30 January 2007

brusha, brusha, brusha.

Admittedly, I am not the tidiest person in the world. As in all things, my cleaning habits tend to ebb and flow, now the apartment is unfit for human occupancy, now you could eat off the floor. Ok, you can never really eat off the floor because, if you did, it would be coated with the hair I've shed over the past several months that no vacuum cleaner could tear from its imbeddedness in the carpeting (but to food, somehow, it's attracted like a magnet). But you get the idea. Basically, life gets a bit messy until I have time and energy and sufficient will power to clean. It's a cycle. The revolutions become shorter as the years pass, but a cycle all the same.

There are areas I do tend to keep consistently clean and tidy, though: the kitchen and the bath.

When I was preparing for my move to Santa Barbara, I knew having a space of my own would be important, despite the cost. I knew no one here, so sharing housing was not really an option. What I found, just in time, was the yellow room, a *studio in a big Victorian, conveniently located downtown, close to school and much else. 7 other people live here, but we all have separate spaces, with no common areas, save the hallways. I've been happy here, mostly the people are decent. Like with any rental, there are pitfalls and annoyances, like people not locking the door when they leave, or the front light bulb that's been dark for the past month, the dryer that doesn't stop internally rotating when the door opens, the couple who monopolize the laundry presumably because they live nearest to it. At the moment though, these are the least of my worries.

The term *studio here is a bit of a euphemism. My *studio is really just a big bedroom with a half-fridge and a microwave in one corner. I share a bathroom (the sink in which doubles as a kitchen sink, for cleaning dishes, etc.) with 2 other women who live on the floor: Angelina, who I usually refer to as *cell phone, due to her, literally, incessant use of said device; and Lisa, who's lived here a few months, who I've nicknamed *coughy, after a terrible cough/cold combo that lasted about 3 weeks. I've become somewhat accustomed to *cell phone's idiosyncrasies. She'll leave dirty plates in the bathroom for weeks, deposit her personal garbage next to the toilet, but then, at some point, will whirl through, thoroughly disgusted, leaving a somewhat cleaner and tidier bathroom in her wake. The dishes and garbage are sort of annoying, but she's not around that much.

*Coughy, on the other hand, I'm still adjusting to.

She didn't start off on the best foot by snagging a roll of my TP, nor have I particularly enjoyed regularly cleaning the shower drain of her hair. But it was during her monumental coughing/cold combo that I really started to think not-very-nice thoughts about her. As I mentioned, she was sick for a solid 3 weeks, coughing all over the place, big, ugly-sounding, deep, guttural coughs. (And yes, I'm totally anal about the people I live with or am close to getting sick and the possibility of contracting said illness because being sick interferes with my ability to dive. But the possibility of getting sick before the swim eval was, understandably, very especially worrying.) And in my fully paranoid mind, I saw her coughing all over everything, running her hands all over the place. In my mind, no surface was safe to touch. The worst part was, while she was sick, she repeatedly left her toothbrush and toothpaste out on the counter top. A few nights ago I came across the glass top for one of those country-style candles that come in a jar. It had been mysteriously sitting out on the counter for a few days. I thought about tossing it into the garbage, but then realized there was water in it. Correction: it was filled with solution, and her contacts were resting at the bottom. Tonight though, the best find by far: used dental floss right next to the sink.

There's something about the situation that makes me want to behave like an absolute adolescent, like instead of just asking her to be cleaner in using the bathroom, I have this urge to stuff used ear swabs into her tube of toothpaste. Really. How horrible. But writing it out has proven to take the edge off, and to give a bit of perspective.

So when next I see her, I'll try to overcome the adolescent urgees, and just ask.

26 January 2007


The beauty of this semester, beyond that I'm diving, is that I have class only 2 days a week. Never mind that one of those days is 12 hours long for the next 3 weeks, or that class time the other day spans 6 hours, it's lovely to have scheduled class time only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Today's class and lab combo was Intro to Commercial Dive Equipment. Eventually, I'll be diving surface-supplied equipment, so rather than diving with tanks attached to my back, I'll be diving with a hose attached to an air supply at the surface. Surface-supplied diving requires special equipment, most notably the helmet like the one shown below (and it's pretty amazing to have found a picture of a woman donning a helmet!):

The pic gives an idea of the size. Diving helmets are made from fiberglass or spun copper, with a decent heft, and a price tag of $5000+. Santa Barbara-based Kirby Morgan Dive Systems International's helmets are an industry standard, and, due to the current elevated need for commercial divers, back ordered until 2008. The MDT program has several Kirby Morgan helmets for us to dive, but before we can, we need to know how to rip them apart, and put them back together. This is one of the main objectives in the Commercial Diving Equipment class. Today in class we watched Instructor Dan do it. It doesn't seem so difficult in the beginning, but as the disassembled parts start to multiply, and the mask becomes barer and barer, the task feels increasingly challenging. Fortunately we have exploded diagrams to help us determine which parts go where, which I wish I could illustrate to you here in this entry, but I can't find a suitable file format to attach. Rest assured that the diagrams are helpful in their way, but also serve to render the novice extremely cross-eyed in attempting to decipher. With all things Marine Tech though, practice is the key.

I'm not sure if whatever happens to a person post holidays has only just now caught up to me, but I'm about as lethargic as they come. I'm on a 2-week hiatus from diving in the harbor, but still working the other 2 jobs. I only log about 5 hours per week doing office work, and since I still don't have a set schedule at the restaurant, and therefore am only working sporadically, I actually have time on my hands. Which is nice, it really is, but as I've mentioned before, I'm not great at having time on my hands. It makes me feel useless and bored. I know I should really try to appreciate it, and not try to fill it up with nonsensical tasks, but it makes me restless when I don't have much to do.

It's a bit different at the moment though, like some bizarre combination of feeling bored and useless, and also not really feeling like doing a damn thing. I don't feel like going to the gym, I don't care to clean, don't really want to cook food or do laundry, I don't even care to revise what I've written. I really just want to lay in bed and read, which I can do, since I've got some time to do it. I suppose I'll just chalk it up to it being winter, and a delayed reaction to an uber busy holiday season followed by intense catch up upon return to SB.

23 January 2007

hustle, and flow.

First day of classes today.

When I returned from my 2-week holiday visit to the upper midwest, I assumed I'd have oodles of time to myself: for library visits and reading, for hanging out with friends, for sleeping, for biking, for outings of uncertain intent with my crush, for preparing for the swim eval, for researching possible career paths, for registering at school. Time passed all too quickly, as it is typically wont to do, and so yesterday found me scrambling to accomplish all manner of school-related tasks at the last minute. During the day, I hunted for parking with a good majority of the 17,000 returning SBCC students, I registered for classes, visited with Financial Aid and learned of the glitch du jour explaining the heretofore absence of loan check, and I had maintenance checks performed on pieces of equipment. Late last night found me populating my dive bag in preparation for my first diving class today, searching for those items purchased specifically for the program so many months ago, neglected all these months.

Today began Advanced Scuba Techniques, the class which explains the necessity for some of the skills in the swim eval: the class focuses on retraining the diver from the basics up (including skills used in skin diving, a sport in itself, and a world apart from scuba diving), regardless of class and rank. Today we worked on finning at the surface and underwater, some breath holding, and a few types of dives used in skin diving. For the scuba portion of the class, we assembled gear while listening to the instructors discuss the dos and don'ts of gear assembly. Once in the pool, we practiced basic scuba skills like mask flooding, mask removal, and regulator recovery. It felt good to be in my gear again. When I work in the harbor, I breathe from a regulator, and I wear my wetsuit/mask/fins, but that's about where the similarity to scuba diving ends. I felt at home in my own gear, from my ridiculous pink gauges and my amazing ScubaPro S600 to my super sweet new BCD. I'm excited to be in the class. Even though now, post-swim eval, I find myself wondering how I didn't pass the swim eval in the first place, I know I wasn't ready before. It feels especially good to be in the class now that the skills are a fun physical challenge, rather than the scary impossibility they seemed before. I'm also quite happy to be focusing on diving this semester, having finished the rhetoric and theory last semester.

I also started First Aid for the Dive Professional today, a once-a-week, 6-hour-per-day, 4-week-long class, after which I'll have qualified for just about every dive-related first aid cert ever conceived. It's very, very intense, so I'm already counting down the days.

With that, I'm off to bed. Something about the breath-holding skills gives me a mad headache.

17 January 2007

done, and done.

Prior to the blog of a few days ago, I hadn't made much mention of the swim eval, mostly to appease my highly superstitious nature. But the swim eval was today, 17 January, beginning 8 am. To recap all the exercises necessary to pass, in order of performance:

- 75-ft. underwater swim, without surfacing for air;
- 150-ft. underwater swim, surfacing no more than 3 times for air;
- 50-ft. rescue swim, i.e. swimming 50 ft. out to victim, and towing him back in (like the last time, I was the only female present);
- 300-ft. swim, using fins and snorkel, no mask;
- underwater recovery of 10-lb. weight from depth;
- 1000-ft. swim in under 10 mins.;
- 10-min. water tread, first 5 min. normal tread, next 3 with wrists out of the water, next 2 with elbows out.
Happily, today, unlike 23 August, I confidently finished each and every task. The two that sealed my non-diving fate last summer were the 150-ft. swim (I came up for the last breath sputtering, and stayed up too long), and the 1000-ft. swim (my time was 15 seconds over the allotted). Today, I swam the 150-ft. only surfacing two times for air, and I improved my time on the 1000-ft. swim by more than 2 minutes. Needless to say, I'm pretty damn pleased with myself.

In preparing for the swim eval, I was so preoccupied with practicing and visualizing and obsessing that I was somewhat surprised this morning to find how much I'd missed all my stinky boys. When I sat down this morning in the classroom, my instructor Dan (a native Wisconsin farm boy) commented to me that this morning must feel a bit like being at home. He was referring to the cold (freezing!) temps we've been experiencing of late. I, however, caught up in my unexpected happiness to be back at the facility, to see the faculty and my old and new fellow classmates, replied in the affirmative, adding "I sure have missed you guys."

16 January 2007

a day no pigs would die.

Happy MLK day. I didn't realize it was MLK day until this evening, when the mail, generally late in arriving anyway, showed up not at all. Then I remembered it was MLK day, and a verse of the song "Happy Birthday" by Stevie Wonder popped into my head. A funny story about that song, which I'll note here (as this entry proves to be of the random free-form variety, rather than the planned pre-formed variety), the first time I heard that song was in Paris, at the Chicago Pizza Factory, or something similar. The song played in a loop, but only swatches of it, so that all I ever really heard of the song that night was the rambunctious HAPPY BIRTHDAY!/ HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!/ HAPPY BIRTHDAY! part, and nothing else. I don't think I heard the entire song for many years afterward. Now though, it's included on my list of timeless classics, not only for the quality of the song, but for the content/ subject matter as well.

I know you won't believe it when I say it, but winter comes to southern California, too. Not the same winter that comes to Minnesota, but rather that winter's quieter second cousin. When I first got back to SB after the holidays, it was unseasonably warm - hot even- during the days. Then it cooled down, and then the wind picked up. Overnight temps have been in the teens, wind advisories (with gusts up to 35 MPH) have been issued. It's so cold and windy that I've not been on my bike in several days, and working in the harbor has proven to be a challenge.

When I returned, I'd wanted to take some time to recuperate after so much activity over the holidays. Unfortunately though, financial concerns dictated otherwise, and I returned to the restaurant the day after coming back to SB from the north country. Four days later I went back to diving in the harbor. The water temp had dropped to around 50 degrees, and let me tell you, that is cold. In a week of going to the harbor 4 different days, I cleaned a total of probably 6 boats (a number I could typically accomplish in one day). Between equipment malfunction, adjustments, and mishaps, I completed so very little. Saturday was the worst: I arrived at work with temps hovering in the 40s, with a terribly strong wind whipping around the harbor. The wind combined with cold is bad; the wind combined with cold and wet exposed limbs is so very bad. I cleaned one boat, and came up thinking positive thoughts about continuing to work, which vanished by the time I'd tied off to the second boat of the day. By that point, I could no longer feel my fingers, the wind had so thoroughly robbed them of any feeling. I had a meltdown then. There were tears falling inside my mask as I cut the compressor, untied the boat, and sped away back to the dock. I took a long shower, and massaged my poor, prickly-feeling fingers as they slowly regained the sensation robbed from them by that devil wind.

I would have given up that day, but I'd left a boat half cleaned, and so I returned to the harbor today. The temp was higher, in the mid-60s, but the wind still whistled menacingly through the boat masts. In preparation, I'd raided my closet, and donned every spare piece of neoprene I could find, and it helped to keep me warmer than I had been during my previous attempt. The albatross was still my numbed, dead fingers, and so after cleaning the second half of the previously unfinished boat, and another for good measure, I returned to the dock for a long shower, and an uncomfortable call to my boss. I'm not bailing on the job just yet, because for whatever unfathomable reason (which relates to setting my own hours, and liking the man I work for), I like this job. There are bits and pieces I'm not crazy about, but for the most part, I enjoy the work, and I feel the experience is valuable. So I don't really want to quit, but I do need to take a break for a while.

Winter break is almost over. Classes start next week. The day I've been preparing for since 23 August has almost arrived: I retake the swim eval on Wednesday. I've been to the pool multiple times since I've returned, and I'm feeling really good and strong. The 2 tests I failed in August were the 1000-foot swim in under 10 mins., and the 150-foot breath-holding exercise. I worked on the swimming all semester in PE class, and have been working on the breath-holding this week at the pool. The breath-holding exercises really come down to mind control, because we can so easily convince ourselves that we absolutely must come up for air, when really, physiologically, we can continue to swim underwater for eons using what we have already stored. So working on taming the mind right now is equally important to the actual practice of the breath holding itself.

And with that, I'm off to bed, for tomorrow I'll awake to spend more time practicing at the pool.

Wish me luck ;)

10 January 2007

word of the day.

While checking my mail just now, I spied the word of the day. It hovered above my inbox in the space usually occupied by links to such informative sites as www.areyouaslackermom.com, or www.coffeefool.com (A shocking secret coffee co's don't want you to know!), and DeclutterFast.com (How To Declutter In Only One Day! When You're Serious About Clutter). The word of today was:

nascent \NAS-uhnt; NAY-suhnt\, adjective:
Beginning to exist or having recently come into existence; coming into being.

It was the first part that caught my attention, the part I really liked, the part about beginning to exist. Maybe it struck me because it's the beginning of a new year, and the beginning of a new year always feels like starting over, like being offered a fresh start after the recent indulgences of the holiday season, turning away from the multitude of mistakes of the previous year. For me, the beginning of the new year, much like a birthday, is also a time to reflect, assess, forgive, forget, and above all else, to resolve.

Every year I make a list of things I'd like to accomplish in the coming year. Not really the typical list of new years resolutions, but more a list of objectives, possibilities, of improvements I'd like to make (in myself, and in my surroundings), hobbies I'd like to consider, new adventures to undertake. I start working on the list in December, and finalize it sometime in January. After writing out the list in my journal, I read it again a few times over the course of a few days, and then set it aside for a while. A few times during the year I review the list, just to get an idea of how I'm faring, and then I review it again at the beginning of the following year. I shy away from concrete resolutions which, knowing myself, can only lead to frustration and disappointment, and stick to more abstract ideas.

Having recently reviewed my resolutions from this time last year (when, as we'll remember, I was living in Minneapolis, in a great little apartment, in a great little neighborhood near the lakes; working at the aqarium, but also at the museum; Minnesota-winter overweight [as pics from the Flanagan wedding can easily corroborate]; generally unhappy, slightly depressed even, with no clue what I'd rather be doing, just knowing that where I was was not where I wanted to be.), it's a surprise I found the drive to move on at all. Even when I allowed myself to dream a little, to embrace the magical possibilities the following year might bring, the best I could do was a modest "find a new job I believe in," and "consider long-term professional goals."

Fortunately, inspiration came from without, during a visit by the cast and crew of the History Channel's excellent-but-now-defunct program, Deep Sea Detectives to dive the aquarium. An evening of jack & diets in the lobby bar with host Richie and underwater videographer Evan opened a world of possibilities, and shortly thereafter I realized another of my new year's resolutions, this one perhaps not so modest then: to be honest with myself. After that night in the bar, I finally accepted what I'd been forcibly ignoring for a long time, that I wanted to dive, that I wanted diving to be my career, that I needed to go somewhere other than Minnesota to make that happen. Scary things to ponder, obviously, but a beginning. The beginning of the existence of what's now a very happy and fulfilling reality.

03 January 2007

immigrant song.

A day full of automobiles, planes and buses, et voila! I find myself right back where I started from, just over 2 weeks ago.

I've just returned to my home in Santa Barbara, and was pleased to find a few of my daily standards in stock: crunchy natural peanut butter and rice cakes. A few weeks' worth of binge holiday eating and plenty revelrous drinking has landed me what feels and looks to be a few pounds heavier, to the extent that, by the end of my stay in the TCs, the only jeans I'd bother with were those partially composed of god's gift to holiday overeaters, spandex. So returning to my rudimentary kitchen and simplified diet comes as a relief.

As you might imagine, my return is bittersweet. The time spent in MN/WI/IL was really a blessing. I'm amazed, perhaps now more than ever, by the abundance of amazing people in my life, both friends and family members. Perhaps they're easier to appreciate now that I no longer live in the area, partially because the old adage is true, and absence does make the heart grow fonder, but also because I'm much happier with my life now, and I feel more inclined to focus on good things, rather than wallowing in the darkness and despair that always seemed to characterize my existence whilst living in Minnesota.

Mother Nature was kind to me during my stay in the north country. I don't think temps dropped much below 30 for the entire 2 weeks I was there, and, being a native, I can easily recognize how featherweight that is for the holiday season. There were only a few days of nearly-plan-altering weather conditions, and my mind easily re-assimilated to that of a Minnesotan in the winter, enjoying the mild weather, the easy driving, the diminished need for layering. I even caught myself thinking that it really wasn't all that different from here in Cali, where nighttime temps will sometimes bottom out in the 30s, that Cali only has a bit more sun. I think I'd really almost convinced myself of this, and maybe it was as transparent a coping mechanism as has ever existed. Of course today I came to my senses when I landed at LAX, and exited the plane onto the tarmac, and it was not only sunny, but warm to boot, and not Minnesota-in-December warm, but mid-60s California-coast warm.

More than the temperature though, something else caught my attention upon landing in Santa Barbara. It was something I'd always remember in the springtime in Minnesota, but its sheer absence causes a form of amnesia in the wintertime. When I walked out of the airport this afternoon, when I walked outside, I could actually smell things, and I don't really know what things, but I could smell the outside.

And that's different. No matter how warm the winter in Minnesota.