Sunday, January 7, 2018

feathered friends

And just like that, Christmas is over, 2018 has arrived, and University #1 starts Spring Semester tomorrow.  My classes are built and open for business, with new “standardized” format and all.  They implemented a new version of Blackboard over the holiday.  It’s cleaner with a more modern look, really better for mobile devices no doubt.  I like it.  Standardization is good, but the changes for my students result in some extra mouse clicks to get around.  They will adapt.  I will meet one of my classes tomorrow morning...assuming we meet.  We have an ice storm moving in overnight which may cause morning classes to be cancelled.   

Last Christmas (2017), Sarah gave me a birdfeeder that sticks right to a window.  There it sat in the box on my shelf for nearly an entire year, but late last month, I took the screen out of the window beside my desk, cleaned the window, and attached the bird feeder.  It’s wonderful!!!  What a silly woman I was to wait so long to try it out!  The big birds, woodpeckers, and squirrels hog the big birdfeeder out by the tree.  My deskside birdfeeder attracts chickadees and my new favorite birds – titmice.  I love to watch the birds and squirrels while I work.

Tufted titmouse

Of course, Molly adores the bird feeder.  Her new favorite place is the window sill, but the birds do not come around when she is standing guard.  She has figured that out, so she oftentimes sits below the window and waits for the sound of a little bird landing on the birdfeeder.  Then she pounces at the window from below.  Every few days, I have to clean the Molly snot off the window.  Gross. 

Molly is standing guard

Big news.  Sarah is getting married.  Soon, actually (in just a few months).  I’m excited for her and her fiancée, and for our family to be expanding.  She is stressing over getting things planned and arrangements taken care of, but I’m sure it will all be lovely.  She and I have very different views of weddings, but it’s OK.  Perhaps it’s partly a generational thing, or just a difference in our personalities and tastes.  If I had to get married again...nope, I can’t even go there.  I love Someone dearly, but if something happens to him or he jumps ship for somebody else, old KYLady will NEVER remarry.  Of course, I said that after the first time, and here I am.  Never say never, but this time I mean it with all certainty. 

Erin and Emily have applied to several graduate schools and are finishing the last semester at their respective universities in May.  Sadly, they are scheduled to graduate on the same day.  I’m already disappointed that I can’t attend both.  Someone will go to one and I will go to the other, probably Erin’s.  Someone stresses out to drive in Louisville traffic.  Hell, I hate driving in Louisville traffic, but it’s not nearly as scary as driving in Houston.  I hope both get accepted to their #1 picks.  We should find out before spring.  It’s possible that they could end up at the same university for graduate school.  We will see.

For now, I welcome 2018 and look forward to all that is coming (that I know about, at least). 


Thursday, December 14, 2017

It's beginning to look

Indeed.  It is beginning to look a lot know...Christmas.  It is only December 14th, so I’m much less behind with things than usual.  I’m so much ahead of the game, in fact, that I’m taking my lazy ass to the mall today to start Christmas shopping.  Oh, yes, there are some items on order from Amazon, and some more to order...but I’m going to do in-person shopping today.  If you knew me, you would disbelieve what I just stated.  I HATE shopping (unless I’m in a rare shopping mood). Which I’m not, which is also why I’m procrastinating by writing a blog post when I should be kicking things into gear.  What I really need is some inspiration (or at least perhaps, some motivation).   

Our front door

I think today, I’m going to the liquor store. That will be my inspiration or motivation to get up and get out.  It’s been on my mind that a little holiday cheer is just what we need in this house.  The house is pretty much as decorated as it’s going to be, my classes are caught up for the moment, so it’s time to start enjoying the season – I love Christmas! 

I’m going to bake some cookies this weekend. Little brother, Mike, hates shopping as much as I do. A few years ago, he asked that we stop exchanging gift cards – we always exchanged gift cards because neither one of us knows what the other really wants.  We had dinner together a few weeks ago (to celebrate our birthdays jointly), and he reminded me that we aren’t exchanging gifts, but suggested that if I were to bake some cookies for him, he would not consider that to be a violation of our no-gift policy.  Little brother is a bachelor, and he doesn’t have patience to bake.  I will make some cookies for him – his kind of holiday cheer.  His favorite is basic chocolate chip, but I also know he has a passion for Mexican wedding cookies.  I will have to hunt up a recipe for those. 

Erin is coming home next week.  She requested that we bake and decorate sugar cut-out cookies while she is home.  This is something I used to do with all my girls around Christmas time.  It’s sort of a tradition for us, though we haven’t really done it with all of us together for many years.  Sarah used to love to decorate cookies, and was meticulous about making them look...well, almost too pretty to eat.  Almost. 😊  We made stars, angels, reindeer, snowmen, and Christmas trees.  This just reminded me that I have no idea where our cookie cutters are.

OK, enough for now.  It’s time for this old lady to put a hair-dryer in my hand and get me ready to go shopping.  To the mall!  This post is toast.  

Thursday, November 9, 2017

time change

I should go to bed…but well, I just made a nice cup of tea and have decided to blog a bit.  It’s not that there is nothing better to do…God only knows.  It’s going to be a heavy-duty weekend, one of those with a mountain of papers being submitted, but at least it’s mostly interesting stuff.  Meanwhile, there is training to do…much self-paced training.  My pace has been no pace…standing still. 

My plants are freezing on the back porch.  I know they want to come in.  I brought in the dracaena earlier this week after performing a bit of drastic surgery on it.  I chopped off its tallest stalk and cut it into three pieces which are now (hopefully) taking root.  Tomorrow afternoon, after my class in the morning, I’m bringing all those babies inside.  My Christmas cactus is blooming, I noticed. The kitchen will be a jungle (again).  

The days are short after the time change.  I HATE IT!!  It’s been an odd fall.  We’ve had lots of warm weather, but now it’s been chronically cooler, so perhaps there’ll be no more Indian summers.  Some trees are still beautiful with red, orange, and yellow leaves.  That’s very unusual for this area, for this time in November.  The maples in our yard are bare, but the oaks are still leafy, maroon and bronze.

Gracie, on guard.

Erin and Emily will take the GRE tomorrow (for Erin) and Saturday (for Emily).  Both are sweating it.  They should have taken it months ago but didn’t get around to registering.  I hope both do well enough to get into the schools where they want to attend.  If they don’t do well enough on this first attempt, there won’t be time to retake before the application deadlines for applying to graduate schools they hope to attend.  It’s exciting and a bit scary to think that my little girls will be graduating again in the spring (God willing, of course).  Four years have zipped by, just like that! 

May 2014 - hoping to repeat in May 2018, though not on the same day (hopefully)

The holidays are upon us before long.  With all there is to do with my classes, training, and recertification preparation, how will I ever find time to clean this abysmal house, decorate for the holiday, and Christmas shop?  I love the holidays.  I just wish we could slow the clock down a bit so there could be less rushing around.  Erin is coming home for Thanksgiving, but Emily has to work extra-long hours over Thanksgiving holiday, and Sarah rarely comes home.    I’ll just have to go visit her.  

University #1 ends December 8th, and then there’ll be four weeks to prepare for Spring semester.  University #2 never takes a break between sessions – they cater to nontraditional students (working adults) who just want to get it done ASAP.  That’s how it should be, really.  Time is money with most things.    

Saturday, October 21, 2017

come to Jesus

KYLady is taking a bit of a break tonight to catch up her life on this blog.  This is a break from what she should be doing – writing announcements for her classes, planning next week’s assignments and in-class festivities (i.e. lecture\discussion for Monday, and “something” for Wednesday), and grading papers.  With more classes at one time than she’s ever had (13), and more students than she’s ever had at one time (number unknown, but I think maybe around 160), it’s a lot to juggle.  Only three of these classes are face-to-face; the rest are online. 

One of my classes is a group of high school kids – upperclassmen (ok, and upperclasswomen…to be politically correct).  I go to their school three mornings every week and they are getting credit for a college class, which in theory, will save them (or more likely, their parents) money.  A student who enrolls in all the courses for fall and spring could potentially graduate from high school with half an associate’s degree at no cost to them.  All the credit hours are transferable to any public college in Kentucky. It’s a pretty sweet deal. 

However…most of these kids are not mature enough to do college-level work.  It’s not that they aren’t smart enough, it’s that they don’t know how to manage their time, or how to organize their commitments – high school kids have a lot of stuff going on.  They also have this thing where they sit with their friends in class, and socialize.  A month into the semester, it became apparent to us faculty that about 75% of the students enrolled in a college course were failing because they were not turning in assignments, not coming to class prepared, not studying for tests, and/or not coming to class at all. 

Anyway, we’ve all had multiple “Come to Jesus” meetings with them…with limited success.  Finally, early last week, the high school announced a change in policy: for all college courses, students’ parents will be receiving mid-term grades…even for students who are already 18 years old.  I’m not sure how that is possible with FERPA regs.  Regardless, my students have indeed found new incentive and motivation to do their work.  Toward the end of the week, there was a flurry of emails with apologies, pleas, and promises to make up late assignments.  It is good, other than an avalanche of work.

Now that we are officially into fall and the nights are getting cold (though still no frost, fortunately), it’s about time to give up on the garden.  I picked a sack of peppers and stuffed them for our dinner tonight.  I pulled up the last of the radishes.  There are still a few carrots; I’m going to wait until frost is predicted, and then those will be harvested.   Some of the late cabbages have small heads.  I’ll just let those grow for a while and see what happens.  The sun’s angle has changed and neither the garden nor the raised bed get more than a few hours of sun these days.  Tomorrow, I’m picking the rest of the green beans.  Soon it will be time to bring the house plants in from the porch.  I love my plants, but they’re too much for our little kitchen.  I’ll cut back the big ones and trim the vines before bringing them inside. 

Someone and I went to visit little Alice today (and of course, Alice’s mother, Katie, as well).  Alice is adorable – smiling now, and rolling over.  Katie loves to dress her up so that she looks extra cute.  Alice doesn’t seem to mind all the extra ruffles and frills.    

Alice is Princess Leia

Last weekend, I got to spend a little time with Erin and Emily.  Next weekend, I’m meeting Sarah in Berea.  She has a very big gig there.  I’m looking forward to visiting Berea again and hearing Sarah.  I hope we can spend a little time together too…if she has time, and if I can make time.             

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Camping again, at last

A month ago, Emily asked me to take her camping.  I hadn't taken the girls camping in six or seven years, so I agreed.  Neither Erin nor Sarah could join us, but Chase came with us.  Chase is Emily's boyfriend; this is his first camping trip ever, so I'm hoping he has a good time.  The weather is perfect  with no chance of rain, but a bit hotter than typical for this time of year.  Emily and Chase went for a swim and are now snoozing blissfully on this beautiful afternoon , while I sit in a chair outside the tent typing a blog post on my iPad.

Chase and Emily taking in the lake (Cave Run)

We watched the sun set.
View of the lake from our tent. 

To be honest, I could use a snooze myself.  It's a lot of work to go camping.  A lot of our stuff is stored in the garage, so everything has to be wiped down to clear away spiders, dirt, and dead bugs.  Our tent is really too big - enough for 12 people according to tentmakers, but five of us stayed in it very comfortably when we all use to go camping (those occasions were rare...Someone hates camping).  To make matters worse, I worked very hard this week to catch up my classes enough to get away for 30 hours.  My laptop is at home, like 70 miles away.  It's a bit scary to think about, but the break is good.  At least I still have access to my iPhone and iPad.  It might be that I'm addicted to the Internet, but I don't care.

There are 10 classes on my schedule right now.  It's the most students at one time that I've ever had.  It's good, but it's a lot of work for the money they pay me.  Perhaps too much work for the money...that's been on my mind.  I could do less for my students, but not doing my best would be a worry.  I don't like to do shoddy work. 

Our campsite is wonderful with large trees all around.  We are in a grove of walnut trees, with a beech tree hanging its limbs over the picnic table.  Every few minutes, a walnut or beechnut falls to the ground.  I can hear speedboats on the lake and turkeys somewhere in the campground.  Jarflies are singing in the trees.  We were warned that bears are active just now, so we can't be leaving food laying around.  Fine, we'll all be potential bear food.

***  And that is where I stopped and saved my post.  Something interrupted, or grabbed my attention. 

Camping last weekend is now just a distant, fond memory.  It's already Thursday night, with another weekend looming on the horizon.  This one will be busy for me.  Lots of student work to grade...I mean LOTS.  Projects, and papers, and worst of all, discussion boards.  Sometimes my students write the most ridiculous and trivial crap.  At least with a discussion board, the dreadfulness is a short paragraph or two.  When it's a paper, sometimes it's five or six  pages of nonsense.  After reading a really bad paper, I have to step away from my desk and clear my head before attempting to render an evaluation.  To write feedback immediately might result in me saying something regretful.  Not only that, sometimes distance is needed to think of something positive to say to the student.  I always start with something good before saying what I really think about the paper, in those cases when the paper is like, REALLY bad.  But in reality, I never say what I REALLY think about those kinds of papers.  That might get me in trouble.  No doubt I've written my fair share of crap. 

When watering my plants on the porch this week, I realized they have become incredibly beautiful over the summer.  The fresh air has been good for them this summer.  I started a wandering Jew from a sprig stolen a few summers ago, when we visited the lodge at Cumberland Falls.  They had pots of it hanging at the entryway.  They most likely didn't miss the few leaves that I stole...still, it felt like committing grand larceny.  My succulent garden is thriving...finally.  The corn plant has decided not to die, and the monstera has become massive.  I need a greenhouse before winter. 

Asparagus fern on top, wandering Jew in the middle, and succulents on the bottom shelf. 
Some of them...
Some happy snapdragons cut from my garden
This beautiful snapdragon bloomed for the first time this week.  I LOVE the color.  

Friday, August 18, 2017

dog days

It’s late, but I’m not in the mood for going to bed.  I have work to do, but I’m not in the mood for that either.  So, rather than clean house, or pick around on my guitar, or bake something…I’ll just ramble here on my blog. 

The past few afternoons, I’ve thought surely we are in the dog days of summer.  It’s been very hot and humid this week.  When you step outside from any place that’s air conditioned, you can almost drink the air.  It caused me to wonder where that expression comes from (dog days), so research ensued.  The Farmer’s Almanac has a wonderfully descriptive explanation.  In a nutshell, the dog days last for about 40 days (July 3 through August 11) that relate to Sirius (the Dog Star) being visible in the morning. 

Sirius is the brightest star (not counting the sun).  It is in Canis Major (the Greater Dog).  You can find it by drawing a line down from Orion’s belt.  So that is our astronomy lesson for today.  Technically, we are past the official dog days, but unofficially, it has been hot as hell.

On Thursday morning, because I had no classes to teach, I went outside early in the morning and picked beans – lots of beans, 3.5 pounds of them to be exact.  It made a huge pot of beans on the stove, but Someone eats beans like they are going out of style.  I like corn and beans and much as the next person, but nobody can put them away like Someone does. 

In my mind, picking beans was to be a chore.  But 15 minutes into the task, my mind wandered and it was a marvelous way to blow the morning.  The local deer have become bold in their quest for apples.  The apples on our trees are very large this year in comparison to prior years.  I fertilized all the fruit trees last fall and the benefits are obvious.  Gracie sat on the driveway and kept a watchful eye on the neighbor’s cat while I picked beans serenaded by the shrill songs of jar flies.  A doe and two spotted fawns ventured to the trees and ate apples on the ground for several minutes, all the while keeping eyes on me and on Gracie.  This evening, an 8-point buck visited the trees. 

When I was a kid, we lived on my great-grandparents’ farm in the summers.  In those days, there was no air-conditioning.  During the days, they kept windows open and ran fans to keep the house tolerably cool.  In the evenings, it was much cooler outside than inside, even with the fans.  People sat outside in the evenings, and then went inside and went straight to bed. 

I hated working in the garden in the summers.  As kids, my brothers and I were given plenty of chores, but we also had time to play, especially in late afternoons when it was too damn hot to be working in the sun.  In those days, I told myself that when I grew up, I was going to live in a big city where there would be no gardens to tend and no grass to mow.  As it turns out, I hate big cities.  If I had my way, Someone and I would move farther out from town.  Things are starting to develop around us a bit too much.  Don’t get me wrong, progress is a wonderful thing.  But now that I’m not in an office 60 hours a week, I wish we lived someplace quieter. 

This evening, I planted green beans, more lettuce, and more carrots in my raised bed.  Radishes will be ready to harvest in a few more days.  Carrots are plentiful just now.  I love the raised bed, but what is best is the hummingbird feeder beside it.  I love watching the little hummers.  Just about any time that I peek out the window, there will be a hummer at the feeder or sitting on the fence beside it.  They are shy.  If I step out on the porch, any birds near the feeder will fly up and hide in the maple tree.  If I go near the garden, one will fly down and confront me – hover in front of me.  It’s fun.

Carrots from the garden

We had a hard rain this morning, and tomorrow it cools down to the low 80s.  Perhaps our dog days have ended.  Someone and I will play golf tomorrow afternoon.  Tomorrow morning, I will grade assignments, and make an apple dump cake or perhaps an apple pie.  Someone will be happy when he smells something baking in the oven.  It might be that I've become more domesticated in my old age.   

Apple dump cake hot from the oven (glaze is added over the top when it cools)

Gracie (our Canis Major)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

alive and well

It was in my mind that I’d be traveling to Indiana this week, but as it turned out, I couldn’t make contact with my family there in time, and now they have plans for the next two weekends.  My trip is now delayed until the last weekend of the month.  It makes for a busy weekend with 12+ hours of driving in two days.  Hopefully the weather will be nice enough.
University #1 starts back next Monday.  I’ve been working hard the past two weeks to get my classrooms built and ready to open.  Three of my classes are face-to-face, and one is online.  Meanwhile, I have four online classes underway for University #2 - we are just past midterm there.  I’m just about ready for my students at University #1 (all 116 of them…and counting…the numbers change daily). 

After Someone and I returned from the beach, I got in the mood to do some things around the house that needed doing.  Things like cleaning out my closet and drawers, scrubbing algae off the brick walkway and porch in the front of the house, cleaning cars, and cleaning “dark corners” of the house (you know, like moving furniture and cleaning behind it, and cleaning out cabinets).  This endeavor has been going on for a month now…but, there was a near-tragedy this week when I reached for an extension cord – a giant wasp nest was right there behind it.  The only thing left of the nest now is this picture.  Spring cleaning came late to our house. 

Near miss - wasp nest hidden in the cord

I visited Sarah when she got back from China and had a lovely time with her.  We visited an Amish greenhouse close to where she lives.  The prices were reasonable so I bought some flowers – Monarda, Lupines, and some pretty petunias that were reduced.  Sarah also bought a few new specimens.  Later in the week, I visited our local greenhouse where the prices were not reduced at all, unfortunately.  I bought some cabbage plants, some more impatiens to replace the ones that died while we were gone to the beach, and a Bleeding Heart.  I love bleeding hearts, but they seem to only last a few years and then die.  We will see how this one does (it was definitely an impulse purchase).  

My flowers are beautiful just now.  The ones on the porch are best because the deer don’t eat them.  This year, we have not had nearly as many Japanese Beetles.  Thank you, Lord.  I hate those bugs!!

I’ve replanted lettuce, radishes, and beans in my raised bed.  Soon I will plant my baby cabbage plants (there is still one head to harvest in the garden before I dig up all the decapitated cabbages).  It was my wish to plant brussels sprouts, but nobody sells them around here.  Only in the spring can they be purchased, and apparently, they are scarce even then.  Not many people grow them, I was told.  Well hell, of course not.  They’re too damn hard to come by.  Next spring, I will grow some from seeds.  Screw the greenhouses, I will take the bull by the horns (so to speak).

Pretty petunias (Sarah got some of these too)

Some pretty zinnias
Pentunias, Allysum, and some Verbena
Molly was not amused.

I’ve installed a hummingbird feeder out beside my raised bed.  It took several weeks, but the hummingbirds finally found it.  It’s great fun to watch them, but I learned that our hummingbirds are territorial.  There are two that stay close by.  One is a ruby-throated hummingbird, no doubt about it.  They are common in these parts.  The other is less bright – perhaps its mate, but I’m not sure.  One or the other is usually sitting on top of the fence beside the feeder at any given time.  A few times, when I’ve gone out to pull carrots, they will hover in front of my face.  Sorry guys, you don’t intimidate me at all.  My friends take great photos of their hummingbirds.  Alas, I am not skilled enough to snap a decent photo of our wee, spriteful feathered friends.  

Gracie will miss me next week when I'm back on campus three days a week.  My bank account is eager for me to increase my work hours.  No complaints though.  I love, Love, LOVE being retired from Big Oil.  Life is marvelous.  

My sweet Gracie (arguably)