If the Spirit Moves You

Let me groove you.

It’s been well over a month since my last posting. I’ve thought many times over the last several weeks, I need to make a rigtales post about this….

To summarize all those stories, I’ve been busy. As hell.  I’ve been taking exams on a weekly basis. I study daily until I can’t see straight anymore. I’ve played and practiced my violin and am supposed to play a song at an open mic night with Lynn tomorrow. I practice daily. I spend time with my new friends and classmates, learning about their expertise and exchanging stories and laughter. I’m dressing up in a lab coat and running around with children trying to excite them about science. I do this several times a week and couldn’t be happier with all that I’m learning through school, work, friends and hobbies.

Just before Halloween weekend, I found out my father would need by-pass surgery. After attempting to postpone, he opted to have the surgery done immediately. I went home to Texas. I RAN home to Texas. Within 10 minutes of hearing the news, I had cancelled all my work and took off 8 days from school, missing an exam to go home. I booked a flight and was back in mom and dad’s house within hours, packing a single giant purse. While supporting my dad and mom during this stressful and life altering procedure was clearly a priority, the truth is- I went for purely selfish reasons. After the operation went flawlessly and dad was up and walking around in recovery, I admitted to him and myself…

“I was afraid I’d never see you again”

Thinking about this now is a little shocking. I believe in science and modern medicine. I know open hear surgery is extremely routine in the USA and highly successful. But I felt all the feelings that week, proving once again that emotional arguments can be stronger than logical ones.

I was excited to see mom, dad and my sister. Speaking to my dad before coming home, I assured him I would take care of his pet tortoises during his hospital stay, and for that I really was excited. I love those animals.

I was overwhelmed trying to imagine how scared my father must have been. I once had heartburn, and that is the most extreme extent of any physical pain or medical condition I’ve had to endure.

I was stressed to be missing so much school and an exam, fearing I’d fall behind. These concerns were pretty much alleviated by my professors and department administrators who comforted me, “If it were my daughter, I’d want her to be there.”

Standing with my mom and sister around my dad’s hospital bed, we tried to shoulder his anxiety prior to him being taken in to the operating room. We told him funny stories. I reminded him of the time I crapped my pants as a toddler under his care when mom was out of town. We laughed. The surgeon and anesthesiologist came in to take him. We cried. I was beyond tears when I said bye to him before he was wheeled away for the surgery. Suppressing heaves, sobs and snot, I hugged my dad and laid my head on his chest.

I hope I never forget the intensity of those moments. A few hours later, there was little anxiety left. The surgery went great and dad was in recovery. Within a day he was eating and talking like normal. Within a couple days, he was up and walking around.

Again, the novelty of being home and no longer in Qatar has yet to wear off. I can’t believe I would have missed that. I’m back in Colorado and chugging along in the semester.

I study economics, learn violin, teach science, and call my parents every single day.

Transferable Skills

A few weeks after coming home, I realized that life here has also progressed. Some things are the same, many are different. The songs on the radio are different. There are now “express” highways in addition to the normal highways. For example, you can take the exact same road in two options: express which is has a toll, or normally. My friends are doing great and have exciting changes in their lives as well. My sister just finished writing a 179 page PhD thesis about her lung cancer research, which is probably more pages than I have managed to write in the last four years of blogging.

I’m older. My parents are older, and most notably, my grandfather is older as well. I realized I have to make spending time with him a priority. So, after my month long ‘victory lap’ around the Western US, I went down to East Texas for a few days, a routine I hope to maintain weekly through the time I am here. It was awkward when he was confused or didn’t understand what I was saying. It was painful to watch him shaking and cringing as he slept for 16 or more hours a day. But I stayed at home, sitting beside him as much as I could. I found that as a result, I also slept close to 16 hours a day. I became a little lazy, not leaving the house even to do run necessary errands. I just sat with my grandpa, watching NBA playoff games and trying to engage him in conversation as much as I could.

Ironically, the few days spent inside the house, not seeing the sunlight, reminded me of being offshore. I didn’t get the itch or urge to leave, just sat and let the time pass. In the oddest of ways, maybe the most valuable skill I picked up while working as an engineer offshore was how to JUST SIT. As I sat for days and weeks waiting to get to work offshore, a mental tactic to quell the anticipation was to often think to myself I was NEVER going to work, but just sitting for the sake of sitting. Now as my grandpa heaves in his sleep and the single most exciting part of the day is sharing an ice cream with him. I find I’m comfortable sitting just to sit. I’m sitting just to spend time with a great man.

Good Morning, San Francisco

I headed west out of Denver about a week ago. Driving through the snow, I turned up the heat in my car, allowing it to warm the floor board and my feet. The warmth made me sleepy. The gray sky didn’t help. I pulled over on the side of I-80 to take a nap.

Several hours later, I am headed north towards Salt Lake City, Utah on Highway 6. It’s a small two lane highway. A truck pulling a trailer chugs along in front of me. I decide to pass him. As my car crosses the rubble strips in the center of the highway- I feel the car become heavy. Every warning light on the dashboard  illuminates and my speedometer reads 0MPH. I keep on rolling down the highway, taking note that my power steering abilities are no longer engaged. I’m two hours from my destination. I call my parents, who inform me of some mechanics to call and hotels to stay at in Price, Utah. I do as they say. While car trouble in essentially the middle of no where is never a good thing, I’m happy to be on the road and adapting to circumstances. Everyone in Price is friendly- I stay at a Best Western and eat Taco Bell before falling asleep. At 8am, the mechanic called me to make sure I didn’t need a ride to his shop. After some inspection- the verdict is my car battery exploded, leaving battery acid all over the engine and perhaps shorting out- which caused all the lights to come on. One car batter and a car wash later, I was back on the road.

I picked up my best friend from Salt Lake City airport. We’ve been friends since the 6th grade. I believe that friends don’t have to see each other or spend too much time together to remain close. However, it is so nice to get to spend longer periods of time with a friend after years of only catching up over dinner. We sing in the car, we stop at every random road trip whim. We danced in the salt flats in Utah, witnessed “Wendover Will” the world’s largest mechanical cowboy in Wendover, and ate at a Pizza Barn in Elko, Nevada. We giggled and made funny voices. I felt silly. We told each other stories and talked about life. I felt comfortable.

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We stayed the night in Carson City, Nevada before hitting the road again in the morning. The drive out of the mountains was incredible, particularly the stop around Lake Tahoe.

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This photo was taken with my Samsung S3. As we descended west out of the mountains, our ears popped and water bottles crinkled under pressure. We arrived in Palo Alto Friday afternoon to greet my sister who had flown in for the weekend and some dear friends from college who now live in the Bay area. One main goal on my road trip west was to see the “Redwood Forest”, as referenced in the song This Land is Your Land. Photos don’t do these trees justice, but I can now say that- I’ve seen them! Five of us embarked on a long walk through Muir Woods, just outside of San Francisco. We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and into the wilderness. On our walk, I learned that the UN was founded in San Francisco. I stood inside a tree.

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20150328_155946It was everything I wanted- nature, beauty, adventure, friendship and family. A native of the Northern California area, Katy  made an excellent tour guide. After seeing the giant sequoia trees, we had some famous San Franciscan New England style clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl from Boudin and went on to Ghirardelli Square to eat free chocolate.

Sunday, we went to a famous San Franciscan establishment, the Starlight Room at Sir Francis Drake hotel in downtown. There, I saw my first drag show in a brunch buffet format- Sunday’s a Drag. Laughs, shocks and awes were had by all. The fabulous host, Ms Donna Sashet made the event feel like good wholesome fun- honestly. Overall, an extremely fun and unique experience. The buffet included chicken and waffles, I mean…seriously! These ladies know how to throw a brunch!

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After brunch, we walked up and down the hilly streets all the way to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, stopping only for popcorn and to admire a famous Catholic Church at which Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe weren’t allowed to be married.

20150329_154349We devoured some crab in the evening and had a good night’s rest. The following day- We saw the Mrs. Doubtfire house and went on a “Duck Tour” of the city- Another recommendation if you enjoy fun.

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Today is my last day in the city. Having deposited my friend and my sister at the airport, I sit in a Starbucks contemplating what shenanigans to get up to on my own. Tonight I will have dinner with my dear friend and roommate from college.

Road trip rides again in the morning– SOUTH TO SAN DIEGO!

2014: You Can’t Handle Me

It’s been a rigtale tradition to compile a year end summary highlighting significant events in my life. I started 2014 with no real goals, and a lot of angst. I finished the year with clear goals and peace of mind. So here’s the highly anticipated year end report! Enjoy. 

1. In a fit of rage, I kicked and shattered a mirror in the staff house elevator in Doha. I had a meeting with HR about it. It was embarrassing. Soon after, they installed cameras in the elevators of my building.  

2.I got kicked off a rig, and subsequently banned from Qatar Petroleum offshore jobs. [A tremendous blessing.]

3. I boarded over 25 plane flights.

4. I had my passport stamped in 8 different countries.

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5. I visited Robben Island.

6. I got my PADI open water, advanced open water and enriched air diver certifications. 

7. I’ve been SCUBA diving in 3 different countries. 

The Fish

8. I spent more than a full calendar year without returning home. 

9. I got a speeding ticket in France, which my father intercepted in the mail. My father intercepts all my post.

10. I had a psychologist. She helped me.

11. I started playing soccer again.

12. I tore a muscle. For the first time. I felt so old. 

13. I went over a full year without hugging or even seeing my parents. It changed me. 

14. I really struggled at work. I also really thrived at work. Sometimes, I didn’t know the difference. 

15. I made new friends. 

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16. I approved and signed someone’s promotion.

17. I spotted three grey hairs on my head. I felt so old. 

18. I moved rooms to have roommates. We do roommate things. 

19. I swam on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Great Australian Bight

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20. I saw the southern hemisphere for the first and second times.

21. I went to sleep many nights thinking to myself, “My mom is the only person who really understands me.”

22. I held a Koala. It held me back.

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23. I got athletes foot on a rig. I cried from disgust at myself.

24. I won a highly competitive industry challenge with my co workers and teammates. (see maerskoilandqpchallenge.com)

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25. I didn’t sweat the small stuff. I didn’t loose sleep.

26. I let go of not letting go.

27. I ended the year by seeing my parents. I now really know the meaning when “nothing changes”

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The Sun and the Snow

I’m thinking about all the Thanksgivings when my uncle would proudly declare, “Every day is Thanksgiving!” In my family- Thanksgiving is sacred. We didn’t always make turkey. We were always together. Sometimes we were fasting. Other times we were flying kites, lighting fireworks, or seeing movies. I remember being taught that ‘you should be thankful everyday’. We were.

TurkeyI’m thinking about the Thanksgivings with my college roommate, Rabbit and her family. We would stuff our faces and eat outside in sunny November weather in Arizona. We would watch football and nap. We would go shopping at midnight and have breakfast before the sun came up.

I’m thinking about the Thanksgivings spent eating store bought dinners. Sometimes in hotel rooms with my dad during soccer tournaments. Other times in my friends apartment while dancing around to YouTube videos in my sweatpants.

I’m thinking about Thanksgiving 2008, when my sister, close friend and myself drove to Dallas from Phoenix, acquiring two speeding tickets in one night out in west Texas. The police officer said to us, “You hit a deer going 96 in this tin can, and you’re dead.”

I’m thinking about Thanksgiving 2011, when Albert and Edwin hiked the Grand Canyon with a pie and a can of baked beans during our first few months of employment. We spent the night in Albuquerque and hiked in the snow. I’m thinking about my only Thanksgiving in Louisiana, when we had a pot luck and fried a turkey by the pool. I made stuffing and baked brie.

Let us not forget last year’s Thanksgiving, as it is the last time I was home and saw my family. It has been my first and only trip back to the US since moving abroad. We made this video while frying turkeys, perhaps you’ve seen  it.

I’m thinking about all these things as I sit at work surrounded by the bustle of another busy day in the oilfield. It’s sunny outside, like Arizona. I feel cold inside, like New Mexico. I’m thinking about how much Thanksgiving really means to me. It’s a time I’ve always been surrounded by family and friends. It’s a time I’ve always been home- that dynamic place.

This is the first year that Thanksgiving is just a day. The truth is, any day is Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for them all.

Thanksgiving