May 4, 2016

Winging It Wednesday

It is a good Wednesday here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. The skies are clear and the air is warm and mild. Our high today is forecast to hit triple digits, and frankly, I am not ready to be in “summer” mode just yet. The weatherman says that it is a temporary high, and that the weather pattern will be changing, yet again, to a more mild one for a week or so. It is very unusual for our temperatures to be so variable.

Normally, we see a steady increase in heat from March through June, with about a 10 degree warm up each month. This means that March highs are typically in the 80s, April will see 90s, and then May has our first 100s of the year. June is typically hot, with high 90s to 110s. July and August are the stormy summer months with lows in the 100s, but humid and wet conditions playing with that number (up or down). September we begin to dry out, but stay warm. October is warm as well, and then finally November brings back spring/fall like highs in the 70s-80s. December drops cold, down to the 30s-60s, and then we start the process all over once the new year arrives. Arizonans know that we don’t have spring or fall. We just have a very long summer with some cold days tossed in around Christmas and New Years.

Our best “season” to visit is in March (Spring Training) because the day-time temps are a pleasant 70-80 with little to no rain. This year, however, we have noticed the effects of El Nino quite a bit. We have had rain and variable temperatures throughout our spring. I am not sure what this weather pattern will do to our Monsoon, but hopes are high that we will get a wet and wild summer of rain, storms, lightening, etc. We do love our wicked summer weather — it is the cherry on top of the cake — since we have to endure blistering 100 plus days go 100 plus temperatures each year.  This year is proving to be different from previous years, so it is anything “goes” when it comes to the weather. I am thinking now what it will be like when I move to another part of the country, to a part where there is variable weather all the time. I mean, will I be able to handle the changes? The storms? The hot and cold of the seasons? I think so. At the least, I sure do hope so!

Making Changes

Today, though, it seems we are on track, weather-wise. Our high today is supposed to hit 102. It is a good thing that I plan to stay indoors. I need to get to business on my paper (no more slacking) and that means I will be sitting here at the computer for most of the day. I am in process to creating a better work environment so that I can do my research/study work (for school and other) as well as also teach online as the Lord leads.

Step 1: New Computer

In late January, I invested in a new computer (thank you, Lord!) and since then I have noticed a great improvement in my ability to work on it. I am less strained (eyes), and overall, have less fatigue when I have to study or sit for long periods of time.  My new iMac is perfect. It has been a wonderful addition to my office, and I feel so at home using it now. I have been a Mac person for a long time (1984, to be precise), but I have waffled between Macs and PCs for years. In fact, when I was working as a designer, I had one of each kind because I had clients who wanted me to design on a Mac rather than a PC. In time, though, my old Mac died, and I didn’t have the money to replace it. I went with less expensive PCs, and for many years, just hobbled along with Windows and all the various bugs and other issues they tend to have. Since I returned to graduate school I have had nothing but issues with computers.

After losing two computers in 2010, and fearing the worst could happen while I was completing my Masters program, I asked the Lord to provide a new computer for me — a 27” iMac. I wanted to return to the Mac because I thought it would be better for me (ergonomically-speaking), and I wasn’t sure if I would have to return to design work at some point in the future. I wanted a solid machine, a good computer that would last me for years. I asked the Lord for His advice, and I felt that He approved. As I started to plan my purchase timeline, etc., I struggled with the cost difference between PCs and Macs. I mean, the cost between machines was so off, that I barely could imagine swinging the price just to have an Apple product. The price tag was “sticker shock” for me, and rather than trust the Lord to provide the money for the purchase, I chose to go the less expensive route and purchase a Mac Mini.

The Mini saved me quite a bit of money, but it wasn’t a very good Mac product (especially the year I bought one). My Mini seemed to have issues left and right, and in 2013, it suffered hard drive failure. I put it aside and purchased a new HP to get me through my graduate program. My PC was an off-again/on-again machine, and over the past couple years, it also experienced major failure. I resurrected the Mini in 2014-15 by using a USB second hard drive, and for a time I was able to get by with a cobbled together system. However, late last year, both computers went down — the Mini crashed and the PC had administrative permission issues that started to lock me out. I panicked again, thinking that with my impending exams and my dissertation I needed a better quality machine pronto. I felt the Lord wanted me to wait until my exams were finished. I had hope to make it to March, but right before my written exams, my PC died. I was in a desperate position so once again, I asked the Lord for permission to purchased that iMac.  I felt that the timing was right, and with the Lord’s permission, I bit the bullet and I visited the Apple Store.  My new iMac has been brilliant, and not only has it proved stable and well-worth the investment, it has as I mentioned, actually improved my ability to do work on it. I love my iMac, and it has been such a blessing for me this entire semester. I am ready now to begin my research project, and I feel confident that I have all the tools I need to be able to produce scholarly work.

I still have a couple issues to resolve, however. I need a new chair, a better chair I should say, in order to reduce my back and neck pain. I have gone round and round trying to figure out how to fix my back pain problem, and I finally have determined that I need a couple improvements to my office to make my life less stressed and less painful. First, I needed a new computer. I didn’t think I did, but the Lord pressed on me that a new computer would benefit me. In truth, I have known that I needed to get this particular Mac computer for almost five years now. I was not willing to trust the Lord to provide the computer to me, and the cost associated with it, scared me into choosing a “less than best” model. I paid the price for that decision — I ended up with a computer that had internal issues from the get-go. Now that I have the proper system to use, I am already benefitting from the retina display, the size of the monitor (27”) and the ergonomic design. Yes, I should have listened to the Lord when I first had need. Sigh! Lesson learned in hindsight (again).

Step 2: New Office

Second, I have needed a better workspace for a long time. When I moved from my house in 2011, I had to create a work space out of a small niche in my bedroom. I had a traditional desk then, and the space constraints made it difficult for me to have what I needed near by — likes books, printer, and file cabinets. I made do with the space constraints as I was able, and for the most part, I survived. However, when I moved to my new house in 2013, my office space went from a 8x10 niche to a very tiny corner of the room. Now, I have a corner-desk that houses everything — books, computer, printer, etc. It has worked well in this space, but it doesn’t provide much desk room for me to spread out. Then, add in the cats and their preference for “being with me” when I work, well, you can see that I need more space. Yes, I need more space.. The desk, itself, is a cheap desk from Walmart. I am blessed with it, even if the height is awkward.  I try to make the best of the situation and will set my chair as high as possible to avoid neck strain. Still, the way this desk is set, my arms are not positioned correctly in order to reduce neck and shoulder strain. I am stuck for now — I can’t really replace my desk at this point in time, and since it fits in the corner of my room, I have to make do.

In time, though, I will need a better desk, office space, and environment.

Step Three: Better Workspace

Third, so while a new desk is out of the question, I have considered getting a better chair. I have space constraints on chairs too because the gap between the desk and my bed is small. I need a chair that will fit under the desk when not used, but will allow for proper height adjustment when I am using it. Way back in the early days when I was preparing to move out, the Lord pressed upon me the idea of using a kneeling chair instead of a traditional chair. I was hesitant to go that route because I wasn’t sure how I would like it or whether it would work in my particular situation. Instead, I purchased a small leather chair from Office Depot. It fit the bill, was a great deal, and generally has been a good desk chair. But, as the Lord would lead, the better “option” was the chair He suggested to me — a kneeling chair.

In truth, I have wanted a kneeling chair for 20-30 years now. I used to have one when they were very popular back in the 1980s. The one I had was wooden, and it worked GREAT. I used it for several years before the frame broke. I remember how my Chiropractor said to me that this type of chair would be really good for whenever I sat at my desk for long periods of time. He was correct. The chair worked to relieve my back pain, and it helped my posture retain a healthy position even when I was sitting all day long.

I don’t know why I never got another one. I guess it was because they were not popular anymore. Instead, I have used task chairs and other work chairs — all without success. My back aches, my hips go stiff, and generally, my posture is very poor in even the most ergonomic chairs. Plus, I cannot get a chair to lift high enough so my arms are above my keyboard. I know this is why I have such shoulder and neck pain. I am praying my new chair works wonders on my back and helps me to feel better even when I am stuck at the computer all day long.

Step 4: Better Chair and Comfort

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, then you will notice that I have a tendency to seek the Lord’s advice, but not follow it (always). I typically learn my lesson through experience, which is just a short and sassy way of saying that I learn in hindsight. Yes, the Lord often directs me in ways that seem too expensive, too difficult or even too far-fetched. Yet, as time rolls on by, I come to see that these options often were in my best interest at the time. I typically come round to them after suffering for a while. Thankfully, the Lord has permitted me to recoup some of my expensive and painful learning experiences. I have been able to retract some of my stubbornness and benefit from His blessed mercy and His gifts. Such was the iMac, and now, such is the computer chair.

Will I ever learn to trust Him? I sure do hope so, I do hope so!

In my stubborn refusal to try out a kneeling chair again (after so many years), I have suffered with the pain of my current leather chair. Yes, I have found that this chair causes me great pain, mostly in my back and hips, when I sit in it for any length of time. I have added a lumbar support cushion, a seat cushion to lift me up, but even with these add-ons, my back aches something terrible. Yesterday was pretty bad, in fact. I hoped to work on my paper most of the day, but I couldn’t handle the pain. I ended up doing no work at all, just to keep from sitting at my desk. So in typical fashion, as I was praying about my back pain, I heard this voice in my head say to me, “You need a new chair!” I thought about it for a couple minutes, and agreed — a new chair might just fit the bill. I prayed over my options, asking the Lord for His opinion (again).  Should I just get another ergonomic chair (I’ve looked at them, sat in them, and checked them out for months now) — or should I go with the kneeling chair that seemed to be the Lord’s preference for me so many months and years ago.

I took some time yesterday to browse the Internet for chairs. It is impossible to find ones in stores, which is why I was hesitant to purchase one without actually trying it out. After some research online, I gave in to the kneeling chair idea (even without trying one out). I ordered it from Amazon yesterday, and hopefully, it will arrive tomorrow.

Now, I feel like I am part of the way to setting up my office as the Lord has been leading me all these years. I have a good work space, albeit small. I really need a real “office” where I can have more bookcases. Last fall, I purchased a Brother laser printer so I could print all my study materials for my exams. It has been a blessing, beyond blessing to me. Moreover, I need a quiet place to do research, and while my room does double-duty as work space and rest space, I really would like to have a room all to my self where I could focus and study without interruption. Also, I need quiet so I can be on the phone or record video presentations. I just feel that my bedroom is not an appropriate place to teach online or to do the type of research/work I believe the Lord is asking me to do.

Of course for now, I am where I am. I have a good life, and I have a good future. The plans the Lord has for me are certain. I am sure that in time, things will work out just as He designed them to work out. I have been more of a “cog in the wheel” and I have often chosen to go my own way out of fear. I mean, had I listened and believed that the Lord would provide resources so I could have a regularly iMac all those years ago, I would have saved not only headaches (as in computer failures), but the money needed to repair failing computers. Yes, I would have been farther ahead had I just listened. Sigh! Can someone say “bullheaded?”  So now I am playing catch up. I am in the process of getting my life squared away, and that means that I am now trying to repair deficiencies and other aspects of my life that are not quite as they should be. I am working to resolve some problems as well as create positive changes that will help me feel better, look better, and perform better.

Next Steps

One of the things that I would like to have next, as the Lord leads and provides, is a MacBook. I have an older model HP laptop, and while it works fine (Windows 10), it is slow and cumbersome to carry with me. I would like to have a MacBook Air to take with me to school as well as to use when I travel for school/business. Right now, my laptop is very heavy, and the battery doesn’t charge well. I can get a couple hours out of it at most, but to use it on the airplane or where I don’t have access to electricity would be a benefit.

I would like to stay with Mac’s simply because this is what I use at home. Plus, with my iPad and iPhone, I am able to use applications that are platform consistent. My prayer is that sometime this summer I can purchase a new laptop. However, until then, I will continue to use what I have as the Lord leads and provides to me.

Now that I am sensing this idea that I need a better equipped office, I cannot help but wonder why. I mean, I am able to do my school work without the extra space. I have been able to teach and do my presentations and curriculum prep without anything being different. I do see the problem with teaching online, though, and I also see the need for a quiet space so I can work on my dissertation and other research projects. Again, for now, and in the short term, I am fine. But, if the Lord intends for me to work from home in another type of job, I could see this as a problem. I feel confident that He does intend for me to work from home, as a teacher, so at the least, I need space to have a proper office and not just a computer scrunched into the corner. Furthermore, I can see a need for bookcases to hold my books. I am fine with them near me now, but I really would like to have more functional desk space and that means that my books needs to find a place on a shelf near by my computer/desk area. How, when, why? I have no clue other than I feel, no I sense, that perhaps this is something I need to be thinking, exploring, and considering as “change” in my life. So be it, Lord. Please provide whatever you think I need so I can do your work with greater ease, comfort and ability. Selah!

My goal this summer is to finish my dissertation. This is the next BIG STEP in my schooling, and without it, I cannot graduate. I do have a deadline, May 2018, per my chair so I need to be cognizant of the time passing by. Yet, I am trusting my progress to the Lord, and since this is all about His church and His desire for my research, I am resting in His word to me. I write when He says to write. I rest when He says to rest. He is good. He is so very good to me.

As I close out this blog post, I cannot help but thank the Lord for His gracious guidance as I make these changes. They are small, yet significant changes, and by making them, my life — the quality of my life — should improve. I should feel better, have less pain, and be able to accomplish more as He leads me. I am resting today, thinking about all that has been revealed to me, and wondering what He has in mind for me now. Where shall we go, Lord? You will lead, and I will follow. I rest. I trust. I follow. You are good, so very good to me.

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