or a scanned trail map and then I add arrows and notes using Snagit.

It’s not a far cry from what I do in my current day job in which I must find the most meaningful way to accurately communicate complicated information.

In short, that means turning most things into pictures.

I’m probably betraying my kind here, but I believe that humans are much more sophisticated in reading the pervasive visual language than the traditional written language.

Don’t argue with me. I learned this in my Art History classes.

They say the average modern-day American views [it's too late in the evening to look up the estimated number right now but think about every billboard, computer icon, television show, packaging design for products, etc. you see each day] a whole shit-ton of images in a day. Compare that to the actual words you read in a 24-hour period.

See what I’m getting at?

When my book comes out, I can expect most “readers” to flip through the pages, scan the photos, glance at the maps, and maybe, maybe read a caption or two.

I can’t blame them. I do the exact same thing.

Taking that into consideration, I suppose I shouldn’t feel so guilty about busying myself with map-making in order to avoid the writing.

Week One

Bring it.

I’m planning a five mile hike. We’ll hit the trailhead, nestled in the Estrella Mountain Regional Park, this afternoon.

Though I’ve never been on this trail and I hardly have an idea of what to expect, I need this hike.

Yesterday marked the end of my first week at a new job. It’s a regular-business-hours kind of gig in a big building with multiple floors, hundreds of employees, and an on-campus cafeteria. I work in the same building as one of my closest friends (in fact, she sits next to me in our cubicle row) and my husband.

It’s the best first week I’ve ever had. I’m enjoying the comfort that comes with knowing I can turn to two trusted people and safely ask all my stupid questions without receiving judgement.

And, trust me, I have a lot of questions.

Starting a new job is always a humbling experience. During the interview process, I build myself up to believe I’m the best person for the job…and I’m sure to display that to my potential employer. Then, on the first day, I’m so clueless that I have to sheepishly ask directions to the ladies room.

This is when my nerve is truly tested. I’m walking in every morning, knowing that my lack of knowledge will be exposed. Repeatedly.

Of course, I fully trust that things will soon begin to fall into place. And eventually, I’ll feel at home.

But for now, this escape to the trail will give me the sense of accomplishment I’ve craved all week.

I’ll feel the hot air on my skin, sweat through my backpack straps, hear the rocks crunch beneath my feet, and enjoy the peace that comes with completing an unknown challenge.

Yes. I can do this.