Thursday, February 23, 2017

winter escape

As much as I hate the sound of an alarm clock in the morning, it is my fate in life to need one. I sleep like the dead.  Sir Isaac Newton understood me.  He asserted that a body at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external force (hence, the alarm clock was invented…for me).  On days when there is no place I have to be and nothing in particular that I have to do (at least until late afternoon), I don’t set the alarm at all.  If I wake up early (say before 9 AM), I’ll go right back to sleep.  If I wake up and it’s after 10, I’ll force myself to get up (or pick up my iPad and be a lazy-ass for a while).

Last weekend, with no alarm clock set, I woke up and checked the clock.  It said 9:11 (it’s a digital clock). I ordered myself to go right back to sleep – 9:11 would be a very unlucky time to do anything, especially get up.  Nothing has changed my perception of the world more than the tragedy on September 11th.  Terrorism was something that, even though I knew it happened in the world, it was not in my world.  We had the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and I remember the pictures from the first responders, and especially the one of the fireman carrying the little baby (Baylee was her name).  But Oklahoma City was far away, and it was a one-time event with finite people involved who had a specific ax to grind.  Not only that, in 1995, I brought two babies into the world.  With three kids to look after, there was already plenty to consume my every waking moment. 

iconic photo - Oklahoma City

September 11 was different.  All my girls were in school.  It was a typical Tuesday morning at work.  I was involved in a long conference call when I began hearing people all around me (we were in cubicles then) talking about something on the news.  Nobody seemed to be working and it was something bad, I could tell it by the tone of their voices.  It didn’t stop.  Something was going on.  I had never dared bring up a nonwork-related web page while at work, not even news, but curiosity got the best of me.  As soon as my call ended, I started visiting news sites to see it all unfold just after the second plane hit the towers…I did nothing but watch the horror all day, into the evening, and the days after.  Someone and people in his office did the same.      

My world has never seemed as safe as it was before 9/11.  The reality is that with all the extra checks and surveillance in place, it’s probably more safe now than it ever was.  It seems like there is just way more intense hate being spread among larger numbers of people these days.  Hate and violence, evil and crazy. Is this the result of overpopulation?  Could it be a consequence of technology, which has given us collectively too much free time on our hands, ability to collaborate more easily with like-minded people, and capability to do higher levels of damage to others?

Tomorrow, FRIDAY, I am not on campus for any classes.  The weather is predicted to be sunny and temperature of mid 70s.  Is this really February????  My daffodils. Snowdrops, and irises have exploded into bloom.  The maple trees have their red leaf buds.  Bradford pears in our neighborhood have blooms already.  Our apple and cherry trees still look dormant, thankfully, but the weather is supposed to be warm all weekend.  If they get their buds, surely they’ll be frozen like last year…and like last year, no fruit this year. 
    

I’m taking my kayak to the lake tomorrow - thank you Mother Nature (or global warming).  Adventure and escape from the real world – these are a few of my favorite things.   

Our backyard - a few weeks ago  

Thursday, February 16, 2017

incognito

This week has been wonderful.  For no apparent reason, out of the blue (so to speak), I’ve come to the most bizarre realization that I love my life.  Is it unusual to have walked on this earth for so many years without having that kind of thought clearly in one’s brain?  It’s not that I’ve been ungrateful or dissatisfied…or maybe I was, or perhaps just not as grateful or happy with things as I should have been.

For now, World, I’m delighted to be here.  Thanks for putting up with me. 



It has been a good week, really.  We had Valentine’s Day this week.  Someone and I never exchange gifts for Valentine’s Day, but two of my students surprised me with little gifts of chocolate.  I mean that literally – BIG surprise - I didn’t think things like that ever happen in college.  One student gave me a small heart-shaped box of chocolate.  Another gave me a home-made chocolate candy treat that she made herself – it was amazing!!!  How very thoughtful of both of them to even think to give a gift to me. 

So, in my last post, I was all excited about watching my UK Wildcats play basketball against Florida.  The Cats totally sucked that night and we lost – it was a HORRIBLE game.  We have won two games since then, but I won’t be getting too excited about any future games.  It’s just bad luck. 


Having said that, I’m going to circle back to loving life.  Is it bad luck to say that things are just perfect lately and I hope it lasts?  I think it is.  Perhaps invisible delight is better than exuberant glee in cases like this.  I will remain grinning on the inside and poker faced on the outside.

    

Saturday, February 4, 2017

girly girls

It’s a good day.  I woke up early this beautiful, crisp Saturday morning, not by way of an alarm clock or cat, or dog, or husband.  Completely on my own volition – it’s a marvelous thing – getting to decide when I want to wake up and get up.  And now, I’m writing a blog post because I want to. 

But yes, there is plenty to do today (always?).  I have assignments to create and assign for my students at University #1.  I must complete configuration of a new classroom for University #1 to be opened tomorrow for students who start a 12-week class on Monday.  And then, I have six online classes for University #2 that also begin on Monday.  I need to update the course calendar for them, and send out welcome messages.  All routine stuff, but I like doing it.  As of Monday, I will have 10 classes on three different schedules covering seven subject matters.  I like challenge. 

One of my students is legally blind.  She has been able to cope well so far, but we have not launched into anything she is not already familiar with.  She magnifies her computer screen and scrolls around to find things.  I have to be mindful not to go too fast because it’s harder for her to find things on the screen.  In my new 12-week class that starts Monday, I will have a student who is profoundly deaf.  She has a cochlear implant, but she still doesn’t hear well.  The student resource person who notified me of her issue sent a link to a YouTube video so that I could understand how she perceives sound.  It’s worrisome – she hears as if she’s swimming under water all the time.  She relies on reading lips, but in my classroom, the instructor’s station is on a long table pushed against the wall.  My screen is projected to two walls.  In effect, when I’m showing the class how to do something, my back is to the class and I talk to the wall.   I can move the monitor and keyboard to face the class (though the tables are very narrow and it will be uncomfortable for me with my elbow against the wall, given that I’m right handed, and my notes in my lap because there will be no space to lay them. Even with that, it will be impossible for her to sit close and have her hearing ear directed toward me.  The room is just not configured right.  If we were meeting on the newer campus, there would be no issue.  Another challenge.



Emily stayed in Morehead this weekend because she was not given any hours to work.  Her boyfriend drove over to be with her…of course…they are very tight these days.  I was a bit relieved that they did not get engaged over Christmas.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with him, only that they are both young and should get farther along in their lives and plans before committing.  Out nest is truly empty this weekend.  It seems odd. 

Yesterday, I volunteered to act as a judge at a regional science fair.  That was FUN!  I’m a closet science geek anyway, so there were plenty of interesting things to look at.  Three other judges and I evaluated projects submitted by students in 6th through 8th grade, on topics related to math, engineering, and computer science.  Most of the projects were interesting, but I will tell you about the little girl’s project who won our category.  She had created an eco-friendly air conditioner using a piece of ply-wood cut to fit a window, with holes drilled in it, and cut-off plastic 2-liter pop bottles stuck through the holes.  The board is placed in a window so that the large end of the bottles face out – the idea is that as air comes through, it compresses and cools.  She recorded five trials showing that room temperature cooled two to nine degrees over a 90-minute period.  The main reasons that she won were because she had a clear objective and hypothesis statement, and was able to explain the science of her experiment better than the others.  She got her idea off the Internet:  people in poor areas of Africa use this invention to cool their huts.  What I LOVED was her display – all girl.  Pale pink board with the main lettering in iridescent silver, and rhinestones glued around all of the important scientific and procedural information that was glued to the board.  Clearly, she spent a lot of time bedazzling her display.  We asked all of the entrants if they had a career objective during their interviews.  She blushed, and said she wants to be a ballet dancer when she grows up.  Of course she does!  Little girls usually want to be a princesses, dancers, or movie stars.  Her project will advance to the state science fair next month.


So now, it’s time to commit this post to the blog, and get to work on things.  University of Kentucky plays Florida tonight, and I want to watch it.  College basketball is an exciting sport.  In last Tuesday’s game, I gave up on UK midway through the second half.  We battled back and the score got really close.  Monk scored a three in the final seconds to tie the score, and then we won in overtime.  It was a nail-biter!  

Monk, Fox, and Briscoe - amazing!
         

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Welcome 2017

It is almost time to say good-bye to January, 2017.  Last night, it came to my attention that my last blog post is about Christmas.   I’ve not written so much as a syllable to my blog this year.  It’s not unusual for me to take a long break from writing, but one of my many resolutions was to write more in 2017.  It’s really, TOTALLY stupid for me to make resolutions at all, because I can’t recall a single one (in my entire life) that I’ve ever carried through on.

Today, after much planning and working long hours all week, I managed to free up time so that I could clean our house.  I got up early this morning, all gung ho to clean bathrooms, scrub the kitchen floor, vacuum, dust (no really, dusting is critical at this point), and clear out and reorganize a closet.  That would have been good day’s work.  But here I sit, because I’ve not blogged in a month, and we know how much more important that is.  Me and procrastination – we are one, united for all eternity.

My girls, all three of them, and me went to visit Akiko last Saturday.  It’s extremely rare that we ever do anything with all of us together.  It extremely difficult to manage our schedules so that everyone has free time for the same block of time.  After collecting Emily and Sarah, together we drove to Louisville and picked up Erin after her shift.  She looked cute in her hamburger uniform. 

Head Cashier

 Akiko babysat my girls from the time they were babies until the time that Erin and Emily were about 11 or 12.  She is their other mother, an alternative mother, and like family to us.  She and her husband (my girls call him Daddy-Ron) made my girls at home in their home.  It was a marvelous blessing for me to have found by chance such loving, trustworthy people to help me raise my children.  I was able to work and travel for my job, and never worry about whether or not my children were being taken care of, or if they were happy where they were staying.  When Ron retired from his job, they moved to southern Indiana to live near their daughters and grandchildren. 

Kiko and Sarah open Christmas presents - many years ago
             
Erin and Emily have part time jobs to help with their living expenses.  I am grateful, because many of their friends who are also students expect their parents to keep paying for everything…like EVERYTHING!  Emily works retail and has a dress code to follow, but no uniform.  Erin has to wear a red hat, red tee-shirt, apron, and ID badge.  I remember one of the jobs I had in college.  It was a sit-down restaurant that also sold Kentucky Fried Chicken.  As a waitress, I had to pull my hair back in a ponytail and wear a hair-net over my head.  My uniform (pants and top) had broad red and white vertical stripes.  They gave me two uniforms, but both were too large.  It felt like wearing really ugly polyester pajamas to work every day.  To make matters even worse, I had no choice but to walk to and from work. Trudging across campus dressed like that every day was very humiliating.  You just can’t be cool wearing clothes like that.  Sadly, many customers are rude to Emily and Erin at work.  They talk down to them, like they are stupid.  The same happened to me when I worked as a waitress.  It’s a hard life in many ways for anyone who works a minimum-wage job (or less than minimum wage, as many still do in this country). 

This blog post has been created throughout the day – a paragraph at a time.  I did get some housework done, though not all that I’d hoped to do.  I cooked and assembled a pan of manicotti this evening for dinner.  Someone was ecstatic (he loves anything with cheese melted in it or on it).  It turned out pretty good; I will brag on my culinary prowess.  It makes me laugh out loud to even think such a ridiculous thing.  Me – a great cook?  I can remember taking Sarah and some of her little girlfriends somewhere in my car.  They were all about 7 years old then.  They were talking about their favorite foods that their mothers cooked for them.  I heard such things as spaghetti, chicken and dumplings, and chocolate cake.  Sarah spoke up and said her mommy makes the best toast.  Sad, but true.

I make a mean bowl of cereal too!!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas to all

And so dear Blog World, I wish a merry Christmas to anyone who stumbles across my blog.  Today is the big day that people prepare for and look forward to, and then poof – it is done.  Well yes, it is mostly done, except I did not send out any Christmas cards, and I didn’t really finish decorating the house.  But it’s all OK.  Next year, should we be lucky enough to live that long, I will get another chance to do it right.

So, I kicked off six courses for University #2 on December 5th, while at the same time doing finals week at University #1 and wrapping up final grades along with end-of-course statistics and reports for accreditation purposes. It was a busy week, and then I made a quick trip to Washington.  Emily got impatient and put up our Christmas tree, set out our little nativity scene, and decorated the mantle.  It was nice that she did all that for us.  When I had a little time the next week, I put up lights on our rhododendron bushes outside, and we baked and decorated cut-out cookies together.  That is something we did together when my girls were growing up - a tradition. We might make another batch this week before Erin goes back to Louisville.

To remind us...

Sugar cookies made by Emily and me
 
Erin and Emily celebrated their 21st birthday this month.  It doesn’t seem possible that 21 years have gone by so quickly.  The girls were not home together this year, so we celebrated Emily’s birthday on her birthday, and then celebrated Erin’s a few days later when she came home.  Instead of a cake, Emily requested a pile of donuts – and she wanted 21 candles on them.  It was quite a feat to light 21 candles before the donuts became covered with melted wax.  Erin asked for a red velvet cake with cream cheese icing…with dinosaurs on top.  We had two dinosaurs, but took one off before lighting up the candles – two on one side and one on the other, sort of representative of 21 – she thought 21 candles would be excessive.

Donut birthday cake - we're taking photos while the candles melt
Erin's red velvet cake with dinosaur(s)

Sarah came home Christmas Eve, so that was fun.  To have my three girls together with me is the best present I could ever wish for. I hope this year we are able to plan better and take a vacation together. Emily is hoping to get an internship over the summer and take the GRE, so we will have to wait and see how that does or doesn’t work out.  Sarah may have an opportunity come up as well.  Erin might move to a new apartment or start a new job…so we’ll have to consider that in our plans.  I think we will visit Philadelphia if we can make it work. 

I made a pecan pie for Someone this week. He loves pecan pie, and Someone’s mother always gifts a large bag of pecans to us every Thanksgiving.  We celebrated Christmas last night with Someone’s family.  Everyone was there except for Someone’s daughter (Katie), who drove in today with her boyfriend. It is nice when everyone gets together, but it’s a lot of people and noise in one house.  At least Someone’s parents have a large house, so it’s tolerable.  And now, another generation is on the way.  Katie is pregnant…we will become grandparents this summer if all goes as planned.

Someone's pecan pie - cooling
Someone's parents and all the grandchildren, except for Katie

Tomorrow is supposed to be unusually warm and sunny.  Someone and I are playing golf with Someone’s dad.  I haven’t played since early November, so it will be a treat to get out.  With winter underway, any day that is warm enough to play is a gift.  The Farmer’s Almanac predicts a hard winter is in store for us, and they are usually right. We will see.      

     

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas delay

It’s December 12th.  Christmas is 13 days away.  We have no Christmas tree up yet, no lights put up outside, no Christmas cards addressed, about 10% of Christmas gifts purchased (nothing wrapped or mailed yet), and no cookies or candy made.  It’s not that I’m a Grinch…or well, maybe I am.  But no, I love Christmas, but it seems like I’m always scrambling to get stuff done just days before the big holiday comes.

Me?

My sisters-in-law are always ready for Christmas by Thanksgiving time…and then they pack up and put away Christmas decorations on Christmas day or the day after.  Hell, I’m just getting the Christmas spirit by then. It’s a lot of work to carry all those boxes of stuff up from the basement, and carry the empty boxes back down the stairs again.  I want to leave it all out for at least two weeks before dragging all those empty boxes back upstairs, packing it up, and dragging them all back downstairs.  Hmmm….maybe we should just do Christmas in the basement.
 
I made a weekend trip to visit my mother this past weekend.  It’s another thing I’ve put off for much too long.  It’s tiresome on this old KYLady to make a long trip like that, but it wasn’t a horrible drive.  I timed it right so that my travel would be during times of lighter traffic …well, it’s all heavy in comparison to what I normally drive in here in rural Kentucky.  My mother lives just outside of Washington D.C.  As bad as it was, it was nothing in comparison to driving in Houston.
 
So, this year, I made treks to visit my father and my mother.  My dad is 5.75 hours away, and my mother is about 6.75 hours away.  Both are in noticeable decline.  It’s depressing to think about them, but decline happens when people get old.  I should visit both of them more often…in all my free time. 


So, I’m back from Washington.  Now it’s time to make Christmas happen.  Tomorrow morning, I’ll carry all the boxes up the stairs and get started.  Well, just as soon as I finish up some paperwork (statistics) about my classes that just ended, and get that submitted.  Oh, and then I have to attend and introduce a speaker at a short meeting tomorrow afternoon.  Oh yeah, and my brother is coming tomorrow afternoon to help me with a car problem, and to have me help him unbox and set up a new laptop.  It’s nice when we can trade our expertise like that.  OK, so maybe I’ll only have time to bring boxes up from the basement tomorrow…but it’s a start…right after I walk Miss Gracie.   

I always miss her.
    

Thursday, November 17, 2016

lucky me

Sometimes I am really lucky.  There was a time in my younger days when my mindset was that I could never even win a coin toss, but in more recent years, I know that I get lucky.  University #2 contacted me and now I’m on schedule to teach classes all through 2017.  I’m delighted – totally.  And guess what else?  They’ve invited me along with some of the other adjuncts to complete a questionnaire to assess our interest in teaching in the doctorate program and to serve as dissertation chairs/committee.  I’ve been researching their PhD programs and intend to throw my name into the hat…maybe I can get lucky again.

Last weekend was great fun.  Sarah had a gig in Shelbyville, so I drove to Flemingsburg and picked her up.  Together, we drove to Shelbyville and went to her show.  I was like her roadie…which is really fun for me.  My favorite thing about going to her shows (besides seeing my daughter on a stage performing) is to be in the audience and hear what people say about her.  Perhaps I wouldn’t enjoy that so much if the comments were unfavorable.

Poor lighting for my iPhone

 After her show, we spent the night in a cheap motel.  My budget is thin these days…not that it has to be, but more that I think it should be.  Now that my income is like 20% of what it used to be, I try not to spend any more money than necessary.  It’s especially important to be strict until I reach the magic age of 59.5 – at that milestone I can withdraw money from my retirement savings without tax penalties.  With any luck, I will not be drawing on my retirement money until I’m 65 or so.  Our cheap motel room was OK, but it smelled like cigarette smoke, the lighting was poor, and there were some stink bugs crawling around on the ceiling and walls.

Anyway, the next morning, we drove into Louisville and picked Erin up for breakfast.  It’s wonderful to spend time with my girls – that’s another way that I’m lucky – I have three daughters.  I could just brag on them for my entire blog, but I won’t because everyone who knows them knows how wonderful they are.

LOVE these quirky girls

Thanksgiving is next week and I’ve only had fleeting thoughts of cleaning the house and preparing a grocery list.  We always go to Someone’s parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner, but I always cook a big dinner later over the weekend.  Someone likes to have turkey sandwiches and my girls like to have food over the holiday weekend.  This year, I invited my little brother to come for dinner.  He might come…sometimes he gets too busy with things and doesn’t make time.  It’s OK, I’d probably be the same if I didn’t live with Someone who reminds me that he wants me to cook.


Now that the girls have moved out for college, they are usually disappointed when they come home and look in the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator.  They claim we have no food in the house.  Of course we have food, but there’s usually nothing they want to eat.  Erin once asked if we eat anything besides mustard, mayonnaise, and carrots since she moved out.  Silly girl.  What she should have asked was if I could go buy her some pepperoni Bagel Bites or some potato chips. But she need not ask…I read her mind.