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
    

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Greening up

I wrote this post yesterday morning, and will go ahead and set it free...

Morning came much too early today. I’m mostly brain dead today, so much so that I find myself unable to think straight line enough to work.  Or perhaps it’s the countdown to freedom – 49 business days…but surely I must have counted wrong the last time. After counting twice this morning, surely it is 49 business days until my last day.

Last night (and this morning until just after 3 a.m.), I sat up to work on a report for University #1. My mind was made up to get it submitted before bed, even if it meant staying up all night.  Well, it seems as though I did just that given that my alarm clock is set to go off at 6:34 a.m.  I went to bed and was so wired up (from lots of caffeine) that I sat up and played games on my iPad for another 30 minutes.  I lost myself in writing that report; it’s kind of good thing to get so immersed in something that you lose track of time. As a young girl, I used to get lost in play.  Now, I get lost in work. In my head, I can still hear my grandmother’s voice – “Where the hell have you been?  Do you know what time it is?  Why didn’t you come when I called for you?” These were always rhetorical questions. I learned early on that the best answer was no answer.

The hills are greening up this week. I LOVE IT!!!  Under the tall canopy of emerald splendor, the white dogwoods have taken over just as the brilliant orchid of redbud trees has faded to pale pink. Such is the cycle of spring beauty in northeastern Kentucky. A blight moved through much of Appalachia years ago, taking lives of countless dogwoods.  The population here continues to thrive; we are blessed. Dogwood trees planted in full sun grow round and full, their blossoms are so plentiful you can’t even see through the branches. Under tall shade trees, the limbs stretch flat and lanky. When in bloom, it’s as if the trees have layers of white umbrellas.

welcome the green

dogwoods



I miss my kayak. There has been no time to get out in it. I miss golf too. In two weeks, the term for University #1 will be over. That should free up some time, unless University #3 comes through and contacts me to begin training.  I hope they do, but if not, I’ll ramp up my job search and take time to paddle some lakes and the Little Sandy. University #2 is now wrapping up Week 2 of an 8-week session. I have three classes with them right now. 

Someone has been playing golf with his dad again in recent weeks. Someone hurt his elbow playing basketball a few months ago, but he is finally back to normal again. He can take most afternoons off work during warm months (don’t get me started on that!), so that’s when they meet at the course. Someone’s job is so VERY different from my corporate job. It’s not that I punch a time clock, but the work culture and expectations are night and day compared to his government job. I’m going to get some new irons as a retirement gift to myself.  My clubs are at least 10 years old now, I’m not as strong as in my younger years, and it’s really just time for an equipment upgrade. When I had my clubs regripped last spring, the pro remarked that my clubs were older than his grandmother. They’re not that old!!

Erin finishes classes this week but will stay in Louisville for the Derby. She is going (and I am envious). Horse races are wonderful fun, but alas I’ve not been to any in many years. Erin’s apartment is only a few blocks from Churchill Downs. How lucky is that! She can just walk over and not have to hunt a parking place and get into that miserable traffic jam. We still don’t know what she is doing this summer; she has yet to find a job.

Emily’s classes finish in three weeks. She is definitely coming home because her boyfriend is here. She has two part-time jobs lined up. And then Sarah – always busy with all her jobs and projects and opportunities. I had hoped we would find time for a girls-only vacation again this summer.  It just does not seem likely with all that’s going on with the girls this summer. If we can go somewhere together at all, it will have to be very short. The dates we had blocked on the calendar no longer work.


That’s what happens with children when things go right. They grow up and get lives of their own, then the mother has to compete with the world for their time. I’m grateful for this fate – grateful for their success. I do hope to visit Sarah soon.  We will go to my new favorite greenhouse and buy flowers and vegetables to plant. We had so much fun there last year. I love my girls.    

  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

headway

I haven’t written for a while because the rut has been too deep these past weeks, or maybe the old brain has been doing a lot of thrashing lately.  It’s time to breathe a little, and behold – WE HAVE SPRING!!  Spring is such a fantastic time of hope, or at least I am more hopeful when it’s spring.  The redbud trees have opened their orchid blossoms, daffodils have come, grass is green and growing, and the Bradford pears exploded this week (I mean that in a good way…not making reference to acts of terrorism).

Hepatica? growing along the Michael Tygart trail, Greenbo Lake State Park


Yesterday afternoon, I took a certification test and PASSED!!  Hallelujah!  Now I’m a legitimate Microsoft Office Specialist, a certification many of the bigger universities insist on for instructors teaching the same class I teach at the community college.  It’s been in my plans to get this certification for at least a year…something that’s been simmering on the back burner under procrastination’s heavy lid.  I was no more ready for it yesterday than a year ago, but perhaps I just didn’t want to fail…so I waited.

I made the decision to go ahead, finally, only because several of my students want to take it soon and were begging me for insights…which I had none to give other than what is available online.  It’s a financial issue for some of them to take the exam, not that money is no object for me, but $120 is not a deal-breaker.  I wanted to give them first-hand information before they decide to borrow money to take it.
 
The test was harder than I expected, but the testing platform was much easier to use than our Office training simulator.  About a third of the way through, I was convinced that I’d already failed.  With two minutes left on the timer and my brain in utter defeat mode, I clicked the submit button.  Calculating…calculating…PASS – Green check mark!  OMG!  Confetti and balloons dropped from the ceiling, and the orchestra launched Ode to Joy (only in my imagination).  It was a thrill, and well worth the pounding headache from no sleep the night before and all the pre-stress of taking a test.  I don’t like tests.  Now I have a badge in Word.  My next goal is to get a badge in Excel – with two badges, I become a Microsoft Office Expert (MOE)...which kind of reminds me of the Three Stooges.

Moe, Curly, and Larry
 
So, the session for University #2 ends Sunday night.  It will be a hard weekend ahead - grading papers and final e-paperwork to close out my classes for the session.  I don’t know what lies in store next with this university.  My understanding is that enrollment is up, so hopefully there will be more work for me.

Now it’s time to update my CV, resume, and all the job board profiles with this new certification.  I want to find more work before my retirement date.  I have a promise (but no contract yet) of work fall term with University #3, depending on enrollment.  Training is supposed to happen in summer, but no specifics have been sent to me.  That job is still smoke until something tangible transpires.  

Retirement from real job – set for July 1.  I was surprised that last week somebody was named to take over about 60% of my work.  Welcome to my world, young fella.  He graduated in December and has little experience, but these systems he’s taking on are legacy and fairly trouble-free under normal circumstances.  They are good systems for a new person.  He has much to learn – technical, social, and especially political.

As a retired person (semi-retired in reality...just gone from the job that really pays the bills), I see a lot of wonderful changes.  For one, the alarm clock will not get much use.  I'm going to hike, camp, kayak, golf, play piano and guitar again, sew, clean house, actually look at cookbooks and try new recipes, declutter, garden, go to the gym, do home repairs, bike, visit my girls more often, visit friends I haven't seen in years, and...work 3 or 4 teaching jobs.  Yeah...I don't know, but it's going to be very good.  Sixty-five working days to go - but who's counting?