Friday, July 25, 2014

Silent Sunlight

Truly, today ranks among my top all-time best Fridays.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and not too hot like it sometimes gets in late July.  Believe it or not, I even worked today.  I walked into my (still) new (to me) office to see the sun streaming through the window, drenching my plants with its loving rays. The day was quiet, which is just so much more pleasant than the unending chaos of cubicle-world.  All nine of us in our IT group have moved back and settled in.  We are not really a department there, but more of a collection of IT people who all work with different areas of the company doing very different things.

Silent sunlight welcome in.  There is work I must now begin.

I got four new tires on my van, and had an alignment done.  When I picked up my mom-mobile at lunch and drove away, it was like a new ride.  I hit too many pot holes this spring.  The hard winter took a heavy toll on our roads.
For the whole afternoon, I backward-calculated an algorithm on a dataset in a spreadsheet.  It was actually kind of fun…like working a puzzle.  It took up most of my afternoon, but it was entertaining and also valuable work for my client.  Three hours to massage the numbers and create a script…a good afternoon of work with few interruptions.  Next week, I’ll run it in test and see what happens.  I will finish in five hours what it would take my client 80 hours to do using a less-procedural/less-automated method.

After work, I zipped home, loaded my kayak, and dashed off to the lake.  The marina was crowded, but the beauty of the lake was enough positive to offset the negative (i.e. crowd).  My eyes witnessed all the natural beauty of the area and the reflection of it in the liquid mirror of lake.  The setting sun made a sparkling, intense hot orange ribbon across the water.  It was too hot, so much so that I stayed in the shadows of the hills until it finally set.

Then home.  Laundry started, animals fed, Gracie Training Time, a cup of tea, and now some down time.

Learning to be good

Gracie Training Time (GTT on my schedule), is my effort to rehabilitate our energetic dog who has been spoiled rotten by Someone who insists dogs be in charge when they are walked.  Just NO!!  That’s not working for me and Gracie will not be going on any more long walks with me until she relearns her manners.  I watched many YouTube videos on how to get a dog to walk on a leash.  Today is only day three, but she has improved noticeably since Day 1.

Tomorrow I'm going to a music festival in Morehead.  Sarah will be making music there and taking wet-plate photographs.  I hope the weather is as pretty tomorrow as it was today.  I hope a lot of things.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

girls-only weekend

Despite all the stuff I should be working on, I took off on a mini-vacation with my daughters.  Someone stayed home to care for Miss Gracie and the cats.  We didn’t go anyplace exotic, but still, I had the best time ever.  We left Thursday evening and came home Sunday afternoon, giving us almost three whole days to reconnect our busy lives and catch up with each other.  What a lucky mother I am to have three creative, fun daughters.  It’s a good thing we get along because 4 ladies staying together in one small motel room takes lots of cooperation.

We visited Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.  It’s a historic settlement where a religious cult used to live.  In my mind, Shakers were similar to Amish, but a bit more radical.  The grounds there are beautiful.  I especially loved walking through the giant orchard and seeing the gardens.  They grow vegetables and flowers to use in the restaurant and inn there.  I like that they mix rows of vegetables with rows of flowers.  Sarah was intrigued with the castor plants they grow for the poisonous beans, which they use as a natural pesticide.  I was interested in the orach, which is a vegetable I’d never heard of….similar to mustard greens.

The entire weekend was blessedly sunny and pleasant.  Sarah bought two lovely sun hats at Shaker Village and wore one of them all day.  We had lunch there before we left.  The restaurant is famous for its food, but I’d have to say we were not impressed with the food this visit.  Erin and Emily ordered cheeseburgers that were quite standard.  I forget what Sarah ordered, but she rated it “OK”.  I ordered the chicken salad with fresh fruit.  The chicken salad was “OK”, but it was surrounded by chilled wild rice mixed with diced dried apricots.  It was oddly chewy and unpleasant.  On one side of the rice was unidentifiable green stuff that resembled jelly, or perhaps skinned pickles.  I tried a small bite because we all wanted to know what it was.  All I could say was the texture was slimy and it tasted like something I’d never eaten before (and had no desire to put in my mouth again).  Sarah tried it and made a face that I wish I’d captured on camera.  Erin tried it and agreed it was totally gross.  The waitress told us (after we asked) that it was pickled watermelon rind.  Waste not, want not….I suppose.  Also on my plate was a large pickle spear.  Normally I would eat a pickle like that, but the pickled watermelon rind turned me off of anything pickled.  Sarah said, “If you’re just going to leave that pickle, hand it over.”  She took a bite and about gagged.  Of course, how could any pickle be that bad, so I tried a bite and had the same reaction.   Obviously, they make their own pickles there. 

On Saturday, we drove to Louisville to visit the lady who used to babysit all my girls from the time they were babies until Erin and Emily were about 7 or 8.  She and her husband lived nearby us until her husband retired and they moved to Louisville where their children live.  I can say with all honesty, my girls had the best babysitter imaginable.  It still amazes me that I was ever lucky enough to find her.  My girls still love her and her cooking.  Of course, she made some of their favorite foods for our lunch – shrimp fried rice, pepper steak, and cream puffs for dessert.  Yum!   She invited them to keep the fancy chopsticks they ate with.  She gave me another photo album filled with pictures of all of them.  Sarah and the girls copied some of her recipes while she was cooking lunch for us.  We had such a nice visit.

discussion about Japanese cooking and recipes

 We spent two nights in Berea, Kentucky, where a big arts and crafts fair was going on.  We stayed in Boone Tavern, an old hotel in one of the town’s artsy districts.  Some say the hotel is haunted, but we didn’t experience any paranormal visitors.  Several of the girls had bad dreams or talked in their sleep, but that’s nothing unusual.  I love to look at all the lovely handcrafted things and art, but it is very hard for me to buy that kind of thing.  It’s not good to be too attached to things.  Things get broken or stolen.  Nothing lasts forever.  I can buy a decent lamp made in China for $40 that is one of millions just like it; or, spend $650 for a one-of-a-kind lamp that took an artisan  40+ hours to make.  If I were excessively wealthy, maybe I wouldn’t blink an eye if a cat jumped up on the table and knocked my $650 lamp onto the floor.  There's enough to worry about in this world without concerning myself with things.  

The girls bought gifts for me at the festival.  I love them (girls and gifts)!  They gave me a birdhouse that looks kind of like a human heart with veins all over the outside (although Sarah suggested it looks like something else...which it definitely does not)!!  It's a dried gourd; very natural looking.  Also, they gave me a sweet little glass amulet with pressed flowers in it.  I will buy a silver chain and wear it as a necklace.  These gifts will remind me of our lovely weekend together, but I would remember the weekend even without gifts. The real gift was having time with my girls.  

Unusual birdhouse

Saturday, July 5, 2014

breaking up is hard to do

I’ve procrastinated long enough.  It’s time now to get totally serious about getting my online classroom up and ready to go.  The department head wants to review it by mid-month since I’m new and have had minimal training.  It’s good – I welcome the review.  Lord knows the last thing I want is to start out wrong and make a bad first impression with my students.  While I’m writing this post for my blog, I am uploading a sample shell into a test course.  When done, I’ll tweak to look the way I think it should look, export it, then import it into a production course environment.  Test to production – that’s always best practice.
It’s a holiday weekend – Friday, Saturday, Sunday.  Tomorrow is the last day, sadly.  The weekend has been divine, really.  Perfect weather, lots of reading in the hammock, sleeping in late, and messing around in the garden.  Someone and I played golf this evening.  The only thing missing this weekend is time with my kayak.  Lakes are terribly crowded over holidays and I stayed away, but maybe tomorrow morning I could be brave and put my kayak in on a small river – perhaps the Little Sandy.  It would have to be early – before the idiots on their jet skis get out.

Emily broke up with her boyfriend last week.  It makes me a bit sad because I have come to like him.  I confess, for the first months, I never knew what she saw in him.  But it has been more than a year now.  I know him better and have learned his good qualities.  Still, he is the first and only boy Emily has ever dated more than casually.  With any teenagers, we expect their love relationships to eventually disintegrate for one reason or another.  Better to do that than to get all serious in love and then something dire happen…like pregnancy.  With girls, that’s always a concern.  The boy is taking it hard and even sent her the most beautiful bouquet of roses to try and win her back.  Emily was untouched by his gift.  She said, “Yes pretty, I thanked him, but he can’t buy me back.”  I think I could be persuaded with flowers as beautiful as these to at least give him another chance.

beautiful !!!

Someone used to send me a dozen red roses for every occasion – Valentine’s Day, our wedding  anniversary, the anniversary of the day we first met, and my birthday.  Yes, they were nice, but I finally told him it was too expensive to keep doing that year after year.  He hasn’t sent flowers now in at least 15 years, which is OK.  But still, when I saw those flowers from Emily’s ex-boy, I was a bit sorry I encouraged Someone to stop.  Maybe if he had surprised me with something different (not always red roses), it would have been better.

Speaking of flowers, perhaps tomorrow I'll visit the greenhouse.  It's late in the season and all their annuals should be reduced.  There's a big bare spot in our garden and wouldn't it be lovely to plant some flowers for cutting right there?  I do hope they have some zinnias and snapdragons left over.   Perhaps some verbena would be nice too.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

settlin' in

I tried to write a blog post the past few nights, but my mind was in a very dark place having just come off a two-week vacation.  It was back to grind Monday.  It was (and still is) dreadful trying to catch up to the normal level of behind as far as the work goes.  At the same time, everyone has moved into his or her new office.  I’m still getting things situated in mine.  People have hung pictures and gone out and bought beautiful plants and lamps to make their offices look personalized and really quite plush.

Years ago, we all had offices with real walls and real doors.  The furniture was old, but it was our space and we could shut the door for privacy which was always nice.  Then came the joint venture.  We partnered with another company.  After three years, they bought us out.  When there was new ownership, the powers in the corporate headquarters came down and declared it was not fair that we had offices while our counterparts at headquarters sat in cubicles.  They spent money to tear down our walls, they shipped in old, discarded cubicles from headquarters, and crowded us together leaving scads of empty space on our floor that they were paying for anyway.

Long story short, the engineering group is expanding and needed our unused space.  Because all of us IT folks in our location are old and within just a few years of retirement, Engineering plans to take over our offices as we leave the company.  They paid to remodel the whole area back into offices.  Hallelujah!  Now we have offices that are much larger than what we had in the first place.  All the furniture and carpet is new.  They look great!  It’s wonderful to have quiet again (it’s been 10 years of constant noise and distraction).  Even better than that, we can shut the door when we want to have privacy.  It almost makes me feel human again...sometimes...almost.

So, today was a hard day, but my new office is comforting.  I rearranged furniture to make better places for my plants.  I have more shelf and file space than I can use.  Imagine that!  The father of a man in our office has a berry farm.  The man brought in 10 cases of blueberries to sell.  I bought a whole case of them just because the price was excellent, they were picked last night, and they are just lovely berries grown right here in my county with no herbicides or pesticides.  Excited with my purchase, I texted my family and told them the good news.  Someone texted back that more than half will rot before we eat them.  Emily texted back – “Mom, are you on crack?”  You know what?  I don’t need anyone’s approval to buy blueberries.  I made a lovely blueberry crisp tonight.  It's yummy, f you very much.  Someone said he will not try it until he has vanilla ice cream to put on it.  Erin still hasn’t tried it.  Emily said she wasn’t interested (she won’t eat any cooked fruit).  That’s OK.  It means there’s more for me.  Tomorrow evening, I will make some muffins.

12 pints = 1 case of blueberry heaven

big berries!!

Also tonight, I bought a squirrel feeder, hung in out of Gracie's reach, and filled it with peanuts.  It's kind of cute - it looks like a little porch swing.  The squirrels will empty it quickly when they discover it.  Squirrels are good entertainment for Gracie and our cats.  Jack rarely ventures out of the house but loves to watch birds and squirrels from the living room window.  Poor Jack.  His tumor is as large as it was before his surgery.  There is nothing more to do for him, except wait.  

squirrel feeder

Friday, June 20, 2014

vacation half over

In the previous post, I stated that this vacation (the one I’m taking this week) is the first one I’d taken in 18 years without children.  That was not quite true.  This is the first vacation Someone and I have taken together without children in that many years.  Someone has taken a few vacations with his parents or just his dad, and I went by myself to Ireland to visit Sarah when she lived there.  That was probably the best vacation I ever had in my life – lots of adventure.
Someone seems a bit restless here without children to occupy his time.  We played golf four days straight which has been great fun, but today he is feeling under the weather with a cold.  He didn’t get up early and run like he usually does.  We went out on the beach for a bit and thrashed around in the waves for a short while.  I sat and read a chapter of my book, but left him asleep on the sand and came back up to the room.  I get bored sitting on the beach, it’s hot, and there’s nothing much to look at besides water, sand, and sky.  Well, and people too…but they all look the same after a while.  Anyway, I don’t want sun exposure doing something that’s not even that much fun.

Yesterday, we picked up a rental car to drive and delivered Someone’s wreck to a place to be towed away.  Now Someone is getting more serious about finding a new car.  I’m loving our rental – it has XM radio.  If I were not such a tightwad, I would subscribe to XM radio for myself.  There is nothing but country music, rap/hiphop/crap, and religious programs to listen to in our area.  I just don’t bother to turn the radio on anymore…there’s no point, really.

Golf has been so lovely this week.  We found a couple of courses very close to where we’re staying (less than 10 minutes away).  These are infinitely better courses than where we usually play at home – so much better maintained, real sand traps, water hazards are marked, rough is manicured, etc., etc….I could sing praises for hours about both of them.  These courses are very expensive to play in the morning, but in the afternoons when it’s too hot for most people, either one costs little more than the course we usually play at home.

The rough is not so rough

What do you suppose is my most favorite thing about these courses?  You might guess the water fountains with chilled water on every other hole, or perhaps that the golf carts have GPSs installed on them, or perhaps the lovely flower beds beside the tee boxes.  These are all features I marvel at, but my favorite thing of all are the friendly and unusual squirrels.  They are looking for a handout and are not a bit shy to come right up to you, sit up on their little haunches, and wait for you to toss them something.  Well, we have no snacks to offer, but even so, they are just very cute little rodents.  Until this week, I’d never seen black squirrels with white noses.

South Carolina squirrel

Our condo here has a king-size bed.  It’s easily big enough for three people to sleep in without ever having to touch each other.  I’ve been thinking how nice it would be to have a king-size bed at home.  Gracie usually sleeps between Someone and me.  Most of the time, there’s enough space for all of us, but sometimes we find her stretched out perpendicular to us with both of us being crowded off the bed.  Gracie growls if Someone tries to move her (which pleases me infinitely for some reason).  When I push her to a better place, she goes limp like a dead dog.  It’s kind of funny.  I love that dog.  Our bedroom is just too small for a king size bed, anyway.

The girls report that Gracie is grieving with me gone.  She sits outside on the porch and watches for our car.  They have to make her come in, and encourage her to eat.  If not for Someone’s expectations about vacation, I would have gone home days ago. 

Sweet Gracie

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

vacation has a rocky start

Someone and I are alone on vacation.  This is the first time I’ve been on a vacation without kids since the summer after our honeymoon...18 or 19 years…I’m too lazy to remember.   It’s a very different vacation, not better or worse, just different. 

years ago, at Myrtle Beach

There is no place on Earth someone would rather be than Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  That is where we are now.  He was disappointed that both girls declined to come with us this year, but they had rational reasons for not coming – primarily, their summer jobs.  Someone got over it quickly…indeed, because we didn’t have to wait on the girls' schedules, he plead with me to be ready to hit the road Sunday morning at 5AM to start the 8.5 hour drive.  I set the alarm for 4AM so I could shower and pack up last-minute things.  Whereas I heard the alarm and groaned, Someone popped up out of bed and began humming loudly. Damn him!  Why does he have to be so F’ing chipper in the mornings?

The day was beautiful for a drive – clear and sunny, and not much traffic on the highways because it was a very (VERY) early Sunday morning.  The rest areas along the Interstates were seas of parked 18-wheelers.  Just after high noon, we were about 85 miles from the beach, just outside Bennettsville, South Carolina, a little nowheresville-wide-place in the road.   An older man pulled out from a side road right in front of us.  Someone slammed on the brakes and tried to miss him, but cars were coming toward us in the other lanes and there was no place to go.  Our right front fender collided with his front left side of the car. 

It all happened so quickly.  Someone screamed “SHIT”, brakes squealed, than BAM!!!  Our seatbelts worked perfectly, which was something I didn’t consider at all until I observed that my sunglasses had flown off my face and shattered against the windshield.  The passengers in the other car were uninjured, and we were OK, so it’s all OK.  The visible damage to other car was worse than to ours.  We were able to drive on to the beach after several hours of delay for the police to arrive and write up the accident.  The other car had to be towed. 

car - now a wreck

The outside damage is not the most expensive damage.  We learned today that Someone’s car is totaled.  The seat belts and seat belt sensors have to be replaced, and that is more expensive than the exterior repairs.  Insurance will get us a rental soon (hopefully) and give Someone a fair settlement on his car.  He would have preferred to have it all repaired because he wanted to drive his car another year or two - it had a little more than 171,000 miles on it.    

The best thing about vacation this year is that I’m sleeping late every morning and we are playing golf every afternoon.  The weather has been perfect the two days we’ve been here so far.  Tomorrow is supposed to be another spectacular day – more golf (we already have a tee time).  Myrtle Beach is a resort area with more than a hundred golf courses within an hour drive.  It’s a golfer’s paradise.

So, vacation started out pretty rocky, but it’s better now.  I miss my kids and my dog in the worst way.  We are traveling home a week from today.  I think we’ll be driving a rental car, but I’m trying to encourage Someone to at least look at cars here.  The dealers are much larger here…he might get a better deal than if he buys a car at home.

Gracie - wish she was here

Thursday, June 12, 2014

got wood?

It is done.   Thank heavens it was done just hours before a horrendous wind storm hit our area two evenings ago.  It wasn’t a tornado, but it was a scary storm with wild lightning and high winds.  I had called tree trimmers weeks ago and they just showed up Monday morning without calling ahead.  The sky looked threatening that morning and I thought, “Oh great, they’re showing up to start the job so it can be rained out, so they can string me along while they start other jobs.”  Yeah, I know how these guys work.
I locked Gracie in the garage because one of the men was afraid of her.  Gracie doesn’t like strangers so she barks menacingly.  The fur stands up on her back which makes her look somewhat deformed and more vicious.   I discussed the job with the men, pointing out the limbs and trees they were to remove, and then headed off for work.  It looked overcast all day and sprinkled rain off and on, but the job was not rained out and was completely done by the time I got home from work.
It was quite a shock to come home and see the change created by trimming away limbs and cutting trees.  We lost a lot of privacy, but now maybe we can get grass to grow in the front yard, the apple tree may do better, and we have less worries about a tree falling on the house.  Indeed, the storm may have caused our cracked tree to split completely and do some major damage to our house.

Someone and I were playing golf Monday evening when the storm hit.  The sky was overcast and the course was not too crowded.  I was having a great round of golf – just 4 over par after the first 9 holes which is really good for me these days.  The sky was getting darker as we finished the 9th hole.  We debated playing the first 9 again because nobody was on #1 tee and the front is closer to the clubhouse and parking lot, but Someone was also playing well, and we both really wanted to play the whole course.
With thunder rumbling far in the distance and the sky turning an eerie yellow in the east, Someone and I headed down the hill and across the road over to #10 tee.  We felt a few sprinkles of rain, but finished 10 through 13 without care.  As we walked off the #13 green, I noticed we seemed to have the course almost exclusively to ourselves.  Most people had sense to leave, but we, in our infinite stupidity, were marveling at our dual birdies…much like the priest in Caddyshack who wouldn’t quit in the midst of a bad storm because he was having the round of a lifetime.   I remarked that maybe we should get back to the clubhouse because the thunder was definitely getting louder.  Someone reluctantly agreed and suggested we play #18 on the way in.  “Yeah, let’s do it!” I said. 
The wind started to gust as Someone hit his tee shot –straight down the middle which is kind of unusual for him because he usually fades (or slices).  He was well pleased.  I stepped up to the tee box knowing it didn’t matter what happened because the round was incomplete.  I let it rip and WOW…it was one of the best drives I’ve ever hit.  It had just that little bit of draw that makes the ball hit the ground and keep rolling.  It was low off the tee; right down the pipe.  WooHoo!!  It rolled at least 50 yards past Someone’s ball and stopped just 80 yards or so short of the green.  As we drove the cart toward our balls, there was a flash of lightning and a deafening BANG – lightning hit a tree somewhere close by.  We scooped up our balls and headed in.

We unloaded our clubs, parked the cart, changed shoes, and no more than got into our car when the heavens opened the floodgates.  Down pouring rain, buckets of it.  We sat there a few minutes waiting to see if it would let up.  Someone got impatient and off we went.  Just a mile down the road, it became nearly impossible to see.  Wind was blowing limbs through the air; some were hitting our car.  Finally, someone found a place to pull off the road and we sat for 20 minutes.  The rain slacked up and we headed home.  The roads were like an obstacle course with big limbs scattered around.  We saw uprooted trees and pine trees with the tops snapped off.  Some roads were closed because trees had fallen across, and there were several wrecks.  We had to turn around and reroute several times.  It was a stressful and long drive to say the least, but we finally made it home.
So, it was good fortune that we lost only a few tree limbs in the storm.  All the tree trimmer businesses are going to be very busy for the next month, but our work is done.  Well, not really.  The trimmers hauled away all the branches but left the wood because I wanted it for firewood.  Yeah, so there’s some major log splitting to be done.  For now, I’m just moving the logs that are small enough to lift and stacking them out of the way.  It’s hard work!  Harder than I remember it being, but I’m a lot older now than the last time I split and stacked wood.  I will have to split the big logs right where they are.  This may be a summer-long project. 

Half the maple was cut away.  We hope the crack will close up now.