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.  

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