Monday, April 14, 2014

say what?

I’ve been trying to write for a few days, but my mind has been everywhere but in the right place to construct a blog post that anyone (including me) would ever want to read.  My mental to-do list has become so lengthy that I can’t even make myself consider it.  A few weeks ago, I started a paper list and stopped….it was just too overwhelming.  Alas, my personal life has become as chaotic as my work life.  Who is to blame for this situation?  Me.  Of course, me.  Who else?

I may not have announced to the world that I got that teaching job I interviewed for.  Come August when fall term starts, I’ll officially be Dr. KYLady, IT instructor at a community college.  Oh, but don’t get your hopes up, I can’t quit the corporate job yet.  Teaching one class the entire fall term pays little more than enough to cover our house payment for one month.  I’ll be working two jobs until I build up some experience for my resume.  It’s OK…it’s a step in the right direction, a stepping stone to a new career.

To prepare myself for this teaching job, I enrolled in a MOOC at  It’s called University Teaching 101, an online course designed for graduate assistants who are going to teach college-level courses without any teaching experience – people like me.  It’s been great so far.  I’ve learned a lot, primarily that planning which concepts to teach and what order to teach them is a lot harder than I thought it would be.

We learned about learning styles and the importance of identifying what my students’ and my own preferred learning styles are.  A teacher will most likely prefer to teach the way she prefers to learn.  This is not be a good thing for her students because they will represent a variety of learning styles.  So, we were invited to take two learning style assessments to learn about ourselves.  I was not too surprised by the outcome of these tests.  I was pretty much middle of the road on the continuums of active – reflective learner, sensing – intuitive learner, and sequential – global learner.  But on the continuum of visual – verbal, I am on the visual pole.  I’ve always known I don’t listen well.  This is my proof…it’s not just my imagination.  Even at work, when somebody calls with a problem and wants to explain it to me, I will usually cut them off and ask them 
to share their desktop with me, to show me the problem.

Fortunately for me, the class I’m teaching will be online.  I will do a lot of reading and writing, but very little speaking/listening to students…unless they want to call me.

When I was in school, I was a good student (except for 7th grade….and I have no idea what happened that year).  By good student, I mean I got good grades and didn’t cause trouble.  It’s a miracle because what I remember most about school (at least until my last few years of high school), was that I never seemed to know what was going on or when things were due.  I sat in my chair and stared out the window, or scribbled in my notebook, or read ahead if we had books open in front of us.  It must have been very boring, but I liked school.  It was very predictable, and my teachers were nice to me. 

Even as an adult, Someone and all my kids will say I never listen to them.  That’s a little bit exaggeration, because of course I listen sometimes. But, I do remember a few times when Sarah and Emily were toddlers.  They climbed up on my lap, put their little hands on both sides of my head and put their face inches from mine to command 100% of my attention.  Was I really that bad?  Apparently so.      

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

for whom the bell tolls

Across the road from where my office is, there is a Catholic hospital.  Sometimes I think hospitals and doctor’s offices are taking over the entire planet.  In this area where I live, I’m sure it’s because not only are the majority of us fat sloths,  many of us already have cancer or are developing it because of all the steel, chemical, and coke plants along the river.  The health care business is booming here in the Ohio River valley, unfortunately. 
Anyway, about a year ago, the hospital installed a loudspeaker/sound system so they can broadcast a replication of Big Ben.  On the half-hours, they play a short hymn.  At 12:30 in the afternoon, the hymn is always Amazing Grace, played slightly out of tune.  This is all OK, I’m not complaining.  Still, I imagine a system such as this cost plenty of money and surely the money could have been put to better use somehow.  The clocky-sounds emitted by this feat of technology do not enrich my perception of our civilization.  

Many mornings, I come into work just as Big Ben is sounding 8:00.  If it starts while I’m still out in the parking lot, it makes me feel like Cinderella escaping the ball before the clock strikes midnight.  Hurry!!! My beautiful dress will become rags and my glass slippers will disappear when I hear that last *BONG*.  Actually, it’s more like I imagine myself changing into a pumpkin...I can't even imagine myself as Cinderella in that story.  If I ever become a pumpkin, I hope it will be a tall, dark, warty one with deep furrows….that’s my favorite kind.  They have so much more character than the smooth, round, bright orange ones. 

I’ve always been a bit fascinated by Catholics, their rituals, and their clothes.  As a girl, I use to feel sorry for Catholic kids because they had to wear uniforms to school.  I saw school uniforms as a precursor to the habits and robes worn by nuns and monks.  In the town I grew up in, we had a monastery that sat on top of a hill.  It was surrounded by deep woods and a very tall black iron fence that went all around it.  The buildings inside were made of stone, and there were iron bars over many of the windows and doors.  There were stone paths inside and outside the compound and sometimes I saw nuns and monks walking the paths and whispering to each other.  The monks wore robes with hoods.  In my mind, monks were very mysterious and creepy.  Many of them had full beards.  When they had their hoods up over their heads, they looked like members of a witch coven.  When I was young, I thought all Catholic kids had to become nuns and monks and live in monasteries.  I was truly grateful not to be born Catholic.

As a girl, I loved to climb that thick-wooded hill, walk the perimeter of the iron fence surrounding the monastery, and spy on people.  I imagined myself to be James Bond, or someone from Mission Impossible, or Man from U.N.C.L.E.  When nobody was out and about, sometimes I crawled under the fence and got a closer look at things inside the compound.  The trees were huge and there was lots of honeysuckle and bushes which made good cover for hiding.  The place was quiet, like a cemetery, and somehow holy…or maybe I only imagined it was holy because of all those Catholic people living there.  I sometimes wondered if spying on Catholics was evil, and if God would cause something bad to happen to me for doing it.  Nothing bad ever happened, so apparently God was OK with it.    

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

hope springs eternal

Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.
This little rhyme has been rolling around my head since yesterday morning.  Monday mornings are just so terribly hopeless.  Such is life when one is totally burnt out and completely uninspired with her job.  It’s that hopelessness, that knowing that the work week this week will be like last week’s will be like last week’s will be like last week’s…and fantasizing about anything better than last week… that keeps me wanting to stay snuggled under a pile of blankets on Monday mornings.  I will think, “Oh, if only I could just stay in bed forever!”  It’s a terrible wish and one I would never say out loud.  Sure as shit, God would grant it if he heard me say it. 
It’s not so much that I want to stay in bed really, but more that I don’t want to face another day in the office.  It’s not that my job is routine and boring, because it’s not anything like that.  It’s more like a 12-ring circus with so much going on that nobody can see it all.  When I leave at the end of the day, it feels like I’ve been splattered to the four walls, or ripped apart by hungry wolves, or something devastating like that. 
As horrible and hopeless as my work life is, Spring seems to be here today and has brought its hope to my spirit.  Hope is a wondrous thing.  I stepped out at lunchtime and took in one deep breath that carried the smell of freshly mowed grass and daffodils.  The warm sunshine caused me to shuck off my jacket and look up to see a cloudless blue sky.  It all reminded me that those 60 hours of corporate slavery are nothing that matters in the big scheme of things.  Golf courses to visit, lakes to paddle my kayak on and swim in, woods to tromp through with Gracie, horses to ride, and gardens to plant and tend….all these things are promises of spring.  My hammock!!!  Yes, soon I’ll be hanging that up again.

There is so much to be grateful for.  Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye...but not in the spring. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Madness

March Madness is underway.  It’s hard to live in Kentucky for long and not be a basketball fan.  I was not born or raised in Kentucky, but somewhere along the way in my adulthood, I came to like basketball.  My older brother played varsity basketball in high school, but I rarely went to his games.  And, I didn’t care about basketball in college either, although I can remember watching basketball games on TV with my first-husband’s family when we visited them.  My first husband had no interest in sports of any kind.

In between marriages, most men I dated did watch basketball games or listen to them on the radio.  Not to brag, but I actually met and went out a few times with an ex-Kentucky basketball player.  He was a nice guy but not really my type; we really didn’t have much in common except that we both liked to play golf.  He was slightly taller than 7 feet tall, so tall that he ducked whenever he walked through doorways.  It’s sort of an inconvenience to be so tall – he had to custom-order clothes.  Compact cars were impossible for him.
Someone’s family is all into basketball.  Someone’s father got a full scholarship to play basketball at University of Florida.  That was a very big deal for an eastern Kentucky boy in those days….it’s still a big deal.  Someone, his brother, and his youngest sister were all awesome high school basketball players.  Many of someone’s nieces and nephews played or play basketball.  Someone was never able to get our girls interested in playing.  We have a hoop over the driveway and we all shoot baskets for fun, but not for long and not enough to be good at it.  We only shoot because it’s there and we have a basketball.  Our girls always had too many other interests.

Anyway, this afternoon, Someone and I watched Kentucky (University of Kentucky) beat Wichita State.  It was an exciting game until the very end.  WIth only 2.3 seconds left in the game, Wichita had possession and needed a 3-pointer to win.  One of their best 3-point shooters took a shot as the buzzer sounded but the ball didn’t go in.  Hooray!  Kentucky advances to the Sweet Sixteen.  

The Wildcats will play Louisville on Friday.  The two best Kentucky teams will play each other – now that’s major excitement!!!  The arena will be packed like red and blue sardines.  I haven’t decided who I want to win.  I was a Kentucky fan until this year.  Erin will be a Louisville Cardinal starting August….I think that makes me more loyal to the Cards from now on...but maybe not.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

creepy hobo

I dreamed about railroad tracks last night.  It’s the only thing I remember about the whole dream – just the tracks -silver rails glinting in the sun and stretching as far as my eyes could see, black sticky railroad ties lined up in perfect symmetry, and glittery limestone.

When I was a young girl spending summers on my great grandparents’ farm in St Paul, Kentucky, I spent lots of time fantasizing about escape.  Escape to where?  Nowhere in particular, I just wanted to be anywhere that wasn’t there where I was.  I imagined following the railroad tracks all the way to the ocean, even though I had no idea if those tracks near the house ran east-west or north-south.   The ocean was a very long way off, regardless of the direction I might have taken.  It makes sense that a person could never be lost if she had no particular destination in mind to begin with, and how could a person get lost with such a distinct path to follow?

My brothers and I were forbidden to play on or near the railroad tracks.  Of course, we did anyway.  We walked the rails to see who could go the farthest without losing balance.  We’d see who could walk the farthest with his/her eyes blindfolded.  We put pennies on the tracks so trains would flatten them.  We’d throw rocks at boxcars when trains went by.  We’d lay on the tracks and pretend we were playing chicken, but as soon as we heard a train coming, we moved off.  There were plenty of ways to kill time on the train tracks. 

In that area of Kentucky, tall daylilies grew all along the tracks.  They wilt quickly when picked in the heat, but I made gigantic bouquets of them and put them on graves at the cemetery down the road from the farm.  It felt like doing a public service – decorating graves of strangers.  Some of those people really were family, but they were dead long before I came along. 

Railroad tracks are a very hot place to be in the summer sun.  The white limestone, even when it’s dirty, reflects the sun.  The steel rails get super hot.  Even so, from time to time, we saw a man or a few men together walking the tracks.  The heat didn’t keep people away.  That’s another reason my grandmother didn’t want us around the tracks – she called them hobos.
Hobos were usually dirty and sometimes they smelled bad.  I remember one nasty, creepy guy with bad teeth.  He was drunk.  Very near the tracks, my brothers and I had dug small tunnels in the hillside.  On that particular afternoon, we were catching toads and grasshoppers and putting them in the tunnels…I’m not sure why….it was something to do.  The hobo staggered down off the tracks and walked over to see what we were up to.  He asked if we had any money or anything to eat.  We were not friendly to him but he lingered.  He bent down and put his face near mine and said, “You must be someone’s purty little girl.”  He smiled at me with those terrifying teeth.  I scrambled back from him, stood up, and said “I’m not little.”  My older brother stepped between us and barked “She’s not pretty either.” 

It makes me smile to think about that now.  He was just trying to be protective of me.  The hobo got all defensive and stepped back.  He smirked at us, pulled a pint bottle out of his filthy baggy denim overalls, and chugged whisky.  He smiled at us and held it out as if to offer us a drink.  We said nothing.  I gave him my meanest look.  He winked at me, licked his lips, turned and climbed back up to the tracks to leave.  We watched to be sure he really went on his way.  My little brother suggested we should throw rocks at him, but we didn’t.  We weren't mean like that and besides, we had toads to play with.   


Friday, March 7, 2014

wheels of change are turning

Life has been busy these past weeks.  Basketball season is over, and so is cheerleading.  There are no more high school games to watch (like ever more since my girls are graduating in a few months).  It’s kind of sad for me; I like watching the games.  And yes, we only live a few miles from the high school and I could always check the schedule next year and go to a game, but I won’t.

Our Jack went back to the vet today.  They took out all but two of his sutures – he’s really looking much better (and he should be – he had that surgery like five weeks ago).  On Monday, I can take the cone off his head.  He will be free to run, which means the gates that keep him imprisoned and isolated in our living room will be removed.  The vet expects him to lick and chew those last stitches out.  Life gets back to normal for him and us, at least until the cancer comes back.  Gracie has missed romping with him terribly. 

The biggest news of all is…(imagine a drumroll here)…I had a job interview today (and here’s where you hear the spirited and triumphant Hallelujah Chorus).  I took the whole day off work for the occasion, because I didn’t want to risk getting held up at work beforehand and being late.  I haven’t had a job interview in 30 years, but it was like riding a bike (something held tacitly in memory).  I rocked it (well, at least I think so).  Two people sat with me and we talked for almost 90 minutes.  Now some paperwork to do, and I have to become certified in Blackboard, the platform they use to deliver courses online.  That doesn’t take long.  YES folks, ONLINE, an online adjunct position which is exactly what I was hoping for.  I thought they wanted me to teach face-to-face, and I was willing to do it so that I can have teaching experience on my resume, but this is my dream come true.  They asked if I could start fall term.  DUH – YES!!!  PLEASE!!!!!!

So life is good right now.  I got to see Sarah one evening last week, and she gave Emily and me a tour of the beautiful new facility where she teaches traditional music.  I also got to have dinner with a delightful friend visiting here on business from Houston.  He is a native of Scotland and still has a strong accent, but it’s altered with a Texan twang…very intriguing to listen to.  Last week’s snow has nearly melted off.  Tomorrow is supposed to be almost 60 degrees – kayakable if the lake has thawed.  Doubtful that has happened.  Perhaps Someone and I will go hiking tomorrow and check it out.  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

punching the clock

When things get too chaotic in life, it’s very hard for me to think straight-line enough to organize a blog post.  My whole world is just a mess right now, so please forgive (in advance) that this will be a ramble of a post.  It’s not quite right to say my whole world is a mess, really, it’s just my work world.  It’s a total mess that invades everything else.  There seems to be no escape.  Not true, there’s always escape…just not a good one.
Poor Jack didn’t get all his sutures out last week as planned.  The vet looked and said he still has lots of healing to do.  She took out about half the stitches and told us to return in a week.  Unfortunately, later in the week, the remaining sutures popped loose leaving a giant hole with muscle exposed.  It was gruesome, so we went back to vet.  I know he’s going to die soon but the cancer is supposed to kill him, not infection.  She sewed him back together with much closer/smaller stitches.  So now, he has more medicine to take and the cone still on his head for another two weeks.  Poor kitty.

Fortunately, I’m one of those people who can almost always sleep, even when horrible things are going on.  It’s a good thing because I’m not a nice person when tired - I can be a Lizzy Borden-type.  Usually things don’t get to that point.  Because I’m such an efficient sleeper, I can set my alarm for 6 to 7 minutes into the future, close my eyes, and be dead to the world almost immediately.  When the alarm wakes me, and I’m good until time for bed.  Power-napping is my forte.  

What I’ve learned is that any sleep more than 10 minutes is very hard for me to come out of.  It’s for this reason that I hate my alarm clock so much.  It sits beside my bed out of reach – on purpose – so I have to sit up to turn it off.  It’s the same with the phone.  If I get a trouble call from work at night, it’s not good to be talking in my sleep.  It’s less likely to happen if I’m at least sitting up. 

I’ve often imagined my alarm clock as an evil creature who was placed on this earth for the sole purpose to torment me.  It harasses me mercilessly until I get out of bed.  We curse each other, over and over, every morning.  It’s not a pleasant way to get up, but is there ever a pleasant way to get up?  I like to sleep.  Our typical conversation goes like this:


Me:  Shut the F up.  I heard you already. *reset the clock for 3 more minutes*

Clock: Lazy bitch


Me:  NO!  SHUT UP!  It’s not time.  I hate you!

Clock:  F you.  Get up.  Not my fault, you set me.

Me:  F You!!  *reset the clock for 8 more minutes*

Clock:  Dumb-ass ^#&$%$  (KYLady will not write such obscenities used by the clock)

Me: Go straight to hell and stay there.  I should power off your ass.  *reset for 2 minutes*

Clock: GET UP GET UP GET UP GET UP (stupid @%^@#@*#@)

Me:  ALRIGHT Mother F’er, you win.  I’m up.  

Portrait of my alarm clock