Sunday, September 27, 2015

day of reckoning

The world came to a screeching halt.
Not for me and any readers obviously, but for my brother, who finally paid the ultimate price for his long love affair with alcohol.  Richard was found dead Thursday morning (9/24).  It appears that he’d had a seizure and asphyxiated.  So it goes.  We all knew the day was coming, and my other brother (Mike) and I marveled every time we got together that Richard was still alive.  We expected him to last no longer than a year once we moved him into his house.  In fact, he survived nearly three years. 

Mike and I use to joke that we would put his ashes into an empty vodka bottle for burial.  Now that the end has come, it’s not so funny to think about that.  The memory of seeing my brother tip the vodka bottle and chug on it like he was drinking milk from a carton is something I can never forget.  For the past year, his alcoholism became too difficult to manage.  Drinking made him sick, but not drinking made him sicker.  He withered away to a rack of bones, and this under-60 year old man walked and moved slower than my grandfather when he was 93.       

I had to make phone calls to our parents to tell them the news.  Nobody was surprised.  Now I must write an obituary for him and plan a memorial service.  Mike and I began cleaning out his house yesterday.  We learned a lot about our brother in this unhappy process.  Fortunately, it was all good things about him – things I wished I’d known before he died.

Richard never made the connection that he couldn’t keep a job or a girlfriend because of his drug and alcohol problems.  He didn’t seem to comprehend that his health was affected by drinking so much.  He refused to believe that his “friends” were taking advantage of him.  That’s how denial works.  Rehab was never an option.  At one point about a year ago, after a very close-encounter with death and a long hospital stay, he told me he was finished drinking.  We talked about AA and what changes he was willing to make to stay sober.  He assured me that he would attend AA meetings and never drink before 3PM, and only beer, no more vodka.  As I was leaving the hospital, I said good-bye to my brother in all the ways a person can say good-bye.  I never saw him that sober again.

In the words of Cat Stevens, we’re all “only dancing on this earth for a short while.”  Richard was ready to sit down.  I wish we could have changed the music and had one more dance. 

in better days

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I'm the man

KYLady was in the foulest of moods earlier this week.  It’s a very long story, but rest assured, KYLady’s mood is way above the tippy-tops of the highest cirrus clouds today.  In fact, she was so excited with the news she got last night that she could hardly sleep.  And even today at work, with a staff meeting going on, KYLady is only pretending to listen while she writes a blog post because she has no interest in work AT ALL just now.
So, the backstory is that old KYLady has been itching to retire from her primary job for a very long time.  Finally, she collected lists of her expenses and assets, and implored Someone to give her lists of his assets and expenses.  Without getting too personal, perhaps it was because Someone and KYLady had prior spouses, both decided when they got married that managing finances separately made good sense.  They’ve always had his and her bills to pay.  KYLady makes the most money (not bragging, just stating fact), so KYLady pays the most bills.

So, everyone wants to be KYLady’s financial advisor because of her age and the company she works for.  She settled on two advisors from two companies, which is a bit like having multiple clocks and not really knowing what time.  Financial Advisor #2 wants more information, but told me earlier this week that unless I could get Someone to take on more of our expenses, I could definitely not afford to retire until the mortgage is paid off (in like 7 more years).

That was the start of the foul mood.  Then Someone and I got into an argument about it.  Someone flatly stated, “Hell no, I’m not going to start paying YOUR bills.  That’s not fair to me.  You’ll just have to keep on working.  It’s not that bad, you just have a bad attitude.”  Yeah, I’m the one with the bad attitude.  Right…what would his attitude be in my job?  He works 30 hours a week at most and gets 15 paid holidays.  Me?  It’s like 45-60 hours a week with 10 paid holidays.  I’ve worked at least 8 years longer than him, even though I’m younger than him.  Don’t talk to me about attitude, ASSHOLE.

With that, I began making mental plans.  Such as, it’s time for “us” to downsize…I’m going to put “my” house up for sale.  You never answer your cellphone any way; I’m going to cancel you.  You know what, I can’t really afford the insurance on your new car anymore.  I’m cancelling your policy so I think you’d better start looking for a buyer.  You can have my old (2002) Camry and I’ll go back to driving the old (2004) minivan – we’ll be better off.  I vented to a certain person who gave me the best advice I’ve had in a long time.  She said, “You just tell him you’re the man and he’s the little bitch.”  Yeah, he’s the little bitch alright. 

So, then last night, we had a meeting with Financial Advisor #1.  First thing when we sat down, he asked us if we were planning a divorce.  It caught us both off guard.  Someone and I agreed we were not planning or thinking of divorce.  Advisor said, “Well good, because I combined your expenses and assets for this analysis.  I hope that’s OK.”  With our expenses and assets combined, we have plenty of resources for me to retire next January.  Like PLENTY.  Then, as if that were not good enough, he reminded me that the discount rate is expected to increase, so it might be advantageous for me to quit at the end of the year rather than working a month into 2016 as I was planning.  On the drive home, Someone seemed to be a little more open to the idea of me quitting.  Maybe he’s starting to see things my way.

Here’s the bottom line, I’m going to retire at the end of January, or I’m going to retire at the end of December.  Of course, I will listen to what Advisor #2 has to say when he gets the numbers together, but my brain has already locked in R-E-T-I-R-E-M-E-N-T.  It doesn’t seem real.  It’s not real yet.  The discount rate for 2016 will be announced on November 15.  With much hope, I wait.  


Tuesday, September 22, 2015


It was a lovely, wonderful weekend for KYLady.  There’ll be no gloom and doom in this blog post…OK, it’s going to be tough but I’ll try to remain cheerful and optimistic through the end of the last paragraph.
I took two hours of vacation Friday afternoon so that leaving work early for a round of golf was possible.  It was a beautiful day for golf – sunny and 80 degrees, and the course was not crowded.  Someone and I teed off at 3:45 PM and finished well before dark.  I had two birdies which always makes golf fun, even when a great shot is just pure luck.  Someone could not buy a tee shot and so was a bit whiney and sullen, but I didn’t let his foul mood interfere with my glorious afternoon in the sun. 

Saturday, Someone and I went to the Simon Kenton Festival in Old Washington, KY.  That was loads of fun.  The sky was completely clear when we left home, but by the time we arrived at Old Washington, it looked like rain.  In fact, it did rain lightly for a bit, but not enough to make things miserable.  We went to listen to Sarah sing, but the festival itself was wonderful.  Some people were dressed up as Indians and settlers, and I saw a couple of men wearing old revolutionary war uniforms.  All sorts of good-smelling food (barbecue) was being cooked and sold, and there was no scarcity of fair food.  Churches set up and were selling baked goods, and lots of crafters were selling things.  I bought a hummingbird feeder that I probably won’t hang outside until spring.  I think the hummingbirds have already left Kentucky for winter, but I’ll consult my expert friend who takes photos of hummers around her feeders as a hobby.  She will know.  Old Washington is a neat place.  It’s a historic district with old cabins and buildings from as long ago as the 1700s.  Up and down the main street, carriages pulled by a horse and oxen were giving people free rides. 

Oxen are BIG!


On Sunday, I slept in and then took my kayak out for an adventure.   After some research, I found Raccoon Creek ramp, about 7 miles upriver from my usual put-in place on the Little Sandy River.  To be honest, I almost talked myself out of going there.  I knew it would be isolated; that part of the county has high-crime, wildcats, and bears.  But sometimes, adventure is just what a person like me needs.  The ramp was completely deserted and I quickly learned why it’s not so popular.  The ramp is very short and steep, with giant ruts on both sides.  It’s really more suited for a small carry-in boat.  In fact, I decided to park at the top, put my kayak on a little cart, and pull it down to the water’s edge.
So based on the map, I thought I was putting my kayak into Raccoon creek.  I paddled what I thought was downstream (it was), thinking that around every next bend I would see the river.  Then I began wondering if I was paddling up the creek rather than down.  It was so windy that I couldn’t tell anything about the current.  Finally, it became obvious I was on the river.  When I returned to the ramp and paddled upriver a little way, I found Raccoon creek which was nearly dried up and not obvious.  Too bad the waterways are not marked with signs like roads are.  Then again, absence of civilization and the unknown adds to the adventure aspect. 

Somewhere on Little Sandy between Raccoon Creek Ramp and Dragonfly Adventures

The Little Sandy snakes through the hills, and there are lots of little and big creeks that feed into it.  It’s mostly farmland and woods on both sides, but also there are areas with small cottages and campsites.  The property along this river is most likely not expensive; it floods terribly in the spring.  All those campers and little ratty cottages are how us average folks live the good life – home away from home.  In my dreams...

So yes, the break from University #2 has been wonderful.  Someone and I met with my financial advisor last week.  He had many more questions, so I still have no answers.  We have more information to collect for him, so it’ll be a few more weeks yet.  The preliminary report is not optimistic, but we won’t go there per my promise to stay cheerful through the end of this post.  Meanwhile, I updated my CV again and will begin applying for more teaching jobs this week.  Rust never sleeps, and neither should I.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Things have been desperate lately.  Well, it's not really the things as much as it’s me…I have been desperate lately.  Things are very hectic.  By nature, I’m very laid back.  It’s hard to be me in this place in time with so much stuff going on.

University #2 wrapped up Sunday night.  I had 48 hours to get last assignments graded, but wouldn’t you know it, six students crawled out of the woodwork and dumped assignments for the entire term into my queue for grading.  The university has a culture of what they call “compassionate accountability”.  I call it utter bullshit.  With no penalty for late work, why worry with deadlines?  The deadlines only apply to me.  It’s not fair to the other students, because I have less time to evaluate work of the students who submit on time.  All but a handful of students submitted a few last assignments late.  Needless to say, it was two days of sitting in front of my computer grading papers with only a few hours of sleep.  Fortunately, Monday was a holiday so I didn’t need to take vacation time to finish.

University #1 is about a month into the term.  The herd is starting to thin, especially in the Microsoft Office class.  Some students have already decided it’s too much work and have dropped the course.  Several are already struggling.  If they were to ask me, I’d tell them it’s only going to get worse.  Truly, most any technology can be tedious to master.  It’s especially difficult for people who don’t have the brain for it (and by no means am I implying that you have to be smart to learn technology).  Some students sign up because they think it’s going to be easy.  Sure, almost everyone knows how to use Word and PowerPoint, but this course requires them to learn the features most people rarely use. Once we get into Excel and Access, students drop like flies.
I had a roommate in college who was an accounting major.  She was valedictorian of her high school class, a straight-A student, and really very book smart (common-sense smart, not so much).  She was required to take a few computer classes for her major.  She did well with the intro to computers class, but when she got to Basic (the most elemental and user-friendly programming language back in those days), she floundered.  I helped her as best I could, but she just didn’t have the brain that’s required to deconstruct a problem and create a solution set with logical tools.  She barely passed, but she passed.  She became a CPA and no doubt has earned at least three times more money as I have over the course of our careers.  That’s OK, I’m grateful for people who like accounting.  I hate money.
Oh well.  Next week, I have an appointment with my financial advisor to see if I can afford to retire from my main job.  If he advises against it, *sigh*…I don’t even want to go there.  I’m setting a date of January 29, 2016.  If that will fly, I will ask my employer if I can stay on part-time until we get a big project finished (which has almost 3 more years to go).  If not, it’s pull the trigger and adios.  Meanwhile, my job hunt has come to a screeching halt.  There’s just no time to work more hours or look for another job.

So here I am blogging because I don’t want to clean house in my “free” time.  Sadly, this house needs a major cleanup.  That’s my fourth job – house slave.  I’m a slacker.  


Monday, August 17, 2015

Summer Soliloquy

Summer is waning.  Every day now, until the sun sets, jar flies sing their sad serenade in ode to the shrinking corn stalks and withering cucumber vines in the garden.  Summer is not over – far from it, but the girls are back to school this week and my new semester starts today.  Where did it all go?  Except for a few vacation days, it seems I completely missed out.  My life has become too busy.  For too long, it has been too busy.

As a very young girl, I remember that summer seemed endless.  Perhaps it was because calendars and clocks were of little concern unless there was something specific I was looking forward to.  Now as an adult heavily entrenched in the rat race of day-to-day survival, Father Time has complete control of my life.  Not that I offered it up to him, but maybe it was done without realization or direct intention on my part.

Maybe it was boredom that made summer seem endless, but I don’t remember boredom.  My summer was fields of corn and tobacco, green pastures dotted with black cattle and purple ironweed, and giant walnut trees with branches upon branches.  I imagined walking between rows of tall corn and fat tobacco plants to the very edge of the Earth, or climbing a grand, old tree until I could touch the clouds.  Lost in imagination for hours, the afternoons dimmed into evenings, and then into nights and new mornings.

Those were not the good old days, but more a good state of mind – a mind that had no regard for current events, paying bills, or keeping things orderly.  Pretty much, it was just living day-to-day rather than managing life for myself and family.  Perhaps that is the key to unlock the shackles that Father Time has put on me – I need to stop managing and start living.  Is that even possible? 

Friday, August 7, 2015

escape to the mountains

KYLady was grateful for a gloomy day on Thursday when she wrote this post.  It fit her mood – gloomy with no hope in sight for a day off anytime soon.  Don’t misunderstand…she is also extremely grateful to have two teaching jobs along with her real job that pays all the bills.  Financial security is a blessing.  But…(and there’s always a but, isn’t there!!)…this life of all work and no play gets tiresome.

University #1 starts in less than two weeks.  I’m now in full force trying to learn the new simulator platform my students have to use.  I have to build assignments in the platform and learn it well enough to help the ones who can’t figure out how to use it.  The university didn’t turn it on until last week, so now it’s do or die.  I have three classes to get ready, even though one will surely be cancelled.  I still have to get it ready on the outside chance that a rush of students will enroll at the last minute.  One class is overfilled (9 students over the cap), and the other is almost full.  That third class that I now hope gets cancelled is a face-to-face night class, an hour’s drive from home.  It could be fun, but the two hours of travel time will eat into my free time…which is very scarce these days. 

I just picked up a fifth class at University #2 this week.  We’re in week 3 of an 8-week session at that school.  Apparently there was an issue with the professor, and I’ve taken his place.  It’s a small class and an interesting topic, so that’s good.  I’m finding that a small class does not equate to less work at this university.  Fewer students requires much greater involvement in the discussion forums.  That too is good, because it forces me to do some research and write which is one of the primary reasons I wanted to move into academia in the first place.

As shitty as this week has been, last week was just as m-a-r-v-e-l-o-u-s.  Sarah, Erin, Emily, and I went on a real vacation.  Real Vacation means I did not even make a bed, wash a dish, sweep a floor, or any other chores (I did have to grade some papers, but that doesn’t count).  It was wonderful to spend time with my lovelies and have five days to putter around with them. 

First, we drove to Asheville, North Carolina.  We walked around the downtown area, visited the Arts District (which was not so very impressive), and toured Biltmore Estate.  Biltmore is an amazing place built by the Vanderbilt family.  It’s like a mammoth castle with gargoyles on the roof eaves and more rooms than anyone really ever could need.  I lost count of bedrooms, bathrooms, dining rooms, and billiard rooms.  The indoor swimming pool is larger than our city pool.  The house is filled with grand furniture; it’s amazing to walk through and imagine living there. 

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

View from the back porch (Biltmore)

My favorite part of the whole place is the gardens and conservatory.  Every species of plant you can imagine was growing somewhere.  I would love to go in the spring to see the wisteria, azaleas, rhododendrons, and spring bulbs in bloom.  With so many plants, it must be nothing short of spectacular.  There are big fountains with all kinds of water lilies blooming.   We walked around and marveled at the variety of lily pads, coy fish, and flowers blooming up out of the water.  I hope to go back there someday.

One of the water gardens
Verigated lily pads - I didn't know there was such a thing!
You could spend an entire day just to see the gardens outside the conservatory
Wisteria everywhere

After Asheville, we drove to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  It’s a tourist mecca.  The girls called it “Myrtle Beach of the Mountains.”  They were absolutely correct.  Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge has all the touristy shit that Myrtle Beach has, except they have not managed the traffic as well as Myrtle Beach.  It’s bumper to bumper cars through the main business areas, and parking is very difficult.  We visited a large aquarium at Emily’s request – she got to dissect many ocean creatures last semester in her zoology class and was keenly interested in seeing some of them alive and swimming.  We also visited DollyWood, a Dolly Parton themed amusement park.  This was on both Erin and Emily’s bucket list.  It was OK…I liked it better than King’s Island (the amusement park that is closest to home).  We saw a couple of shows, the girls rode some roller coasters, and we all ate some junk food (cotton candy and Dippin’ Dots).  

Smoky Mountains - near Gatlinburg, TN

On the day we drove home, we stopped at Cumberland Falls in Kentucky.  That was on my bucket list.  It is a lovely area; the waterfall is beautiful.  Of course, I saw all that water (particularly the stream below the falls) and was thinking what a beautiful place to take my kayak.  It’s a three-hour drive to get there from home, so not something I’m likely to do in the foreseeable future.

Cumberland Falls, Kentucky
Below the falls

Kayak adventure area begins

In the evenings, we played Catan.  It was fun, although “some” of us were very competitive (perhaps overly competitive) in the quest for victory.  As far as my experiences playing the game, there was never a glimmer of hope that I might win.  In one game, at one point, I was in a position (finally) to build a city if nobody robbed me before my next turn.  Of course, that never happened.  Sarah won the game before my next turn.  *sigh*

One immature player got bored...

The weather for our vacation was summer bliss.  Sunny and hot every day…perfection.  What a blessing it was to have time with my girls, all together.  It rarely happens these days.  Soon, Sarah starts back to work at her teaching jobs, and Erin and Emily go back to school.  This next week will be a flurry of shopping and packing, and all too soon, the house will be quiet again.         

Saturday, July 18, 2015

telepathic weather control

KyLady feels a bit guilty for being happy about rain in her last post.  Even though she knows that wishing for nasty weather doesn’t cause it, she was truthfully glad that the weather sucked the whole first half of the month.  The consequence of all that rain was flooding which destroyed lives and homes in the eastern part of my fair Kentucky.  I love these hills but flash floods are treacherous.
The sun finally peaked out from behind a thick blanket of clouds Thursday afternoon.  By the time I got off work, there were no clouds in sight and the air was cool and calm.  Since I have no grading to do just now, I loaded up my kayak and skedaddled out to Greenbo Lake.  I wanted to go to the river, but was concerned that it might still be at flood stage – muddy, with garbage and giant limbs floating all over, and perhaps a swift current which would make paddling up river too much work.  Greenbo is the closest lake to my house - 22 minutes from our driveway to the marina.    

Greenbo was beautiful, just like silk.  The sky and trees reflected as clearly as a mirror, and I could sit on the water and not drift anywhere…the water and air were that still.  BUT...of course there’s a but…there was a church group of teens out there – like 40 or so loud-mouthed hyper kids in canoes and kayaks.  It was happy noise at least, but I wanted the silence when nobody is out there.  There were also people fishing, picnicking, hiking, biking, and boating all over the place.  It was the wrong place to go to get away from civilization and humanity.

Greenbo Lake

One of my succulents, the one Erin gave me that inspired my succulent garden, finally gave up.  It was not healthy from the get-go; it had been terribly overwatered at the store and never recovered.  Anyway, I replaced it and added another specimen…along with another rock and a piece of driftwood.  The wood is a bit too big, but I like it.  Perhaps someday I’ll move it all to a bigger container and it’ll be just the right size.

Succulent garden 2.0

Miss Molly found nothing to nibble on and has no appreciation for succulents.

All this rain has brought many fungi to life in the woods where I walk Miss Gracie.  Toadstools are kind of creepy and mysterious…they just pop up unexpectedly.  Some are deadly poisonous. I’ve oftentimes wondered if the soil has something to do with how they are shaped or what color they are, or are those characteristics completely determined by the spores that are their seeds?  I should do some research on that, and then I’ll know.     

I've never seen anything like this before.  Maybe it's extraterrestrial.