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.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

shrew fodder

KYLady is grateful for the lousy weather this week.  The 3-day weekend was delightful, though the weather was dreadfully sucky.  Thunderstorms or threat-of-storms all three days kept her off the golf course and out of her beloved kayak.  So now it’s back to “the grind” and GOOD!!  The weather continues to suck which is OK because KYLady will have no free time at all until Thursday evening.  Even then (Thursday evening), she has much catching up.  The KYLady homestead has fallen into a state of complete despair.  As primary house-slave, KYLady has an unimaginable number of tasks waiting to be done.  What she really needs is a wife and handyman. 

That statement causes me to wonder, in same-sex marriage with two women, do they share the chores or does one assume the house-slave role (like in typical marriages)?  As my readers may have surmised by all my wining and bitching, Someone does not do housework.  At least, he does no housework without a significant amount of bribery, shaming, and nagging on my part.  

Someone will perform a task if I:
  • 1.       Start the task for him
  • 2.       Give him explicit performance instructions (i.e. how to)
  • 3.       Explain expected outcome in rich detail
  • 4.       Define the scope of the task and timeline for completion
  • 5.       Repeatedly express gratitude during his performance of said task so that he does not lose interest before the task is completed
  • 6.       Reward him afterwards with some form of junk food
  • 7.       Do all cleanup after the task (such as put away cleaning supplies and tools)

Honestly, it’s hardly worth my effort.  It’s as if getting him to perform a task is another task for me.  I have tried to create a scheduled task for him, such as…”Honey, I’d like for you to vacuum the stairs once a week for me.”  It just doesn’t happen without reminders and retraining…and that whole idea that I must always start the task is a showstopper.  Of course, he will say, “I don’t see why this is such a big deal for you.”  Right, so why is it always such a big deal for him?

Once when our youngest girls were still toddlers, we went for a weekend trip to a lake where we went swimming and boating.  Long story short, we got home late at night.  We were all tired.  Someone and I had to go to work the next morning.  We got home, I put the little girls to bed, then together Someone and I unloaded everything from the car.  We had a large, clear plastic garbage bag that was full of wet towels, swimsuits, and wet shorts and tee shirts…everything we had used or worn on the boat that day.  I was too tired to start laundry that night, so I set the bag in the laundry room with plans to start the laundry first thing in the morning (before work).  Off to bed, I overslept and did not start the laundry as intended the next morning.

Well, as it were, I got home from work that evening with intentions to begin washing all those wet clothes.  Unbeknownst to me until I got home, Someone had taken the day off work because he was too tired and could take off.  I went to the laundry room to begin my chores and the bag was gone.  I asked Someone if he had done laundry or moved the bag for some reason.  He looked completely bewildered, like…what on this earth was I talking about?  After brief discussion, we concluded that Someone had set the bag out for the garbage men to haul away that morning.  The towels and clothes were forever gone.  Then things got ugly.  Someone had a new shirt and shorts in that bag.  One of the girls had a new swimsuit in that bag.  All our beach towels were in the bag too.    

Someone said to me, “I can’t believe WE were so stupid that WE put the dirty laundry in a garbage bag and set it beside the garbage can.”

I said, “It was a clear bag, and the bag was actually setting beside the washing machine, not the trash can.  This wouldn’t have happened if only WE had observed that the CLEAR bag was full of very heavy, colorful cloth items and not normal trash.”

Someone rebutted, “Well, WE should have known better than to put a garbage bag of any kind anywhere near the garbage can on garbage day.”

Oh man!  He didn’t (but yes he did)!

I let it fly, “Since WE have never offered to take garbage out in over 4 years of marriage, WE didn’t think WE had any awareness of when garbage day was.”

And that was the end of the matter.  I’m pleased to report that Someone is doing better in recent years with setting the garbage cans out for the garbage truck without me prompting him.  It is a task that he now takes initiative for and does…about 10% of the time.    

Thursday, July 2, 2015

catching up

If there’s any one thing KYLady is certain of in this universe, it’s that she does not function well without sleep.  She gets forgetful, accident-prone, short-tempered, and dyslexic.  She did not get enough sleep last week.  Returning from vacation to leap back into the arms of her job while keeping up with part-time teaching jobs while trying to catch up some house work while preparing to replace her washer and dryer (which necessitated a flurry of extra cleaning chores where new appliances would be installed) resulted in injury.  It was a badly-pinched thumb (bloody mess), nothing horrible, but the timing was damned unhandy as such things are when one is in a rush.  Not to worry, old KYLady’s thumb will be good as new in a few days (other than a black thumbnail).  Right now it’s incredibly sore so she spends lots of extra time trying not to bump it on anything.  You could say KyLady is not very handy lately.

Things are finally back to the normal level of “caught up”, which in reality is the normal level of “completely behind with everything”.  Someone wanted us to go play golf together.  I would have, but my sore thumb is having no part of swinging a golf club.  No golf, so Gracie gets more walks and I'm getting papers graded sooner.  This coming Sunday concludes my professorship for the three      8-week courses I began recently (almost 8 weeks ago).  The university renewed my contract for three more courses; two of them are new to me.  This pleases me immensely.  I do hope I get to really change careers before I die of old age.  Sometimes, it seems completely impossible.     
Last Sunday, Someone and I took Miss Gracie for a long hike in the woods.  It was a fabulous day for hiking – clear blue sky and cool air.  It seemed more like late September than almost July.  We walked a trail that runs along cliffs overlooking a wide creek that has cut a deep gorge through Carter County.  Someone likes most of the trail but is paranoid about getting too close to the cliff edges.  He kept scolding Gracie and pulling her back when she wanted to go sniffing that side of the trail.  I offered to handle her but he wanted us to hurry along and get passed that part of the trail that worries him (I like to linger up there where the view is so remarkable).  The trail is not that close to the edge in most areas, but it’s a long way down.  I would not want to take small children hiking there. 

Gracie pulling Someone along the trail

Pine grove - my favorite part of the trail
Pine canopy overhead

The laurel is blooming now and lovely.  Now is the time to get my kayak out on Grayson Lake - the laurel cascades over the cliffs along the lake.  When it’s blooming, it’s magic.  To me, laurel looks like rhododendron, but the blooms are less vibrant.  Perhaps soon my thumb will be well enough that I can load my kayak into the van.  I got an almost-close up view of laurel on our hike.   

Wild laurel

laurel bloom

Thank the good Lord in heaven that this is the eve of a three-day weekend.  Saturday is Independence Day, a paid holiday, so I get Friday off instead.  I think it’s supposed to rain all weekend, but I don’t care.  I’ll get things done around the house and maybe visit Sarah and….sleep in.  It’s one of my favorite of all things to do - go to bed at night and not set an alarm clock.  Of course, Molly usually does not permit me the privilege of sleeping in too long.  She likes to be fed early…like at least by 6 AM.  Damn cat.  She will not take no for an answer when it comes to feeding time.  So when I can no longer ignore her howls and claws, I get up and feed her, then crawl back into bed.  
It’s W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L !!!

Feed me.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

return to reality

Things are back to usual after spending 10 days at the beach with Someone for his annual full-family vacation.  His parents, siblings, and all their kids come every summer and stay in the same beach house.   The girls have jobs at the mall this summer and did not come along.  It’s easier for me that they did not come.  They stayed home and took care of the pets, flowers and garden, and the house.  No doubt they had much (MUCH) more fun here with us out of the way and their friends over every night than they would have had with family in their faces all day and evening long.
Someone is still a bit miffed that our girls did not come on this vacation last year or this year.  My thinking is that thank heavens they have jobs and want to earn their own money.  Someone’s siblings’ kids are the same age or older than ours.  They are all still living with their parents and not working at all.  Perhaps they will wind up as permanent residents living off their parents forever.
The beach weather was unseasonably hot this year.  Every day except for the last one was completely cloudless and about 95F; the heat index was well over 100F every day.  Such heat is too much for Someone’s parents who are now 80 years old.  The ocean water was warm, but I didn’t get out in it much this year.  There were numerous shark sightings while we were there.  A few miles north, two teens had arms bitten off in separate incidents about an hour apart.  Sharks were not what kept me off the beach, it was the intense sun.  Bright sun is a migraine trigger for me, and having already been treated for skin cancer twice, I decided to just avoid the beach between 10AM to 6PM.
Every morning and evening, I went for long walks on the beach.  It’s a nice time to go when there are fewer people out.  Someone went with me sometimes.  We picked up many sharks’ teeth.  Everyone picks up shark teeth.  Sometimes they are tiny things, but sometimes they are big and scary.  It’s a thrill to find a big scary one.  When I look out over that gigantic expanse of ocean water, I feel entirely insignificant – like I am only a speck on this huge planet.  Well, let’s be real, I am.

Some stuff I picked up one morning
I missed Gracie every time I saw paw prints
Even in the very early morning, people are always on the beach

As soon as we stepped through the door from our long drive home from the beach, the girls informed me that the clothes dryer was no longer functioning.  It’s old and has had several repairs already, so it was time to buy a new one ASAP.  I decided to replace the washer too.  I saved money by bundling the purchases.  It seems wasteful to replace a washer that is still working, but it had been repaired once, had a sensor going bad, and I’ve never been all that pleased with it.  Even though it’s a large capacity \ high efficiency washer, it never did a great job with very dirty or heavy items like rugs and muddy jeans.  We hadto run heavy things through twice to get them clean.  The new appliances were delivered today and I’m already using them.  THEY ARE WONDERFUL!!

Another big expense - I had the paint on my van touched up while we were gone.  The old van had some big major rust patches over and on the doors, on the roof, and especially on the hood.  The body shop exceeded my expectations.  It looks brand new - for $1200.  I was hesitant to invest that much into it (a 2004 model with 148K miles on it), but it got a new transmission 18 months ago and it has been very reliable since that was put in.  I’m living in style now – nice ride and cleaner clothes. 
I’m grateful to have a good-paying job.  Even though I’m completely burnt out and miserable, it pays the bills.  Money solves problems.  Well, usually.  Going back to work after 10 days off was a real bitch slap.

The highlight of last weekend was watching and hearing Sarah perform in Maysville Saturday night.  One of my favorite things about attending her performances has always been that I can mingle with the audience (where few people know me) and listen to what people are saying about her and her music.  The group last Saturday sounded the best I’ve ever heard them…perhaps it was the acoustics in the old theater that enhanced the sound so much.  Sarah and Thomas are releasing a new CD next month.  I can’t wait to hear it!! 

Sarah and Thomas (and Jesse and Ruth)

Monday, June 1, 2015

catalpa massacre

I went back to the Little Sandy River yesterday morning with my kayak.  It was early morning (well, early for me), on a breezy day with big puffy white clouds floating around.  Paddling up river was a bit hard because I was headed into the wind and against the current.  Once I got away from the mouth of the river where the water is wider and shallower, the hills blocked the wind somewhat and it was easier going. 

The black locust trees along the river have shed their blooms, and now the honeysuckle, blackberries, and catalpa trees make the river smell as magical as it looks.  Thick patches of honeysuckle and blackberry briars grow all along the shoreline.  The blackberries are thick with blooms.  The catalpa trees are also blooming.  Branches that overhang the water drop their blossoms into the water.  The current carries them downstream.  I began seeing blossoms scattered all across the water at least a half mile before I saw the first tree.  The blossoms are waxy and look fresh on the water, but when you pull one out, it wilts in a matter of minutes. 

Single bloom of catalpa tree

Branch of catalpa tree
Blackberries in bloom

My great grandfather kept several catalpa trees on his farm.  He cut them back severely every fall so that the main trunk was only about 5 feet tall.  In the spring, the trees would grow branches straight out from the top edge of the trunk.  It was really an abomination of nature to see these poor trees, but he had his reasons for doing this.  The branches were very straight and sturdy, and they rotted slowly.  He used them for bean poles.  Kentucky Wonder are the pole beans he always grew: they are prolific producers and you can still buy the seeds even today.  I liked picking pole beans much more than bush beans because I didn’t have to bend over to harvest them.  My older brother picked the ones I couldn’t reach, so we worked together as a team.  Actually, we were supposed to be a team of three, but little brother was always too busy catching bugs, toads, garter snakes, and other such creepy-crawlies.

When the blooms drop off a catalpa tree, long beans develop.  Sometimes people call these bean trees.  Some of the kids at school called them cigar trees.  

catalpa with "beans"

What I remember most about catalpa trees is that they attract catalpa worms, which are really large, fat, green caterpillars.  My older brother had a Daisy BB rifle.  Although we were forbidden to shoot at living things (like birds and squirrels) or trains and cars with it, nobody objected to us shooting catalpa worms.  We shot them, execution style, for the ones on the lower part of the tree.  Sometimes we shot the worms clean off the leaves, but usually part would hang onto the leaf and its guts would drip to the grass below.  It’s really gross to think about, but we took turns doing it without any regard for the poor worms or to the moths they might have become.

catalpa caterpillar becomes a drab, furry brown moth 

I can hardly bring myself to kill anything anymore, other than wasps and flies that get into the house, or mosquitos.  I don’t like being the terminator.