Saturday, August 20, 2016

Chicago

August is flying by.  Heck, all time flies by these days.  Old age has warped my sense of time, or so it seems.

Someone spent two weeks in South Carolina with his familyin June.  In July, Emily spent two weeks in North Carolina with her boyfriend, and Sarah went to China for a few weeks.  Although Sarah’s trip was not really a vacation (she went there to perform music with a group), it was still a grand adventure.  Erin had been working most of the summer and I was not using vacation time for anything other than teaching classes this entire year, choosing to get paid for left-over vacation time.  Trust me – there was not much vacation left over by the end of June. 

Anyway, Someone told Erin that if she could get a few days off work, he and I would take her anywhere she wanted to go.  Anywhere.  Seriously?  It was completely out of character for Someone to make such a bold offer because he hates going to unfamiliar places.  He remarked to me that he was quite certain Erin would choose Myrtle Beach, Disney World, or maybe someplace she’d never been like Hilton Head or Wrightsville Beach.  Clearly, he fully expected her to select a beach or amusement part.  I knew better…and I fully expected her to select Las Vegas, New Orleans, or maybe San Francisco.
 
Erin surprised both of us and selected Chicago -  a place she had traveled through very briefly on a school trip and a place Someone and I had never been to.  I only had a few days to make reservations by the time she picked a place to go.  As it turned out, Someone insisted he just “couldn’t” take off work.  It was too expensive to fly on such short notice, I was not eager to drive into the big city and pay $40+ to park my car every day, so we took a train.

The train itself was a great adventure.  I rode Amtrak once when I was a kid, and Erin had never experienced Amtrak.  Our tickets were very reasonably priced.  I drove to Louisville and picked Erin up there, and then we drove to Lafayette, Indiana – a few hours south of Chicago.  Lafayette became part of our adventure; it’s a small and quaint college town, a place I selected by virtue of its location on the map.  We had time to drive around and walk around town.  Parking at the train station was practically nil, but we found a parking garage nearby (and paid nothing to park there for 5 days).  We spent the night in Lafayette.  We caught the train very early the next morning and found ourselves at Union Station in Chicago mid-morning on a Saturday.    

The whole train experience was very pleasant.  Lots of room in the seats and for our legs.  We had AC power right there at our seats, so we didn't have to worry about our batteries dying.  Northern Indiana and Illinois are mostly flat fields of soybeans, corn, and wind turbines - not a lot to look at, but we went through several small towns and those were interesting to see.  

Pretty church seen from the train window - somewhere in Indiana
  
While in Chicago, we did some typical tourist things – visited two museums (Fields Natural History and the Art Institute), the Navy Pier, Shedd Aquarium, and Millennium Park.  Of all that, I think the totem poles in Fields Museum were my favorite thing.  We went to the theater Sunday evening and saw The Book of Mormon.  It was great!!  Really hilarious, especially if you know anything about Mormons.  It was very inappropriate, and I know poking fun at a person’s religion and sexual orientation is not politically correct, but we both loved it.  The dancing was really excellent.  Great comedy, great show!  We ate deep dish pizza one evening because that is what Chicago is known for.  It was yummy.  We saw a fantastic fireworks show from the Navy Pier, and took water taxis several times – a boat ride along the shore of Lake Michigan instead of a taxi on the city streets.   Our vacation was a real treat for us.  What a wonderful time I got to share with Erin!  We both remarked that Someone (Erin’s daddy) would have been miserable on our vacation.

Entrance to the Navy Pier
Some of Chicago as seen from a water taxi
On the steps of Fields Museum - Willis Tower in the background (tallest building)

PrivateBank Theater, The Book of Mormon - our most memorable (and expensive) treat in Chicago  
Building diversity - newer and old

Newer buildings around very old building
Just inside Union Station (Chicago)
Union Station - marble floor, giant columns, guilded light posts...awesome building


University #1 is keeping me busy with three classes that started last Monday, and another class that will kick off on September 12th. For somebody who wanted to teach only online, three of my four classes are face to face.  No complaints; I’m grateful for the work.  University #2 has low enrollment right now.  After working steadily for a little more than a full year for them, I have no classes just now and no idea if or when I’ll get work again.  The next session also starts September 12th…I’m hoping they can give me a few classes.  Meanwhile, it’s time to update my CV and start applying again.  Rust never sleeps, and neither should I.             

Thursday, July 28, 2016

morning rain

Gracie and I are just back from a glorious walk in the rain.  It wasn’t my intent to be in the rain, but that’s how things turned out.  Since my retirement and because there are no face-to-face classes going on just now, I’ve adopted a bad habit of lying in bed for an hour or so playing games on my iPad and looking at Facebook.  (Admittedly, it’s a huge waste of time but I’ve just not stopped doing it.)  Then it’s hop up, shower, do the get-ready-for-typical-day rut, log into my classes to see what’s going on, then take Miss Gracie for her new-habit morning walk.

Wet cane in the morning rain.

 Anyway, this morning there was a magnificent thunderstorm.  I shut off the alarm before it went off because Someone was already up (the thunder woke him, apparently, and then he woke me with all his morning thrashing around that he does).  I used to always get up before him, so maybe it’s just his way of paying me back.  Long story short, the storm changed my morning routine and I lingered too long in bed.  Rather than dry my hair first, I took Gracie for her walk because the rain had stopped.  Yes the sky was ominous, but we headed off – I take her to a remote road where there are rarely other dogs or people – she is snarly around strangers and aggressive with other dogs…it’s just easiest, plus we oftentimes see deer, groundhogs, and hawks there.  We were less than a quarter mile from the car when the rain started.  At one point, it was like a gully-washer, or frog-strangler, or whatever other name you like to give a hard, down-pouring rain.  By the time we got back to the car, we were both totally soaked.  It was great though…other than I don’t like wearing wet socks.  We came home and straight away I toweled Gracie off and took off my shoes and socks.  She is now sleeping blissfully beside my desk on her little rug, and Molly has made herself comfortable in an inconvenient spot beside my laptop – just like a cat does.  It’s cozy and lovely.  I’m grateful.

Miss Molly will have to move when I begin to work.  

 
I’m planning to drive to Flemingsburg today to visit Sarah.  I’m not eager to make to trip in the rain, but I miss her.  She has been gone to China and soon we will both be busy, very busy, again. 

Retirement has been great so far, although for the first few weeks it seemed more like vacation…probably because I’d not taken a vacation for a year.  On the first few days of retirement/vacation, I caught up on some housecleaning chores.  After that, cleaning house – all the things I thought I would be doing – just didn’t happen.  They still haven’t happened, and today would be a perfect day to work inside, but here I sit typing a blog post with three papers waiting to be read and evaluated, and a trip to Sarah’s planned for the rest of the day.  What’s wrong with me?  Obviously, no motivation.  That has to be it!


So tomorrow I have training to attend, and a haircut.  Thank the Lord!  My hair is a disaster lately.  Why do I always wait until it’s a wreck to schedule an appointment?  Why don’t I clean house while I have time?  Why don’t I get up earlier in the mornings instead of playing stupid games on my iPad?  I need to institute some time management and muster motivation.  Somehow.  I used to manage my time down to the last minute, and never look at the balance in my checkbook.  That has completely reversed.  Yeah – KYLady has decided to sign off here for now, and get started on something constructive.      

Friday, July 8, 2016

Parting is such sweet sorrow

Officially retired – June 30th was the last day I worked for Big Oil.  It was not the kind of last day I expected.  There was cake and gifts, lots of hugs and tears from coworkers in my office, and lots and lots of phone calls from people, contractors, and vendors I’ve worked with for more than 20 years (some I’ve never met in person).  For one thing, I didn’t know people really cared so much whether I showed up or not.  The other thing is that I continued to get calls for help and requests for me to sit in on meetings…like clear up until I quit answering the phone at 5 PM.  The last two things I did were record my out-of-office voice message greeting and automatic email reply.  Signing off…forever. 

Packing up


So, I’ve been retired now for five business days (Monday was a holiday).  I think because I’ve not had a vacation since last summer, it only seems like a really great vacation so far – the kind I’ve always wanted to take but never did, where I just stay home for a whole week.  I’ve been messing around in the garden, reading, rummaging, and doing some house cleaning…but I’ve not done anything significant yet (besides scrub the kitchen floor…you just have no idea what kind of filth we live in here). 

There’s no rush, right?  Wrong…I have to get my office space cleaned up.  I dragged books and boxes of personal stuff home from the office and stacked it in my “office”…which is really still the dining room with a giant, piled up table, boxes of stuff from my brother’s house, boxes of dishes from my grandmothers (both of them), and just some boxes of miscellaneous crap that I think is mostly kids’ school papers (that I think can be trashed).  It’s such a cluttered mess it’s hard to work in.  Tomorrow – I start on it!  Er…well…maybe Monday.  Tomorrow is supposed to be clear and sunny – if so, I’m taking my kayak out.

I brought my office plants home.  The big one is a bit shaken up.  I set it in the darkest corner of the porch because I was worried that the afternoon sun might not agree with it.  Some leaves are turning yellow so perhaps it’s time to move it where it gets more light.  I good friend at one of the refineries shipped a splendid present to me – a bonsai gardenia.  Alas, it’s already failing; I doubt it will ever bloom before it dies.  It’s planted in a wonderful ceramic oval pot though.  When the gardenia dies, I’ll plant something else in it. 

My porch jungle :)

Corn plant in the darkest corner

Sarah gave me a whole tray of unusual succulents.  Now I must decide whether to repot all my succulents into one large bowl, or maintain two succulent gardens.  I’ve not decided yet, but a bigger bowl is on its way thanks to Amazon.  I can put them all in one, or just put the new ones in the new bowl.  At this point, my mind is not made up. 

Possibilities...

My flowers on the back porch make me happy.  The deer don’t eat what is planted on the porch (perhaps they are afraid to climb the steps).  I wish the Japanese Beetles were afraid of the steps.  The beetles eat the petunias and Verbena.  Every time I step outside, there are a dozen or so beetles munching away at my flowers.




Sarah’s friend is going to come and do some building for me.  She says if I show him a picture, he can build anything.  ANYTHING??  A potting bench, raised beds, a little greenhouse perhaps, a fire pit, perhaps some other landscaping, install a door (because I’m too impatient to do it), and do some repairs.  A talented handyman is worth more than his weight in gold.  

Gracie and I are spending more time together.  She’s my shadow.  

  

Monday, June 20, 2016

Nine

Counting down now…like, for real counting down.  Today was the 10th day, and now there are nine more days to work at Big Oil.  Admittedly, I’m going to miss some of the people at Big Oil – some of these people were here when I hired in, and I get to leave before them.  It’s OK, they are happy where they are…they certainly don’t have to stay.



I’m excited, and worried, and happy, and yes, even all the way scared.  It’s about the money, or the fear of having a shortage of it.  Well, it’s just silly.  Of course I will continue to pay the bills.  Of course!  If I thought I couldn’t pay the bills, I’d abort the whole plan and march my large floppity ass right back down into the dismal rut that has been my work life for the past way-too-many-years.  Burnout is a dreary thing, but the steady fat paycheck is a hard habit to break.
    
Saturday, I took a break from grading papers so that Someone and I could play a round of golf.  It’s the first time I’ve played golf in 2016.  It was ugly (my game, not the weather.)  Still, I managed a few pars and birdied a long par 3 which was completely delightful.  The other holes don’t matter.  I didn’t lose any golf balls, the course was nearly deserted and in good condition, so it was a spectacular afternoon.  I’ve still not taken my kayak out this year.  😞

Indulging in a few hours of leisure reminds me of my former life in an odd sort of way.  In my former life (pre-twins), even when there was only Sarah, but especially before her, there were great expanses of leisure time.  I could leave home for an entire weekend and go camping.  There was time to sew, paint, read, pick around on my guitar, do crafty things, cook, play piano, watch TV, organize things, and just mess around (you know, just do nothing in particular and waste time). 

Leisure completely ended when the twins were born.  Emily came home from the hospital with me a week before Erin was released.  It was perhaps within two days after both babies were home from the hospital that I looked up from whatever it was I was doing (probably changing a diaper) to see Sarah standing there, looking at me with such a pitiful, hopeless expression – she was only 8 years old then. 

“What’s wrong, honey?” I asked her.
She said, “You’re just never going to have any more time to play with me, are you?”
You can only imagine the guilt.  “Probably not for a long time,” I answered her, sadly.

Sarah has assured me many times that she loves her sisters and she's glad they were born.


About the time the twins became less needy, my folks (actually, my grandparents) became more needy.  In and out of nursing homes and hospitals, I made time to cook for them, take them to doctors, help them with stuff…all the way to the bitter end (and beyond) for both of them eventually.  Then it was going back to school, the doctorate, and then brother Richard took the place of grandparents as far as hospitals (and jail), and doing stuff for him.  His estate is still not settled, and I have one final promise to fulfill for him…something that will take a large investment of time.   


But soon, ladies and gentlemen, I’m taking back my life.  I’ve got BIG PLANS.  Not really….it’s more like lots of small plans.  But whatever, It’s going to be really, very good.      

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

goodbye to May

With yesterday as Memorial Day, we were graced with a three-day weekend.  It was WONDERFUL!!  Even though I only completed perhaps less than 30% of the tasks on my list, significant progress was made.  One task in particular that I’m always eager to get out of the way, is scrubbing down the screened porch so we can sit out there…as if I ever sit out there anymore…but I will be doing more of that this summer.  In fact, I could sit out there and work – we have power and Wi-Fi…all the necessities of work life right there in the midst of Mother Nature (not quite Mother Nature, but not far from it).  The porch and furniture is now free from dead bugs, bird droppings, cat and dog fur, and pollen (at east for now).  I’ve set my plants out there, and now realize I must buy a plant stand that will survive the great outdoors.  There are too many plants to set on the porch floor.  I am bringing home one very tall corn plant, one large spider plant, and two big philodendrons from work this month.  Those will go on the porch as well.  It’s going to be like a jungle!!! 

mini-jungle

Glad to have this out of my kitchen!!  It takes up lots of space.  
      
I planted stuff all weekend.  The garden has beans, corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, banana peppers, cucumbers, and cabbage.  For all my gardening readers who want more detail (you know who you are), we are growing Mountaineer half runners (beans), Silver Queen (corn), Marketmore (cukes), California Wonder (bell peppers), Hungarian Wax (banana peppers), Better Boy and Celebrity (tomatoes), and Bravo (cabbage).  Sadly, the cabbage is doing piss poor and there is nothing to cheer about if you saw the sickly plants.  I think we waited too late and it’s just too hot for them.  

Out there in the corner of the vegetable garden, I planted some zinnias and tall snapdragons.  Someone insists we need to cut down trees because our garden is shaded too much.  He whines so much about it, that I plant that corner in sun-loving flowers because he insists vegetables won’t grow there.  Silly city boy.  That’s fine.  I’ll grow pretty flowers to cut for bouquets, but I can’t really bring myself to cut them when they pretty.  While I was down low to the ground tonight planting my flowers, I saw this little reptilian cutie watching me.  He had dug a whole under the bean fence that is closest to my “shady” corner.  Someone will probably want to remove him, but I will advocate strongly for him to stay.  Turtles eat bugs (and I hate tomatoes, so he can have all of them that he wants).   

I never saw him blink

I planted flowers in pots and strawberry jars for the porch.  I also ripped out a whole row of overcrowded day lilies that were growing across the front of the house.  They are lovely when they bloom, but I haven’t seen one bloom in several years.  The deer eat all the buds before they open.  In place of the day lilies, I planted impatiens.  I think there may be too much sun for them to do well…we will see. 

I gave my poor succulent garden a revamp.  One plant survived well and one is still barely hanging on.  I put three new specimens in it.  I love it!!!  I want to add some more over the summer. 

More to come...


Someone and I took Gracie for a walk out to Greenbo earlier last week – the sky was overcast and the water like glass.  I have to get my kayak out soon.  Tomorrow is June and adventure is calling my name.  Green is my favorite color. 

My kayak wants to be over there



Earlier this month, just two days before our brother’s birthday, Mike and I visited the cemetery and set a gravestone for our brother.  I had no idea how heavy a chunk of granite is.  The concrete slab underneath was even heavier than the stone.  How very odd it was to see it there on the ground amongst all our other family members – a gravestone for our brother.  It was kind of like a family reunion. 

not forgotten
             

Thursday, May 26, 2016

working the plan

25 working days.

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



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

That’s when I woke up. 

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

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

  

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

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

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





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

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

through the looking glass

44 days.

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

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




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

Narcissus