Monday, September 22, 2014

replay

The weekend was magnificent.  We had beautiful fall-like weather with very-low humidity, a few fluffy clouds in the sky, a light breeze, and temperature around 75 degrees.  Perfect golf weather!  Someone and I went to our usual golf course, Sandy Creek.  The course is nothing to rave about, but it’s convenient (20 minutes from home).  There are not many decent golf courses nearby.  My favorites are at least an hour drive. 

It was a fun round of golf for me Saturday, fun because I was playing well for me in comparison to how I’ve been playing all summer.  I had 4 birdies in one round of golf which is very rare, and two of them were back-to-back.  Sheer luck!  Maybe 90% luck and 10% skill. 

The #5 hole is a short par 4.  The tee is on top of a tall hill; the fairway is very narrow with big maple trees all along the left side.  The right side is a steep hill that is partly very rough tall grass at the lower section along the cart path, and woods on the upper section.  If a right-hander hits a slice or push, chances are good that the ball will hit a tree, bounce out and get swallowed up in the tall grass on the slope.  The green is guarded in the front by three mounds of tall grass.  It’s a tricky hole.  So anyway, Saturday, I hit my drive really sweet.  The ball sailed out over the middle and faded right which was a blessing, otherwise it would have buried in a mound for sure.  Because of the fade, the ball landed squarely onto the concrete cart path.  It took one big bounce and landed on the green rolling up 15 feet from the pin.  WooHoo!!  My putt for eagle was short, but I tapped in for birdie.  That was fun!   

From the front of the tee box, Sandy Creek #5, photo taken 09/2012


The #6 hole is a very short (about 115 yards) par 3.  It’s another narrow fairway with big pine trees on the left and out-of-bounds on the right.  The tee is elevated.  The green is also elevated and unwatered, so it’s hard as brick…meaning it rarely holds (which means if you land the ball on it, chances are good it will roll off).  My tee shot hit on the front fringe and rolled all the way across to the back fringe.  The pin was on the front, so it was a long putt…maybe 35 feet, with a slope to make it even more tricky.  The green condition was very poor; not much grass, lots of ball marks and twigs laying around everywhere.  In those kind of conditions, there’s little hope of making a long putt.  My hope was to finish the ball somewhere within a 5-foot circle around the hole.  I lined up, gave the ball a good rap, and watched it bounce and roll down the hill, all the way, and drop into the cup.  Someone looked at me and said, “You asshole.”  I’m a tough act to follow…sometimes.


Someone and I can have fun together playing golf. I suppose it’s a good thing that married people have something they can do together for fun.  Honestly, I’d rather play golf with women; it’s more fun.  To a pack of women, golf (at the amateur level anyway) is a social game.  To men, no matter how bad they are, golf is a competition or even a test of manhood sometimes.  Someone and I can play, but as soon as another man joins us, the game changes.  I have never seen a woman intentionally break or throw a club, but men do it all the time.  It’s senseless to get so bent out of shape over a game played for leisure.  Anyway, my worst day of golf beats my best day at work.   

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

abundant harvest

Fall weather is already here.  Sadly, it should be since the autumnal equinox is September 22.  The nights are getting colder, there’s fog in the mornings, and the leaves have a hint of yellow and orange.  I’m not ready to give up summer.

I visited our Farmer’s Market yesterday hoping to buy some banana peppers.  We didn’t grow any this year in our garden.  It seems like 95% of them go to the compost pile anyway, so why bother when the local farmers always have piles of them for sale?  Well, there were no banana peppers for sale yesterday, so the joke is on me.  I did buy pots of beautiful mums, a pumpkin, and one of my most favorite fall decorations of all time…Indian corn.  I also bought 4 giant tomatoes and a gigantic onion.



We have plenty of tomatoes growing in our garden, but Someone is very possessive of them.  I dare not pluck one of his precious (bug-eaten, blight-mottled) tomatoes for my purposes;  Someone’s wrath is nothing to toy with.  Anyway, I detest tomatoes, but I needed some to cook with. 

We have 12 green pepper plants in our garden this year (actually, they are more-formally known as bell peppers).  In eastern Kentucky, we call these things green peppers, even if they are red or gold.  I upped the number from last year because we had space due to my decision not to plant banana peppers.  Also, I tried some Miracle Grow on them this year.  Wow!  We got the miracle.  We started getting magnificent giant peppers in early August, and they just keep coming.  They look like the ones grown in California; they’re that big.  I’ve been making stuffed peppers with them twice a week, to the point where Someone and I are tired of eating stuffed peppers.

A few peppers from our garden
 

Last night I picked about 30 of the largest peppers.  So today, I ran home at lunch and put a bunch of stuff into the crock pot to make what I call Hungarian Goulash.  I’d share the recipe with you dear readers, but there is no recipe.  It’s wait-and-see every time; just toss stuff in, stir it up, and let it cook.
 
Today’s goulash experiment:

1.5 pounds browned ground chuck
4 large skinned, chopped tomatoes
3/4 gigantic onion, chopped
Green peppers, chopped….sorry, I lost count…maybe 5 or 6 of them
3/4 of a large jar of banana peppers, plus I dumped some of the jar juice into the pot too
2 cans of white shoepeg corn (fresh white corn works…but I didn’t have time today)
1 boatload of chili powder – no idea how much I dumped in…a whole bunch of it
1/8 (what was left) of the bottle of Texas Pete Hot Sauce that’s been in the refrigerator forever
1 Large can of tomato juice

Just before putting the lid on it


There you go…the crock pot simmered for 8 hours.  This was actually my first-husband’s mother’s recipe…er, maybe she had a recipe, but I never have used it.  Usually I make a pan of corn bread to go with it, but not tonight.  I left the office at 5:10 and was on the lake with my kayak by 6:05.  It was a wonderful evening!!!!  BY the time I got home, Someone had already eaten his fill.  I won't make corn bread for just myself…too much work and dirty dishes. 

As repulsive to me as fresh tomatoes are, I will eat them if they are cooked enough that they don’t look or smell too much like tomatoes.  My grandmother always insisted everyone likes tomatoes and I was just being too picky.  She forced me to try one every summer when I was young, with the same result every time – lots of gagging.  I just hate everything about them.  In fact, I’m somewhat allergic to them.  If I handle them for more than a few minutes, I get an itchy rash all over my hands.  My grandmother told me that when my mother was pregnant with me, she stood over the sink all summer long and ate tomato after tomato.  She’d never seen anyone eat so many tomatoes.  My mother must have had a very strong craving for them.

Life is busy all the time for me these days.  I get home from work and start answering emails from my students.  Tonight, I must do some analysis of my grade book and submit reports on students who are falling behind or failing.  My general impression is that about half my students are doing very well, a few are doing OK, and the rest are just not catching on at all.  It’s not easy stuff that we are wading through, but the training provided in the simulator is very good.  I think almost any student in my class who is willing to put in time with the training simulator can do well.  Very few have used it though, despite my repeated advice to try it and see if it helps.      

My new favorite TV show is Breaking Bad.  It’s partly why my life is so busy.  I’m always trying to fit some Netflix time in with working two jobs, walking Gracie, and keeping up with the housework (and golfing, and kayaking).  I’m NOT keeping up with the housework, but just merely trying to keep things sanitary enough.  Someone does very little housework.  What I didn’t realize is how much housework the girls were doing when they lived here.  Wow…I really miss live-in housekeepers.  




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

vicarious dialogue

“That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!”…Popeye

I visited my brother again in the hospital last night after work.  Oh boy!  I firmly believe that if you have nothing nice to say about a person, you should just say nothing at all.  Dear readers, you will be spared a long string of expletives.  My brother’s name suits him perfectly, “and that’s all I’m going to say about that”…Forrest Gump.  Needless to say, he pissed me off.  It’s not the first time.

Alcoholic brother is leaving the hospital Thursday.  He is still infected with some unknown bacteria and fungus in his lungs, but he’s much better, he’s finally able to walk out now (with a walker).  The hospital won’t keep him any longer.  It’s been a month of hospital time already, and he’s a charity case.  After our conversation last night, I told him good-bye.  I meant that in every sense of the word; if I ever see him alive again, he will be back to his usual state of oblivion.

Take that first step today.


This fortune was in my cookie months ago when Erin and I stopped for lunch at a not-so-great Chinese restaurant.  For some reason, it spoke to me and I kept it on my desk at work.  A few weeks ago, during a lengthy phone meeting, I was fiddling with the slip of paper and wedged it into a crack on my keyboard.  Now it demands my attention all the time, reminding me to do something…start something…but what?  What should I start?  There are lots of things to start, but it must happen that I will procrastinate while mulling them over.

“Dum spiro, spero.”…Cicero


“While I breathe, I procrastinate.”…KyLady

Thursday, September 4, 2014

one foot on the platform, the other on the train

I’m standing in the doorway of opportunity – people are waiting for my decision, which I promised to render by 4 PM EST tomorrow.  Do I dive into the deep end or continue to wade in the shallows?  The part of me who wishes life could be easy tells me to continue wading until I gather more information.   The YOLO part of me says to stop worrying and dive.  Just do it.  Do IT, DAMMIT!  The opportunity may not repeat itself. 

With not yet three weeks experience, I’m thinking to willingly commit to teaching two courses in the spring, one online and one F2F in a real classroom with real people.  It’s scary to think about, and exciting at the same time.  I don’t want to suck at it.  I might totally suck at it.  The thought of facing real students who ask questions and expect me to deliver intelligent answers on the fly is pretty frightening.

  

The most pressing worry is that I still have my real job…you know, the one that pays the bills for this family.  For the F2F class, I have to commit to being on campus Monday afternoons for 16 consecutive weeks (excluding spring break).  That means I will mark my calendar with vacation (real job) every Monday afternoon for 15 weeks.  If my boss notices, he’ll be wondering what’s going on.  Worse than that, I might get sucked into a meeting halfway across the country that starts on Monday morning.  It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.  You always have some young, studley-do-right manager-wanna-be who wants to demonstrate his promotion-worthiness by forcing everyone to F up their weekend by traveling on Sunday or Saturday.  It’s like “Look at me, I’m so dedicated to this company and my work is so important that I will donate at least part of my weekend to the cause and inspire others to donate theirs as well.”   But, as an employee with one foot out the door, I’m prepared to say “Oh, well, I have  vacation scheduled for Monday afternoon so if my attendance is required, you’d better reschedule your meeting…or perhaps you can just conference me in via phone? ”  It might work.  It would be like shooting my career in the head.  It’s OK, my career has been dead for a long time.  Still, the bonuses just get better every year, and I get 30 days of paid vacation every year, plus 10 holidays.  It’s hard to walk away from.

typical manager-wanna-be
 

I will take one more night to sleep on it, mull it over, and agonize over the decision.

My alcoholic brother is like a cat with nine lives.  It looks like he is recovering now, thanks to a horrible surgery.  They went into his lungs and surgically scraped the nasty gunk out of them.  They did that last week, he was in the ICU for days afterwards, and today they moved him to a rehab floor.  He expects to go home (or perhaps to a nursing home) in just a few more days if he continues to improve.  I think this was the 5th life he used up, or perhaps the 6th.



I visited him last night.  He insists he will never drink or smoke again.  He has been completely sober for nearly a month now.  His hands still shake.  He still has no concept of time – he doesn’t know if an event happened two days ago, two weeks ago, or two months ago.  We talked about things in the news, because all he does is sleep and watch the news lately.  He almost sounds like my brother again, which is kind of a sad thing for me.  I had completely given up on him more than a year ago.  In my mind, he was already as good as buried in the cemetery.  His death was over with, other than the formality of making arrangements and notifying people.  It sounds cold and heartless, but it was a good place to be, not having to worry about him or how or when it’s going to happen.  Now he’s promised to change.  He says as soon as he’s back on his feet, he’s going to look for a job.  If only he could keep his promise.  He just can’t.  I’ve been visiting a ghost in the hospital.

Well, this has become a pathetically depressing post for my poor blog.  Truly, my life is blessed and very good despite all the crazy shit.  I miss my daughters, but maybe I'll visit two of them this weekend.  My students are starting to figure things out.  The number of emails is decreasing (although I have several of their emails waiting for my attention right now).  I've started thinking more seriously about cleaning my house and clearing out junk.  In particular, the nether regions (dark corners, closets, and SCARY BASEMENT) need a lot of attention.  My goal is to have everything neat and clean by mid-November.  Place your bets.   


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

adrift

KyLady has been adrift this month, so much so that it’s very hard for her to think in first person.  Life this month is nothing like her life has ever been.  Perhaps an alien presence usurped control of the KyLady Command Center (KCC), and KyLady acquiesced, becoming a casual bystander in her own life.  For the sake of this blog post, she will now resume control so that she may issue an account of all that has transpired.
 
One thing that writing does for me is that it forces me to think about what has happened lately.  It’s so easy to just go and do and never think at all, sort of like putting life in auto-pilot mode.  Perhaps it is a flaw to do that too often.  I am guilty, or just predisposed or somehow conditioned to do that (i.e. autopilot) whenever things get hectic.  It’s just easier to take the head-in-the-sand route.

My babies moved out and started college this month, Jack died, I started a new career, my real job is killing me, my alcoholic brother nearly died again, the house has fallen to ruin, Molly has become a different cat, Someone has changed into somebody I don’t know…there, it’s all said.  Who could blame me for taking the easy way out?  If I plod along long enough, all this will become the new normal.  It will; it always does.
 
Having Jack euthanized was a hard decision to make.  His tumor grew to the point where it was hard for him to walk.  We were giving him pain medicine twice a day.  Someone refused to be involved.  The girls tried but giving medicine to a cat is difficult.  They wasted a lot of it and the stuff was as expensive as gold (well, almost).  The drug was working well for him; giving it to him on schedule was the least we could do for him, but it was becoming a drag.  Then he developed an ulcer on the tumor.  It abscessed and that became the deciding factor.  The big, gaping hole was not going to get better.  Emily wanted to be present when we put him down, she was leaving for college that very afternoon, and if not that day, it would surely need to be done within a few days.  I scheduled the deed with our vet.  Someone, both girls, and I took poor Jack to the vet’s office and were with him through the end.  It was a very sad occasion.  Death of a beloved pet is never pleasant.  We buried Jack in the pet cemetery in our back yard.  He lays in eternal rest with Chewy, Max, Tiger, Nosey, Belle, Norse, Josie, Bubbles, James Dean,  and a host of other creatures whose names and species I can’t remember.

Rest in peace, little Jack

  
With Jack gone, Molly has become a different cat.  She demands much more attention and more food, and she is asserting herself more with Gracie.  It was always Jack who intimidated Gracie, now Molly has taken over.  Molly was a young neighborhood stray who adopted Erin just a few months after we adopted Jack.  We let her stay only because Erin insisted it was unfair that Emily had a cat and she did not.  Perhaps it was just the “crazy cat lady” in me that let Erin keep Molly, or Someone just wanted his daughters to be equally happy.  We have no girls here now but Molly remains a permanent resident.

keeping everything equal is IMPOSSIBLE

    
Erin and Emily are adjusting to college life and adjusting to living apart from each other, while Someone are I are adjusting to our empty nest.  My first instinct is to declutter the house and clean thoroughly, but alas there has been no time at all.  This is middle of Week 2 for the course I’m teaching.  Facilitating an online course has been way more time-consuming than I ever imagined it would be.  Still, it’s much more enjoyable work than my real job, perhaps because it’s all still new and I’m learning new things.  Thank heavens I didn’t commit to teaching two courses this semester!

My alcoholic brother became very sick with a bacterial infection in his blood and lungs.  He’s been in the hospital for 10 days so far.  I’ve visited him a few times just to see how he is when he’s not plastered.  There is just no hope for him; his brain is too damaged from drugs and alcohol.  No doubt his first stop out of the hospital be to the bank for money, and then to the liquor store.

Someone is restless with his girls moved out of the house.  He’s bored.  To make matters worse, a tree knocked down a utility pole in our neighborhood which eliminated our cable, Internet, and phone service for three full days.  Someone was a wreck with no TV because not only is watching TV his primary hobby, he must have a TV to watch while running endless hours on his treadmill (his secondary hobby).  Admittedly, I was not happy with no Internet.  I set up my phone as a personal hot spot to survive the outage.  Someone really REALLY needs to find some friends or take up new hobbies because I have enough jobs without adding entertainment director to the list.

So now, it's back to work for KYLady.  She has stuff to grade, student emails to answer, a report to run, a kitchen to clean, laundry to start, and cookies to bake for a bake sale tomorrow.  It must be true that a woman's work is never done.    

Friday, August 8, 2014

covert worry

It’s been a very long time since I’ve lost sleep over anything.  Last night was crazy.  I must have waked up 800 times.  Someone said I flopped all over the bed and kept him awake too.  Even Gracie moved to the floor which is very unusual for her. 

Yesterday afternoon, I visited the payroll department at the college where I’ll be teaching.  A one-inch-thick stack of forms had to be filled out so that I could be added to the payroll…to receive a check for teaching a 15-week class that is less money than I make in one week at my real job.  It’s OK though, I’m not doing this for the money.  Sadly, some of the adjuncts are working for the money.  It makes me feel very fortunate.  Well, I am very fortunate.  Not many people have a job like mine…regardless of my opinion of it.

Last night, there was a meeting at the college for all the adjuncts (all those who showed up…apparently many didn’t come).  We all signed official employment contracts, and then we had 90 minutes of training on a new early warning system that needs to be incorporated into my syllabus and gradebook.  At least this system is new to everyone so I don’t feel behind with it.  We're all equally lost.  

    

My course opens a week from Monday.  It’s still not ready!  I still have lots of questions about best practices in the online environment and how things will work and be scheduled with the simulator we use for IT courses.  I still have four modules of Blackboard certification training to complete before next Friday.  Still – still – still.  Despite having a whole summer to prepare, I’m STILL floundering like a fish out of water.

So, driving home after the meeting last night, the realization sunk in that ready or not, this course is happening soon and I’m responsible for 30 people.  Teaching is something I’ve hoped for and daydreamed about for 15 years.  The opportunity and time is now…and now I’m in full panic mode.  Great!  Why must everything with me be do or die?  Why can’t anything in this life be easy?  Why can’t I be one of those calm, confident people who are successful just because they wake up breathing in the morning?  Ok…maybe those people don’t really exist….but there are a few who live a seemingly-charmed life.

Here are some bits of wisdom I’ve gleaned from chatting with experienced faculty.
  • Most students don’t want to learn and will put forth minimal effort. 
  •  All students will exploit any weakness in the system. 
  • Anything I say or write can and will be used against me. 
  • Most students will cheat if the opportunity arises. 
  • Some students will know way more than me, and some will read/write at grade-school level.
  • Some will have signed up and paid for an online class who have never used a computer in their lives.
  • I will piss off at least one student who will post my phone number on Twitter and ask the world to join them in harassing me.  Do not let any students know my cell number – EVER.  (They won’t…I signed up for a Google Voice number).


It all sounds like my role will be to lead a pack of wolves.  The idealistic part of me wants to believe that only a few students will be as malicious as portrayed by my colleagues.  I'm not looking for any glory or to trip anyone up.  I just want to help some people along in their journey to find a better life.  Who doesn't like to see good things happen to good people?  

Friday, August 1, 2014

imminent change

It’s a busy life for me lately.  Work is just insane – we are doing database migrations and another round of server standardization across the company.  It’s loads of fun when so many systems are integrated.  Like dominos, when one thing changes, so do 500 other things. 

My new teaching career will soon be launched.  I go sign a contract next week at an orientation dinner that all adjuncts are supposed to attend.  It’s interesting they are giving me this job and feel the need to treat me to dinner as well.  The pay is low, but I took the job to get experience.  For me at this point, the money doesn’t matter.  I have to say, even without the contract being signed, I’ve had more training and opportunities for training in the past two months than I’ve had in 34 years in my real job.  Training is just very low priority in the corporate world, but it seems very important in the academic world.  Probably so….education is their business.

Erin and Emily are preparing to go off to college.  Emily starts a week before Erin, and will start moving in NEXT WEEK!!  She began packing stuff into boxes last night.  Erin has made a few piles of things, but hasn’t done much else.  Perhaps when her boyfriend leaves town (he is going to college a week before her), she will find motivation.  He is a significant distraction at this point.

The universities the girls are going to have policies requiring all incoming freshmen to get a meningitis vaccine before they start classes.  Earlier this week, Emily and Erin went to the doctor’s office together to get the shot, one shot, but ended up getting four shots each before they left.  Emily told me the nurse “peer-pressured” them into also getting a chickpox booster, a hepatitis vaccine, and even #1 of the 3-shot series for HPV.  As much as Emily fears needles, the nurse must have been very persuasive.



I have to admit, I’m a bit paranoid about any vaccinations since Jack had such a bad outcome.  His tumor is giant and spreading to the inside of his leg now which makes it harder for him to walk.  We switched his food to some expensive little cans of fancy tuna and salmon.  He loves it but is still losing weight.  It’s not time to have him euthanized yet, but it will be in a matter of just a few more months perhaps. 

I’ve been working with Gracie to improve her leash manners.  She is improving!  We went for a walk last night in a place we haven’t been for a long time – this was her first test outside our yard.  Normally, she would have been completely ignoring me and trying to drag me along the whole time.  This time, she was much calmer.  Whenever she started pulling the leash, I’d make her stop and sit for a minute.  She sat a lot for the first 15 minutes, then she figured out it was my pace or no pace.  We only had to stop a few times for the rest of the walk, and one of those was when a deer crossed the road in front of us.

Miss Gracie

It’s already August now – where has summer gone?   Our vegetable garden is in full production of green beans, green peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  Someone is the only one in our house who eats tomatoes, so he takes a lot of them to his parents.  The corn will be ready to pick in about 2 more weeks.  Our garden is small, but it produces plenty enough for us.


I’m still muddling over all those logs in our yard.  Someone has no intention of helping me split or stack them, and it’s turned out to be way more work than I imagined it would be.  Obviously, age has taken its toll on me.  Back in my youth, that would have been at most a day’s work.  My fantasy is that someday I will build a nice fire pit in our yard and spend evenings sitting around a cheerful, crackling fire sipping bourbon and picking my guitar.  Yep…someday….after all those logs are split and stacked, and a fire pit is constructed.