Thursday, May 26, 2016

working the plan

25 working days.

It’s getting real that I’m quitting my job.  As many times as I’ve run the numbers with my financial advisors, as many times as they’ve assured me I can pay the bills, it freaks me out to think about giving up the paycheck.  The idea of depending on Someone to pay bills if we fall on hard times is completely unfathomable.  It's not in my nature to depend on somebody for money.  



 The other night, I had a bad dream.  It wasn’t even like my typical bad dreams – nobody died and there were no snakes.  In fact, it started out good.  In my dream, Someone, me, Erin, Emily, Sarah, and Sarah’s "man friend" were going out to go to dinner to celebrate my retirement.  For some weird reason, we were going to the Chimney Corner, a little restaurant in town that has been there for over 100 years.  The food there is expensive and not even that great; I haven’t been in there for at least 20 years.  Anyway, this particular day (in my dream), they were having a buffet and the line of people waiting to get in was backed up all the way outside the restaurant, out to the street.  Someone said, “Hey we’ll go on in and get us a table – there’s no need for all of us to wait in line.”  I agreed and they all went inside.  It finally came my turn to pay.  The cashier said, “That’ll be $650 dollars.”  I about choked, but handed her my credit card without question and paid.  Inside the restaurant, it was packed and noisy.  I wandered all  around the restaurant (which seemed enormous compared to how it is in real life) and never saw a familiar face.  Eventually I concluded they must be outside waiting for a table, so I went out the back door. Sure enough, they were all standing around outside.  Someone said, “Where the hell have you been?  We already ate and have been waiting here for an hour.”  

That’s when I woke up. 

What was that dream about?  The money?  The money!  $650 for dinner?? 

Our house has fallen to total ruin with all the hours I’ve worked since January.  Someone has no interest in the condition or cleanliness of our living environment, and he has no intentions or ambition to help.  He’s always been that way, so it’s just who he is.  You live with what you marry; and accept faults to keep things peaceful.  

  

I’ve been telling myself (since January) that I’m working myself to death so that I can amass enough $$$$ to pay for some new flooring, furniture, and repairs.  Right now, we’re in desperate need to get our gutters cleaned out and the porch roof either patched or replaced.  We have trees and weeds growing tall in the gutters – that’s how bad they are.  To make matters even worse, the last few evenings when I got home from work, a squirrel family was sitting on the roof eating out of them.  I love squirrels, but damn them for that.  Is it not bad enough to see a forest growing out of the gutters without having squirrels dining out of them as well?  I’ve called three different people who advertise they do roofing and gutter cleaning.  None have even returned my calls.  I’m to the point, it’s like just name your price and I’ll pay.  Just come and get it done, PLEASE! 

Last night, I bought a new screen door for our porch – the old one has rotted, is broken and hanging by one hinge.  The reviews on the new door say it’s shit, but it’ll definitely be an improvement over the old door.  It has a pet entrance so perhaps Gracie and Molly won’t destroy it as quickly as they did the old one.  Once the door is up, I will scrub down the porch and set my plants outside.  With the door broken, the birds come in and make a huge mess.  Maybe I’ll get some new porch furniture this summer when it’s discounted.  The old stuff is duct-taped together in places and looks pretty crappy.  

Last night, also, I bought a tall cabinet and a book shelf for my office space (aka dining room).  This weekend is a 3-day holiday and a light-work one in terms of my classes at University #2.  The dining room is my main task.  Someone gave me the go-ahead to sell his big old table.  It’s a solid walnut antique that he bought cheap in an estate sale, but we have no chairs for it, we’ve only used it a few times, and it stays piled up with junk.  It’s going to a consignment store as soon as I clear it off, wipe the dust off, and find somebody to help me load it into my van (hopefully Emily's boyfriend and Emily).  It’s not an ugly table – in fact, I paid to have it refinished after Someone and I married.  Then at some point, Emily scratched her name into the top of it.  She went through a destructive phase (very destructive phase) in her preschool years. 





So now I have many tasks waiting - furniture to assemble and a major decluttering effort (in just one room - my office space - for now).  AND….flowers to plant.  I have four flats waiting, and seeds.  It’s going to be an awesome weekend!!!  

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

through the looking glass

44 days.

I found myself staring out the window this morning, and contemplating what I might be doing on a Monday morning once my time is up in that place (that place…my corporate job).  The world outside my office window is lush and green after a weekend of hard rain. The leaves are shiny in the sunlight, shiny for now because the rain washed the pollen off them.  After a few dry days, they will not reflect light as much as today.
 
It’s finals week at University #1.  My final exams are online and students have until 1 PM today to take their exams.  Wrapping up (but tonight will be killer to finalize grades). 

Sunday, because I had a some free time, Someone and I took Gracie out to Greenbo Lake for a walk.  There were only a few people out there because of all the nasty weather.  The sky threatened rain with fat gray low-hanging clouds and thunder rumbling in the distance. We were walking along a creek bank.  Someone let Gracie drag him down over the bank to the edge of the creek so she could wade in the water – Gracie loves the water.  I was up above, higher up, and strolled ahead.  I stopped and turned around to see what man and dog were doing – they were in the same place.  I stood there facing the creek, watching them a bit, then turned my head to see what was ahead on up the creek.  In my peripheral vision, something moved.  I looked down on the ground, not more than 4 feet from where I standing, there lay a pile of writhing brown snakes of various sizes on top of a large flat rock. The species and exact number – no idea.  Poisonous or not – no idea.  Perhaps it was a mama and babies. I saw fat and thin snake coils.  I shrieked and jumped back. They all scattered and slithered down into the rocks.  Hopefully they were garter snakes or water snakes or some harmless kind, but there are plenty of copperheads out there.  Snakes creep me out.  I’m grateful I did not step on them.




Life is outside the window, or rather, my new life is out there. It’s going to be really good!  When I was a kid, oftentimes I stood in front of a mirror and imagined my life in the reflected world.  Surely that was a better place on that side than the real world, at least in my imagination, this was true.  The world outside my office window is not imaginary.  It’s the real deal.  It’s time to make phone calls and get the ball rolling.   

Narcissus
    

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Greening up

I wrote this post yesterday morning, and will go ahead and set it free...

Morning came much too early today. I’m mostly brain dead today, so much so that I find myself unable to think straight line enough to work.  Or perhaps it’s the countdown to freedom – 49 business days…but surely I must have counted wrong the last time. After counting twice this morning, surely it is 49 business days until my last day.

Last night (and this morning until just after 3 a.m.), I sat up to work on a report for University #1. My mind was made up to get it submitted before bed, even if it meant staying up all night.  Well, it seems as though I did just that given that my alarm clock is set to go off at 6:34 a.m.  I went to bed and was so wired up (from lots of caffeine) that I sat up and played games on my iPad for another 30 minutes.  I lost myself in writing that report; it’s kind of good thing to get so immersed in something that you lose track of time. As a young girl, I used to get lost in play.  Now, I get lost in work. In my head, I can still hear my grandmother’s voice – “Where the hell have you been?  Do you know what time it is?  Why didn’t you come when I called for you?” These were always rhetorical questions. I learned early on that the best answer was no answer.

The hills are greening up this week. I LOVE IT!!!  Under the tall canopy of emerald splendor, the white dogwoods have taken over just as the brilliant orchid of redbud trees has faded to pale pink. Such is the cycle of spring beauty in northeastern Kentucky. A blight moved through much of Appalachia years ago, taking lives of countless dogwoods.  The population here continues to thrive; we are blessed. Dogwood trees planted in full sun grow round and full, their blossoms are so plentiful you can’t even see through the branches. Under tall shade trees, the limbs stretch flat and lanky. When in bloom, it’s as if the trees have layers of white umbrellas.

welcome the green

dogwoods



I miss my kayak. There has been no time to get out in it. I miss golf too. In two weeks, the term for University #1 will be over. That should free up some time, unless University #3 comes through and contacts me to begin training.  I hope they do, but if not, I’ll ramp up my job search and take time to paddle some lakes and the Little Sandy. University #2 is now wrapping up Week 2 of an 8-week session. I have three classes with them right now. 

Someone has been playing golf with his dad again in recent weeks. Someone hurt his elbow playing basketball a few months ago, but he is finally back to normal again. He can take most afternoons off work during warm months (don’t get me started on that!), so that’s when they meet at the course. Someone’s job is so VERY different from my corporate job. It’s not that I punch a time clock, but the work culture and expectations are night and day compared to his government job. I’m going to get some new irons as a retirement gift to myself.  My clubs are at least 10 years old now, I’m not as strong as in my younger years, and it’s really just time for an equipment upgrade. When I had my clubs regripped last spring, the pro remarked that my clubs were older than his grandmother. They’re not that old!!

Erin finishes classes this week but will stay in Louisville for the Derby. She is going (and I am envious). Horse races are wonderful fun, but alas I’ve not been to any in many years. Erin’s apartment is only a few blocks from Churchill Downs. How lucky is that! She can just walk over and not have to hunt a parking place and get into that miserable traffic jam. We still don’t know what she is doing this summer; she has yet to find a job.

Emily’s classes finish in three weeks. She is definitely coming home because her boyfriend is here. She has two part-time jobs lined up. And then Sarah – always busy with all her jobs and projects and opportunities. I had hoped we would find time for a girls-only vacation again this summer.  It just does not seem likely with all that’s going on with the girls this summer. If we can go somewhere together at all, it will have to be very short. The dates we had blocked on the calendar no longer work.


That’s what happens with children when things go right. They grow up and get lives of their own, then the mother has to compete with the world for their time. I’m grateful for this fate – grateful for their success. I do hope to visit Sarah soon.  We will go to my new favorite greenhouse and buy flowers and vegetables to plant. We had so much fun there last year. I love my girls.    

  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

headway

I haven’t written for a while because the rut has been too deep these past weeks, or maybe the old brain has been doing a lot of thrashing lately.  It’s time to breathe a little, and behold – WE HAVE SPRING!!  Spring is such a fantastic time of hope, or at least I am more hopeful when it’s spring.  The redbud trees have opened their orchid blossoms, daffodils have come, grass is green and growing, and the Bradford pears exploded this week (I mean that in a good way…not making reference to acts of terrorism).

Hepatica? growing along the Michael Tygart trail, Greenbo Lake State Park


Yesterday afternoon, I took a certification test and PASSED!!  Hallelujah!  Now I’m a legitimate Microsoft Office Specialist, a certification many of the bigger universities insist on for instructors teaching the same class I teach at the community college.  It’s been in my plans to get this certification for at least a year…something that’s been simmering on the back burner under procrastination’s heavy lid.  I was no more ready for it yesterday than a year ago, but perhaps I just didn’t want to fail…so I waited.

I made the decision to go ahead, finally, only because several of my students want to take it soon and were begging me for insights…which I had none to give other than what is available online.  It’s a financial issue for some of them to take the exam, not that money is no object for me, but $120 is not a deal-breaker.  I wanted to give them first-hand information before they decide to borrow money to take it.
 
The test was harder than I expected, but the testing platform was much easier to use than our Office training simulator.  About a third of the way through, I was convinced that I’d already failed.  With two minutes left on the timer and my brain in utter defeat mode, I clicked the submit button.  Calculating…calculating…PASS – Green check mark!  OMG!  Confetti and balloons dropped from the ceiling, and the orchestra launched Ode to Joy (only in my imagination).  It was a thrill, and well worth the pounding headache from no sleep the night before and all the pre-stress of taking a test.  I don’t like tests.  Now I have a badge in Word.  My next goal is to get a badge in Excel – with two badges, I become a Microsoft Office Expert (MOE)...which kind of reminds me of the Three Stooges.

Moe, Curly, and Larry
 
So, the session for University #2 ends Sunday night.  It will be a hard weekend ahead - grading papers and final e-paperwork to close out my classes for the session.  I don’t know what lies in store next with this university.  My understanding is that enrollment is up, so hopefully there will be more work for me.

Now it’s time to update my CV, resume, and all the job board profiles with this new certification.  I want to find more work before my retirement date.  I have a promise (but no contract yet) of work fall term with University #3, depending on enrollment.  Training is supposed to happen in summer, but no specifics have been sent to me.  That job is still smoke until something tangible transpires.  

Retirement from real job – set for July 1.  I was surprised that last week somebody was named to take over about 60% of my work.  Welcome to my world, young fella.  He graduated in December and has little experience, but these systems he’s taking on are legacy and fairly trouble-free under normal circumstances.  They are good systems for a new person.  He has much to learn – technical, social, and especially political.

As a retired person (semi-retired in reality...just gone from the job that really pays the bills), I see a lot of wonderful changes.  For one, the alarm clock will not get much use.  I'm going to hike, camp, kayak, golf, play piano and guitar again, sew, clean house, actually look at cookbooks and try new recipes, declutter, garden, go to the gym, do home repairs, bike, visit my girls more often, visit friends I haven't seen in years, and...work 3 or 4 teaching jobs.  Yeah...I don't know, but it's going to be very good.  Sixty-five working days to go - but who's counting?  




Saturday, February 20, 2016

Around and round

I have not written anything in my blog lately – life has been much too busy.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s coincidence that my life is like it is (so dang busy), or are things the way they are because I’ve somehow unintentionally (unknowingly??) engineered this chaos.  I’m not saying that my life has always been so hectic, but many years are almost a complete blur.  I even picked a career some 35 years ago that puts me in the midst of constant change and trouble – what was I thinking?  I was in love with the steady paycheck…that’s what I was thinking.  You can learn to like any job if you’re paid well enough…or so I thought.  WRONG!  Not true – trust me!

Well, I didn’t plan to get divorced when my first baby was weeks’ old…but that happened.  In reality, maybe that was somewhat planned…the handwriting was on the wall before any decisions were made.  I didn’t plan to have twins…but that happened too.  The doctorate – that came from impulse, and after the first class, I couldn’t stop myself…kind of like opening a Hershey bar and telling yourself you’re only going to eat half of it.  Nope…that just doesn’t happen.

When my dissertation was done, I told myself that things would never be that hectic again.  But now, it’s like I’ve circled back and here we are again.  Working, working, always working or thinking about working, or how can things be juggled so there’s time to fit this or that in.  This career change situation has not unfolded the way I expected, but why didn’t I see this coming (this could be hindsight bias…fascinating phenomenon).  I’m at least as busy as when I was doing the doctorate, except there’s none of the extra stuff thrown in…like running kids or taking care of grandparents, and definitely less travel for work these days.  It’s the same amount of work overall though, just much fewer family obligations to deal with. 




Despite all I have to get done this weekend (grading, inventing another test, and doing plans for Monday classes), Someone and I took Gracie out to Greenbo for a hike.  Oh my, it was a muddy mess out there, but I loved every minute of it.  Today was like spring.  Someone even wore shorts; both of us wore short sleeves and there was no need for a jacket today…it was that warm in February, no less.  We walked around 4.5 miles uphill and downhill, back and forth across creeks that were running fast with all the melted snow and lots of happy little waterfalls.  My socks were wet within the first mile.  I hate wet socks.  Gracie was a muddy mess, but she was happy enough to wade out into a deep creek before we put her in the car.  It washed lots of the mud off, but then she smelled like wet dog all the way home.  It’s OK.  An adventure in the woods, even for a brief 3 hours, is just the thing to reset after a long week of hard work.  

We tested our balance several times today.  We still got game in our old age.
Cane growing along this creek
We were outside the park boundaries, and didn't know it until we turned back.  Good thing we didn't get shot.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nectar of the Gods

No, this post is not about Ambrosia, but for some reason I thought Ambrosia was the favorite drink of Greek gods.  After some brief research, I read that ambrosia was food eaten by the gods and they drank nectar.  Ambrosia and nectar were supposed to be honey-flavored.  Eating ambrosia is what made the gods immortal.  Humans who ate ambrosia became stronger and more beautiful.  It’s no surprise to me that the Gods would be feasting on something sweet; they were really much like children and children love their sweets.  (So do old people…I’ve noticed that when folks get into their 80s, they choose sweets over vegetables when given options).


   
It’s highly doubtful that my nectar, in this case, hot tea, makes me more beautiful or stronger.  Indeed, that any drink or food might improve my looks in any noticeable way is entirely ludicrous.  Tea has a tiny bit of caffeine - and trust me, I need all the kick I can get my hands on, especially when sitting at a desk...which is about all I do these days.  Some people are very sensitive to caffeine; sadly, I am not.  If not the caffeine, then what is it about hot tea that enhances my life?
 
Drinking a cup of hot tea produces some sort of mental change, for me anyway.  It’s like some kind of assurance that all is right and normal in the world.  Does that make it a comfort food?  Hot tea might just be my true comfort food.  Better tea than chocolate or macaroni and cheese (these are common comforts to some people).
 
I’m not picky about my tea either.  Whether the water is boiled on the stove or zapped in a microwave doesn’t matter.  Styrofoam cup, ceramic mug, porcelain cup – I don’t care.  Whether the tea bag is a Wal-Mart el-cheapo brand or Bigelow foil-wrapped doesn’t matter as much, although fancy tea can be fun, interesting, or disappointing (which is usually my experience with exotic tea).  Somebody brought in a box of tea bags and set them in the kitchen at work last week – it must be something he or she tried and didn’t particularly like.  The box has a big, colorful tiger and jungle plants on it.  I haven’t tried it, but the bags smell a bit like cinnamon, not unpleasant, but unusual.  The last time I tried weird tea bags left in the kitchen, they were delightful to smell but the tea was completely nasty.  Caramel vanilla tea: like drinking a strongly scented candle.




Old KyLady likes her tea.  She’s not one to lounge around in pajamas.  I can’t count how  many times I’ve heard people say that if they didn’t have to get up and go to work, they’d never get dressed…meaning they imagine if they worked from home (like I intend to be doing here within the next few months), they’d live in their slippers and PJs.  Not this lady!  I know me well enough to know that I can’t function until I’ve showered and dressed in real clothes.  Even the times I’ve gone camping, if shower facilities are not available, I am not myself after the first 24 hours.  No shower, no me, and no amount of hot tea can fix that.  And now a word of gratitude…thank you God for electricity and water so that we can have hot showers and hot tea.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

teeth of winter

We are now, sadly, fully in the teeth of Old Man Winter…at least here in Kentucky, it’s hard-core winter now.  We got our first troublesome snow early last week, and then come Friday - all hell broke loose.  By the accumulation on our deck railing, I’m guessing nearly a foot of snow dropped on us in 24 hours’ time.  Universities and schools called off Friday and weekend classes.  I left my office at 10 AM on Friday and drove home to work from there for the rest of the day.  Fortunately, my job is one that can be done from anywhere that has Internet access, and fortunately, my supervisor is agreeable to let me work from home when weather becomes an issue.

Snow is melting today.  Bring spring, please.  

    
We refer to winter as Old Man Winter, but no other seasons are personified (as far as I know).  If spring were a person, I’m certain she would be female – a beautiful, youngish, energetic, motherly sort with long, flowing hair.  Spring is a time of rebirth – green grass, flowers, new leaves, and baby birds.  Mother Spring is happy and hums to herself while she stays busy tending to growing things and bringing life back to the world.  Old Man Winter is sour and cranky.  I’m pretty sure he has a nagging cough, squinty eyes, and the stench of something rotten on his breath.  Instead of singing, he grumbles to himself (much like one of my co-workers, years ago).  In defense of this man I used to work with, I honestly believe he had no awareness that he was talking to himself as much as he did.   A few times when we were sitting across from each other and his mumbling got on my nerves, I’d ask him if he was talking to me, knowing full well he was entirely at work in his own world.  He’d look up at me with a look of total surprise, or perhaps he thought I was hearing things.
 
Old Man Winter bared his nasty fangs with this last snowstorm.   After the snow, the temperature became bitterly cold.  It was so cold Saturday, in fact, that I got up in the wee hours to get another blanket.  Someone can’t sleep with anything covering him other than he always puts a pillow over his head.  If I’m the least little bit chilly, I can’t sleep at all.  So while he laid there on top of the comforter, dead to the world  in a short-sleeved tee-shirt and shorts, I slid out from my cocoon (sheet, blanket, and heavy comforter) wearing fleecy warm pajamas to retrieve another blanket to put overtop my side of the bed.  Once, settled back into my place, Molly curled up on one side of me and Gracie on the other (between me and Someone).  It was very cozy with my furry bed warmers and the extra blanket.
   
Here I sit at work writing a blog post…again.  It’s not like I’m doing nothing productive though.  A conference call is droning on (and on) and probably will go on for another hour.  Young people (all men, of course) insist I listen in on their debate regarding what to do about a particular situation.  As the subject matter expert (SME) on the topic, I gave them six options: two options are not great but the other four are decent.  The best option is going to cost money but will be easy and fast to deploy (that’s why it’s best).  But no, they want to DISCUSS the options (even the bad ones) in agonizing detail.  While they are dragging their feet with meetings and discussions and endless emails, the people in the field are suffering.  Productivity is suffering, and the consequences could be dire if we get some bad circumstances before this is resolved.  But I am only the old SME with a dead career; they each hope to distinguish themselves at all costs and at the expense of the poor workers in the trenches of this company. 



Not only this lovely conference call, but also I’ve written and kicked off a massive batch script this afternoon.  The script is doing work in one afternoon that would take me a month to do with my hands and eyeballs.  In a nutshell, it’s crawling through folders of a massive shared drive looking to see if any of 365,000+ specific files are missing.  It’s a QA effort that needs to be done.  I’m productive as hell today; they’re f***ing lucky I haven’t retired yet. 
  
Speaking of leaving, I’ve made time to apply to a few more universities this month.  There are several more I want to apply to as soon as I can make time.  If I could just pick up that third adjunct job, I would plan a precise date for my exit.  As it is now, I’m just going to work until my vacation runs out (perhaps mid-July???).
 
Teaching is going well this session (at least so far).  The face-to-face classes (at University #1) are different this session as compared to the last (which was my first face-to-face teaching experience).  It just seems easier now and it’s even fun, believe it or not.  Perhaps it’s having more experience that is making the difference.  Class time goes by very quickly.  It’s nothing like my real job…thank heavens!!


 

My classes at University #2 are all online.  The current session ends in seven days.   If there is a break before the next session starts (I may get one if enrollment is low), that’ll give me time to get more applications out.  Rust never sleeps, and neither should I, but I’m tired of working all the time.  Too much work and not enough play gets tiresome.