Monday, May 27, 2013

seeing dead people

Tomorrow is Memorial Day.  There will be parades in the morning, but I won’t be getting up early to attend any.  I’m grateful for the three-day weekend; things at work have just been hell lately.  On Memorial Day, people visit graves and put flowers on them.  We set aside one day a year to honor people who’ve served in wars, and to remember loved ones.

Honestly, I haven’t purposely visited any graves in years, but after talking to my brother who said he intended to put flowers on our grandparents’ graves, it stirred up a bit of guilt in me.  I bought a pot of flowers wrapped in patriotic-printed foil, drove down to the cemetery, and deposited the pot in front of their headstone.  A few people were milling about, nobody I knew, or I would have stayed longer to look around.  The place will seem significantly different before long; a chemical plant is going to be built this year just across the much for resting in peace. 
Green Cemetery, St. Paul, KY
We used to mow the cemetery (the one I visited today) every week when I was young.  It seemed so big, but really it’s just a little country grave yard out in the sticks.  I’m not one who needs to visit a grave to remember the dead, but visiting those final resting places makes me remember the dead people more.  Not only this cemetery, we mowed another in a church yard a few miles from the one I visited today.  We mowed grass for at least 3-4 hours nearly every day of summer when it wasn’t raining.  My great grandfather had 4 or 5 lawnmowers so keeping grass cut was always a team effort. 

I talked to my alcoholic brother this morning.  He told me he’d been talking to our great aunt Louise.  I asked if he meant he’d been dreaming about her (she’s been dead for at least 20 years), but he assured me it was no dream.  Then he changed the subject.  Maybe it’s a sign the end is near for him.  Just a few months before my grandfather died, he started insisting my grandmother had been visiting him...and not in his sleep.  A friend whose mother recently died told me she claimed to have been chatting with  her dead sister.  It seems that maybe the boundary between the living and dead gets fuzzy for people who are nearing that great divide.
Great grandmother, Great Aunt Louise, Great Great Grandmother
So tomorrow, it’s one last day of freedom.  What to do with it?  We have chicken to cook on the grill, and we’re planting the vegetable garden tomorrow.  I’ve been putting flowers into pots all week, but still have two flats to do something with.  Perhaps Someone and I will play golf instead, but if it turns out to be a rainy day, I’ve plenty of inside work to do.  Anything is going to better than my usual Monday, even if it’s cleaning bathrooms and scrubbing floors.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

starting to live again

It was a glorious weekend; sadly, now almost over.  The sky threatened thunderstorms all weekend with intermittent storm clouds, thunder rumbling in the distance, but no rain, and temperature of around mid-80 so it seems summer-ish.  The locust trees smell like heaven and my rhododendrons have exploded into bloom this week.  
Locust smells like heaven

The time is here for planting flowers and getting things going in our garden.  I made two trips to the greenhouse.  The first time, I purchased conservatively and left with a single flat of flowers.  Those I set out this morning; impatiens around our mailbox, and begonias in a strawberry jar.  So, there’s a space where we took out a tree and it gets SUN there!!  Sun is rare in our yard because of all the trees.  This is where my new flower bed will go, but I sincerely doubt that with Gracie’s addiction to digging and destruction, and the voracious appetite of all the deer in this area, my flower bed has much chance of being even 5% as beautiful as I imagine.  Someone has offered to help me install a 5-foot tall wire fence around my new garden....but that really detracts from the beauty aspect of the garden.  We have a 6-foot fence around out vegetable garden.  Anyway, I went back to greenhouse this afternoon and left with three flats of glorious flowers for sun – zinnias, cosmos, snapdragons, alyssum, and petunias.  I would have bought more but common sense kicked’s going to be a lot of work to plant all those.
Lost all sanity at the greenhouse
This weekend, Someone and I played golf and saw the Star Trek movie together.  The whole family played tennis doubles together.  I planted flowers, we grilled out, I did some housework, caught up laundry, and played my guitar.  It was awesome to get to do so much in two days.  It reminds me of my life before my grandparents got so bad off.  Shortly after my grandmother died, I launched into school.   There hasn’t been a weekend like this one for at least 7 years! 

The signature forms for my dissertation are in route for committee and dean signatures.  I won’t be officially finished until the dean signs off on my dissertation, but I’m making tentative plans for graduation.  It’s funny that several times last week I dreamed I was presenting my my sleep, I’m espousing significance levels and r-values, and explaining scatterplots.  Some people dream about Brad Pitt or George Clooney, but I dream about graphing data.        

Tomorrow it’s back to the salt mine.  I’m co-managing a huge project that has all the signs of failure.  It’s hard to stay positive when the handwriting is on the wall (so to speak).  On Friday, we will have a definite go or no-go decision.  Meanwhile, 11 people will continue to waste a significant amount of time this week.  Sometimes I wonder how we manage to stay in business!     
very important meeting notes

Friday, May 17, 2013

brave new world

The calendar for summer is filling up fast. Summer is just too short!! Things will be very different this summer, mainly because Emily is now a cheerleader. The coach sent home a schedule of practices and fund raisers with a note at the top that said more could be added, but everything on the schedule is mandatory. So, she gave us a two-week window in June for vacation (which leaves little time for planning), practices 5 days a week through the summer, and fund raisers every other Saturday. CRAP.

Parents are expected to be involved in fund raisers. If we’re doing a bake sale and everyone spends $25 plus time to bake cookies and cupcakes, we sit in the hot sun all day to sell this stuff (to make a grand total of $65), I’d as soon take out my check book, donate $75, and enjoy the weekend. I think car washes are more profitable, especially with cheerleaders in wet tee-shirts. What a bad mother to say such a thing…but it’s true. Boys will be bringing their cars to be washed just for a reason to stand around and watch girls in wet shorts and tee-shirts washing them.

Emily did very well in her tryout, but I knew she would. She was very confident in herself. She loves to perform, is an accomplished dancer, and a level-6 gymnast (well, she was when she quit gymnastics). She and Erin were cheerleaders for a junior football team when they were 7 or 8, and both wanted to quit mid-season…of course I wouldn’t let them because of the financial investment, and the principle of not finishing something started. They didn’t like practicing outside in the heat and bees. Emily is still very phobic about any flying insects (including even butterflies and moths), so it’ll be interesting to see how this all goes.

Emily has toyed with the idea of being a cheerleader all through high school, but didn’t try out because of the summer practice schedule and bitchy girls. She will be a senior next year, so it must be that she succumbed to now-or-never pressure. My concern is that she will be faced with scheduling conflicts when Governors Cup and Science Olympiad practices start up, and she has a tutoring job to deal with…not to mention her own schedule of classes, and adhering to college and scholarship application deadlines.  With all the games and competitions cheerleaders do, she will have to do some heavy evaluation of her priorities.  She will definitely have to learn to manage time better than she does. 

Halloween cheerleader

Sunday, May 12, 2013

my magnificent Mother's Day

Today is Mother’s Day which will be over as soon as I set my alarm clock and lay my head on a pillow (most definitely in that order....because sleep is a fairly instant thing for me).  It was a delightful day, starting out with the clearest blue sky you can imagine, and spring painting the hillsides with glorious dogwood and locust tree blooms.  Erin and Emily went with me this morning to visit Sarah.  What a fun Mother’s Day it has been! 
beautiful dogwoods
Sarah’s kitty, (they call her Belle) had adorable kittens two weeks ago.  Their eyes are open and they are just barely starting to play a bit.  They are oh so soft and sweet.  The momma cat is a good mother and encourages her babies to stay close to her, but is kind enough to let us hold them.  Of course the girls want me to bring home a few when they are old enough, but no, we have no more room at the inn for more pets.  With two cats and a dog, and the girls going off to college in another year, we will not be adding to the menagerie.  

busy mother

soft, fuzzy sweetness

Sarah made brunch for us....a sort of traditional Irish breakfast with sausage, eggs, beans, and blood pudding.  It was tasty and best of all, I did no work at all.  It’s quite a luxury to have somebody else do the cooking and cleaning up.  It rarely happens at my house, in fact, I can’t remember the last time. 

So, I have to get signature pages printed and mailed off with pre-addressed, pre-paid envelopes (this is for my dissertation).  The problem is that the template provided for the pages does not match the written page specifications.  Perhaps I should produce two sets (one like the template and one like the written specs) and have everyone sign both sets.  The last person to sign is the dean who stated that if the pages do not meet specifications exactly, they will be rejected.  If he has two sets, hopefully one will be correct and he can discard the incorrect one.  I imagine it could take a month or more to get clarification before I mail the pages for signatures. 

Tomorrow is Monday.  *sigh*          

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

euphoric fog

Can it really be true? I am a doctor? A doctor of management….what does that really mean? I can’t quite embrace the idea just yet.

It’s very difficult to focus on my job today; my head is still swimming. I was half-heartedly preparing for my defense on Monday night while knowing there was less than 24 hours before the appointed time. In the back of my mind, I knew somebody would forget or something would come up, and it would have to be rescheduled. But then late in the evening, my chairman texted me (first time he had ever initiated communication in any form) and asked if I was ready for my big event. That brought on instant panic. OMG!! He hasn’t forgotten me. This thing might really go down Tuesday night and I’m not ready.

So all day yesterday, I worried about what questions they might ask me, and was mad at myself for not preparing better. As soon as I got home from work, I ran through my presentation three times and studied notes. By 8:30, I was a total basket case. Dry mouth, heart pounding, unable to sit in my chair, I paced the floor, practiced karate, walked outside (in the rain) and paced the driveway a bit, and waited. I haven’t been so nervous since the hours before my wedding years ago. Then I called in and waited…and waited. Dr. Chairman called me on my cell and said the phone number for the conference call was answered by a French-speaking person. OH HELL!! I published the wrong phone number. I gave him the correct number (off by 1 digit) and raced to email the others with the correct number. They both called me before I could send the email out. Anyway, it was a very rough start and surely that was no careless mistake – I quadruple-checked the phone number and passcode before sending it out. It must have been some form of subversive self-sabotage.

So we finally all arrived in the conference call.  Dr. Chairman greeted and kicked off, then turned it over to me. The presentation is still a blur. I was so nervous (especially at first) that I could hardly breathe. It was like trying to talk with my mouth full of cotton balls. With 30 minutes to present, I blazed through my slides. Last slide finished, conclusions, then the dreaded call for questions. What a pleasant surprise!  That was actually the easiest part of all. They all asked questions that were somewhat off topic that were very easy for me to just BS my way through. That part done, Dr. Chairman asked me to drop off the line and call back in three minutes. When I called back, it was congratulations from everyone, I thanked them all, and it was over.

About 15 minutes later, Dr. Chairman called back to discuss next steps…like a whole page of them because after the third thing he said, I started making a list. I learned that this doctoral thing is not done….it’s really only beginning.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

disconcerting happiness?

I wanted to write a happy blog post but things are all messed up at the moment. I should be happy, but it’s a world of turmoil when you live with twin girls who are so competitive with each other and who can’t stop comparing themselves when anything happens. Anyway, it makes me tired to deal with their continuous rants about who is smarter, prettier, more popular, dumber, uglier, fatter, thinner, more talented, etc., etc., etc. I don’t care!!!! I really don’t care. I love all my children equally and I just wish everyone in the world could quit saying anything they perceive to be a comparison. Something great happens for one and then you can’t be too happy about it because the other insists she’s worthless for whatever reason. Great things have recently happened for both of them, but they are different great things.  In the end, people have to lose for people to win.

Really, in this world we’ve created such a terribly competitive society – too many people expect to succeed. We’ve inflated grades, dumbed-down tests, have competitions where everyone walks away with a ribbon or trophy. It’s that way for most little kids, and then when they get older and really lose, they’re devastated. It totally sucks porcupine privates. I think the sooner we teach our kids that life is not fair, many people aren’t fair or nice, and nothing is for sure, the better off they will be. At the same time, I don’t want my girls to be as pessimistic about life as me. My best bet is just to keep my mouth shut and let the chips fall where they may.

I’m supposed to defend my dissertation next Tuesday night. When I hang up the phone, with any luck at all, I’ll be more than Me; I’ll be Dr. Me. For some reason, I can’t get excited about it. Shakespeare said it best, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I’m still me, just older, more tired, and with less money in the bank. I’m not a rose; maybe more like a dandelion. Maybe it’s hard to get happy about it because I don’t like doing presentations at all. Not in the least little bit. It even makes me a bit sick to think about doing it. It’ll be fine as long as the technology works through it all. Nobody will know nearly as much about my work as I do, so probably there won’t be complicated questions to answer. It’s just one more hoop to jump through (keep telling myself).