Friday, December 28, 2012

be minor fugue

Holiday happiness dissipated quickly and was replaced with despair almost as soon as I walked in and took my seat at work yesterday. Today is no better. I now have 5 piles of “high priority” stuff. Five piles, as if any of it can get done in a hurry…especially while I’m writing a F’g blog post. I’m not a F’g octopus and even though I multitask as well as the next guy, I’m not good enough to get all this shit done when the people want it…even if I worked all night, through the weekend to the end of next week, and wasted no time at all on trivial things such as sleeping or having any kind of life.

I’m the kind of person who when it all gets overwhelming, just quits working. Sometimes the house is such a wreck and there’s so much to do, the only options are to move out or take a nap. Moving out is not really an option…that would entail way too much work. So what do I do? Lay down on the couch and close my eyes. I’m almost always asleep within 5 minutes and then I don’t have to think about anything that needs to be done. Sleep is the ultimate escape…not really, it’s the ultimate temporary escape. Death would be a more ultimate, permanent sort of escape, but let’s not be morose. Anyway, I’d rather be damned to hell for all eternity than to die for my employer (I’m not a team player), and I sure as heck am not going to die because my house is a disaster (I’d have off’d myself a long time ago if that were the case).

So, my brother was arrested for DUI last week, but unfortunately he spent less than 2 hours in jail. I guess the fantasy that he’d go to jail and at least get a few days to detox was only my wishful thinking. He blew .315 when they arrested him; he insists he was completely sober and hadn’t had a drink for hours. He finally got his car out of impound and it’s business as usual for him now. We can only hope they stop him again and set the bond higher. His priors are too long ago so this recent one counts as first DUI, a mere slap on the hand (except his insurance company will not be so forgiving). His court date is end of January. He doesn’t care….about anything at all…except buying that next bottle of vodka.

On a happier note – TGIF!! I’m so ready for the weekend, even though I’ve nothing fun planned at all. My committee lady is happy with Chapter 4 (Dr. Chairman is still ignoring me). This weekend, I’m going to try to finish a draft of Chapter 5, play my new guitar, and drive my drunk brother around to look at houses (he will be too wasted to look but I’m going to make him go…misery loves company)! He has been evicted and needs to find a place to move (and there’s no homeless shelter in that area). I hope to visit Sarah if I can fit that trip into my schedule, and if she has time for me. I think this weekend will fly by, and in a blink, it’ll be Monday morning with me sitting here again.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

holiday happiness

What a delightful day to take off work, but alas, tomorrow I return to hell.  I will try to not think about tomorrow. 
Christmas was fun.  Sarah and her...what should I call him...significant male friend?...came to visit us.  It’s always much fun when they come because they are both funny young people; we exchanged gifts before they left late Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Day, Someone’s daughter drove over and spent some time with us.  We had a big family dinner at Someone’s parents’ house with all his siblings and their kids.  Someone’s mother has so many Christmas decorations, their house is like a museum  or crowded gift shop.  Every room and everywhere you look there is something that reminds you it’s Christmas, and much of the glassware and decorations are antique.  I should have taken photos while I was there !  It’s all remarkable but I wouldn’t want the job of setting it all out and packing it all away again every year.  These photos were taken at our house Christmas morning. 


My children gave me lovely gifts this year.  I realize that I didn’t include the gift matches in the photo....I do believe one of my lovely daughters shares a bit of the firebug gene with me J  One can never have too many matches!  The kitty cat salt and pepper shakers make me happy...I filled them this morning.   The knives are splendid and razor sharp.  Peach pie – yummy, and made with Sarah’s own hands with peaches plucked off the tree growing in her yard.  Erin made the bowl with the kitty and Emily made the bowl with the flower. 

Someone’s daughter gave me the softest pair of pajamas I’ve ever worn in my life.  They are wonderful and now I’m completely spoiled.  There was a time in my life, for many years, when I always slept in my clothes...I didn’t even own pajamas.  I like sleeping in pajamas, and it was wonderful this morning because I woke up (in my new snuggly pajamas) to the sound of rain on the roof instead of my alarm clock.  Gracie and Jack were curled up together on the foot of our bed and Someone was still asleep.  It was wonderously peaceful!!  I haven’t had such a perfect morning in so long....I can’t remember how long it has been!  I just layed there for like 10 minutes listening to the rain and enjoying the quiet stillness in the house. 

I sent the draft of Chapter 4 to Dr. Chairman more than a week ago and he has not acknowledged it at all...even after a text message from me at the end of the week.  I will not pester him again until after January 2nd, he can just be what he is.  Late last week, I sent my draft to the one committee member who has been involved (other committee man has been completely uninvolved).  She promised to review it and give me feedback today.  She has been so much more helpful to me than the men on my committee.  I wonder if men treat other men as shitty as they treat women?  So today I will assume all is without issue in chapter 4, and I will start on Chapter 5 which should be the most pleasant of all chapters to write.  Why?  This will be the conclusions that can be drawn from the data analysis and the implications of what I learned.  But more importantly than that.... it is the last chapter!!!  
Dr. Chairman (aka Erin's Easter bunny)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

enemy hedgeapple

There’s all this debate in the news lately as a result of the massacre in Connecticut last week. It all causes me to think of my first husband (H1)…who was a polar opposite of Someone (H2). H1 was an avid gun nut…that’s a term we use around here (gun nut) for people who seek and hoard unregistered guns because they think the government will try to take them away. He was also sort of a doomsday survivalist, often talking about where we would go and how we would live in the event of invasion, atomic war, or catastrophe.   H1 even bought me my own gasmask one year for my birthday.

I had no experience with real guns before meeting H1. He liked to target shoot and always insisted I shoot a couple of times when we went because he wanted me to be able to use a gun. I could shoot fairly accurately with a rifle, but with any kind of pistol I was damn lucky to hit a beer bottle from 10 feet away. H1 was a probation/parole officer and was one of the best shots in the state. He had police training and recertification testing every year.

Everywhere we went, H1 always had at least one gun with him. He had a permit to carry a concealed weapon because of his profession (I’m pretty sure it’s why he entered the profession). I do have fond memories of our motorcycle rides and stopping at the covered bridge at Dover on hot summer afternoons way out in the country. The bridge was shaded by huge sycamore trees growing along the banks of the creek in that spot. We’d sit on the outside of the bridge (on those steel support beams you can see in the photo), drink whiskey, and shoot snakes that swam across the creek below us with his 22 pistol. We always saw snakes in that creek. I don’t like killing things, but shooting at snakes was kind of fun (snakes would likely disagree).

In winter, I used to go rabbit and grouse hunting with H1. I didn’t hunt and refused to carry a gun, but I liked hiking and watching the dogs work. Once, we were walking in a swampy sort of creek bottom on his father’s land – this wasn’t a good hunting area so I was just plodding along behind him, looking down and trying not to trip over anything.  He was only 5 feet or so in front of me as we walked along.  Suddenly he turned to face me, dropped to one knee, raised his double-barrel shotgun to point just above my face and opened fire.  BAM!! BAM!! Before I could react, he called out “Enemy hedgeapple, twelve o'clock!!”  I stood there like a deer in the headlights, and then, stuff came raining down on my head – pieces of shattered hedgeapples. He about gave me heart attack and it pissed me off, but of course he just laughed at me.  Yes it was funny in retrospect, but not at the time.

I have lots of H1 stories; we had many adventures. I oftentimes wonder how I ever found myself married to him…in fact, I coerced him into marrying me (no, I didn’t get pregnant). Perhaps it’s a gift women have…we only need tell a man what he wants to hear and he will do what we want…sometimes.  The hard part is figuring out what he wants to hear.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

let's do the time warp again

Time is passing at warp speed. So much has happened and is happening lately. It makes me tired to think about it all…it must be a sign that I’m getting too old.  

The massacre in Connecticut is heavy on my mind. After listening to Obama’s recent speeches it sounds like he wants to increase gun control. It’s a very complicated problem but I don’t think that’s the solution. There are too many crazy people running amok. Too many unstable people have guns already, and obviously too many OK people just don’t adequately secure the guns they have. Even if we make assault weapons illegal, they are here and many (most?) are unregistered.

Chapter 4 has become an infinite sea of quicksand and dispair that has sucked me into it. I want to know more about multiple regression analysis…I should know more. It makes me feel like a total idiot that I can’t make sense of what I read about it. Frustration and failure are not my friends.  It's like beating my head into a wall night after night....but I just need to find a harder wall. 

Erin and Emily became 17 years old yesterday. Officially, Erin became 17 first and then Emily, but we celebrated birthdays simulataneously.  Someone and I sang happy birthday to them and video'd the ceremonial blowing out of candles.  Chronologically, Erin is about 35 minutes older than Emily – Emily’s head was like a basketball and she insisted on coming out face up – lots of work for poor me, but what to do? Once Erin was out, I wasn’t about to let the doctor cut Emily out.  His threats to do so motivated me to try harder, and finally Emily made it into the world.  

12/17/1995  Erin and Emily
12/17/2012 Emily and Erin (they've grown a bit)

So now I’ve aired the mold in my brain manifolds and it’s time to do tiresome things.  First, call my sorry-ass brother.  And second – try to figure out how to calculate the degrees of freedom when doing two-step hierarchical multiple regression.  My sorry-ass brother probably knew how to do regression models back in his prime, and now he can hardly remember what day of the week it is.  What a wasted life he lives.      

Thursday, December 13, 2012

prayer versus hope

In just a few days, my babies will be 17 years old. What a lucky mother I am to have all three of the children I gave birth to still walking on this planet with me. Many mothers don’t have that blessing, perhaps for some, it is not a blessing. For me, I feel undeserving of the gifts I’ve been given in this life. What have I done to deserve a good life? Not much. I could have just as easily been born a female in some country where women are equal to shit and live oppressed their entire lives.  I'm grateful that my daughters get to live in a country where they have opportunity to realize their dreams. 

A good friend of mine told me a story about her son I will never forget. It totally changed the way I think about praying for anything. My grandparents forced Christianity on my brothers and me; we went to Sunday school and church almost every Sunday, and I hated it…for the wrong reasons. We were taught to pray to God for what we want because God listens to and answers prayers. I did a lot of praying when I was young and rarely got the requested results. Perhaps me living here on Earth was never part of any holy plan, or I’m not a member of His network.

My friend has five children. When one of her sons was eight years old, he stepped off a curb and was hit by a pickup truck going too fast to even slow down. He lay in a coma for months and she said they stayed with him at the hospital and prayed and prayed. She told me God answered their prayers, but they prayed for the wrong outcome. This was more than 20 years ago. He survived and is still living in a nursing home, severely brain damaged and physically unable to do anything for himself. The family bankrupted to afford his care. They go see him a few times a year, but there is no change and no hope for him.  It’s so sad.  How can we hope to know what we should pray for?  I wonder if she feels guilty for praying for him, as if not praying may have resulted in death?  I didn’t ask her.

I’ve been thinking about my brother a lot lately - the one who is a hopeless alcoholic. Something is going to happen soon, but I don’t know what that will be. He can’t last much longer, even though my other brother likens him to the Energizer Battery Bunny and insists he will outlast us. We have ganged up on alcoholic brother and are pressing him daily to make changes (go to rehab, stop driving, pack his stuff, move out). Alcoholic brother is a wreck – all the nagging is stressing him to his limits and driving him to drink more. He’s making more trips to the liquor store, increasing his chances for a DUI arrest while increasing the chance he’ll hurt somebody else. I wait, watch, and hope the outcome will be good…whatever it might be.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Santa came early

I had a glorious afternoon and evening.  It’s late and I should be getting me to bed, but no, let’s don’t end the day just yet.

An afternoon meeting got rescheduled and that little happening inspired me to take the afternoon off work.  It’s a very big deal in my office to take off.  So in those last 15 minutes before my afternoon of freedom began, I emailed my boss, updated my Outlook calendar, changed my voicemail greeting, updated our section calendar on SharePoint, entered 4 hours of vacation into SAP (corporate timekeeping), and updated my project time in our department timekeeping system.  Is that insanity or what?

Before going home, I stopped by a store and bought wrapping paper, ribbon, tape, Christmas cards, and...cold medicine for poor Erin who has caught something not nice, probably a nasty cold virus.  Now it’s feeling like Christmas to me.  I came home and made platters of cheese and grapes on skewers to take to two places tonight.  Normally, it would have been a high-stress thing because instead of buying something already made to take, I decided to do it myself.  Also, instead of having to slop it all together at the last minute which is typically what happens, I took all afternoon to cut giant blocks of cheese into little cubes, assemble it all, and arrange it all nice and concentrically on the platter.  It was fun!!  The photo is the small one for the party I took Emily to earlier this evening.  The larger one (not pictured) had crackers in the middle and it went to the Christmas orchestra concert with us (parents were requested to bring finger food).  Is there any food we could make to look like fingers?  I always think of eating fingers when I see “finger food”. 
Miss Erin before her performance - principal viola

After the orchestra concert tonight, I bought a guitar for ME!!  My old guitar has an incurable buzz.  I bought it, a Harmony dreadnought, at a pawn shop in Newport, Kentucky in like 1981.  I loved it then, and have loved it for many years...but it’s warped and sad these days.  Its strings break too frequently.  A friend decided to sell his old Martin guitar; it’s one I’ve admired for a long time (OK, since last summer).  I took it off his hands – easy decision, price was right.  Looks like Santa came early this year.  Life is very good!   

Sunday, December 9, 2012

the good, the bad, and the ugly

Chapter 4 is coming along and perhaps I’ll be ready to start on Chapter 5 by tomorrow night or maybe Monday night...depending on what happens tomorrow.  Lots going on lately, some good but unfortunately, the bad is outweighing the good these days. 
In trying to keep with the spirit of the holiday, I’ve been doing some online shopping – finding gifts for my lovelies.  These are being delivered to the house with explicit orders that nobody is allowed to open anything.  At some point, I’ll have to get busy and wrap gifts.  That’s something I like doing when there’s enough time to devote to it and we have pretty paper and ribbon.  Last year, I just could’t find any pretty wrapping paper, but I haven’t been out shopping for any this year.  The girls put our tree up and decorated it for me.  I think they did a lovely job.   


Now for the bad news.  Remember a few months back when I got the worst case of poison ivy I’d ever had in my life?  Guess what?  It wasn’t poison ivy.  I got it again – same thing, exactly the same.  It’s a very bad allergic reaction to something that I still don’t know what.  This time it didn’t get quite so bad because I got a shot and started on a double-dose of steroid pills within 12 hours of my eyes swelling shut.  GOD, it’s wretched!  The doctor says there’s no point in seeing an allergist because whatever it is, I’m not coming into contact with it often and an allergist will only test for common household things.  So I missed two days of work last week because of it, and I still don’t want to go out in public with this scary monster face.  I return to the doctor Monday to get another shot.  This is crazy shit!
Speaking of shit, it has hit the fan with my brother.  Nothing good is going to come of this situation.  It seems completely hopeless.   The best outcome would be for him to get arrested for DUI, whichever one this would be – 4th or 5th.  Lock him up for a good long time, hopefully at least a year or two, and officially take away his driver’s license.  Hopefully he won’t hurt somebody before he kills himself...however it happens.  It’s a terrible thing to wish on somebody, especially my own brother.  I don’t think he’ll be with us much longer unless something drastic happens.  Something drastic is about to happen.  I just hope he doesn't hate me too much if he ever gets sober enough to figure out what happened.               

Thursday, December 6, 2012

multi-tasking mistakes

I’m bad to talk to my kids without paying enough attention to what they are saying and what is going on.  In fact, I do that a lot with Someone as well.  He’s used to it.  Sometimes I don’t even pay much attention to what I’m saying.  It’s probably a consequence of multi-tasking all the time.   
Once when Sarah was young, I quickly made a bologna sandwich for her, put it on the table, and told her to eat it while I finished getting ready to go out (we were going somewhere together).  I rushed off into my room and was trying to curl my hair with a curling iron while putting on makeup while listening to the news on TV. 

Sarah came into the doorway and asked, “Mommy, do I have to eat my whole sandwich?”  Yes, eat it all.”  I replied.  She stood there for a moment and asked, “Do I even have to eat the blue parts?”  “Yes Sarah, eat your sandwich so you won’t get hungry later on.” I told her. 
Well, a few minutes went by and the conversation rolled through my head again.  Blue parts?  What was she talking about?  I walked into the dining room and there she sat with her sandwich all pulled apart, looking very unhappy.  The bread had fuzzy blue mold growing all over it, and I hadn’t even noticed.  I definitely won the bad mother award that day!  I apologized and told her we would just drive through somewhere and get her something better.  That put a smile on her face.

This evening, the girls and I went to the grocery store.  They were putting groceries away while I was standing under the kitchen light trying to read tiny-printed, rather complicated instructions on a bottle.  Erin was trying to make room in the fridge for the milk, pulled a plastic pitcher out and said, “OH GROSS!!  Look at this nasty kool-Aid!”  I glanced up and saw what she was holding and said, “Oh, that’s not Kool-Aid, that’s from the turkey.”  She puzzled and said, “What do you mean?  This doesn’t look anything like turkey.  And what’s all this stuff that’s sunk to the bottom of the jug?”  Back into my reading, I said “It’s the broth and turkey droppings.”  With that, Emily moved over to get a closer look.  I then realized my blunder.  I looked up and saw their horrified faces as they were holding the plastic pitcher up to the light to get a better look at the stuff in the bottom – it made me laugh when I told them I meant to say turkey drippings, not droppings. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Making the most of procrastination

I’m doing a lot of thinking lately, and not enough writing.
Tomorrow will be the day to get serious. 
Hello Procrastination, so glad you could come.    NOT.

OK, but it’s all too late to worry with that now.  The night is short.

So....about today.  Today was great.

Today starts December and it was a sunny, calm, 60F temperature day - perfect for doing outside work. Our rhododendrons grew too tall and were hiding our windows, so I trimmed them back today.  Then there was a sizeable stack of branches to deal with.  What to do with them???  My first thought was to dump them in the woods behind our house, but then I decided to use some to make a garland to go around the door.  I hope rhododendrons are evergreen enough to look nice through Christmas.    
This morning, we all went to Greenbo Lodge to hear Emily play piano in a Christmas recital.  Every year, the Greenup County Homemaker’s Club decorates the lodge for Christmas, has a baking exhibition, and hosts guests with cookies, punch, and free cookbooks.  They schedule various music groups to come in for the entire day to entertain.  So, Miss Emily played for 30 minutes this morning.  Someone’s parents came to listen, and after Emily played we all walked around a bit to see what was there.  There must have been 30 kinds of cookies and various plates of candy and fudge, beautiful cakes, and just all things sugar and sweet that you can imagine.  Some of it was for sale, most was just to just look at.  So it inspired me, or no, more accurately, it inspired Someone to suggest I should bake a pecan pie for him.  Since I was already out of work-on-Chapter-4 mode, I did it just to be nice and all wifely.  
peace offering
Today, Emily played two duets with her piano teacher and then enough solo pieces to fill 30 minutes.  The lodge has a huge stone fireplace and the main room has tall, open-beamed ceiling with oversized furniture.  It was alive with decorated trees, garlands, wreaths, and poinsettias.  It makes me happy to see and hear Emily do something she enjoys so much.  I really miss seeing her dance, but I accept her reasons for quitting.  *sigh* 

Tomorrow I am WORKING!!!  No wild turkeys. No monkey business!!

Friday, November 30, 2012

beginning at the end

Yesterday was a bit like Space Mountain or Flight of Fear – one of those roller coasters in the dark where you can’t see what’s going to happen next. It started out as one of those shit days when I could hardly drag myself out of bed because I didn’t want to face another day of work. The real problem is that I am completely burnt out and uninspired by anything happening at work these days. What a waste of life to sit in a cubicle nine hours a day doing nothing that matters. The only good thing about it is the paycheck.

So there I sat, buried up to my eyeballs in virtual hell, all the while in the back of my mind debating whether I’d rather slit my wrists and bleed out slowly or just have my throat slashed open like I saw on Dexter a few weeks ago (the victim died almost instantly). I know from experience when the knife is very sharp, you hardly feel it at all. A girl I went through school with worked as a teacher in the Lucasville prison and was killed by one of her students who was already on death row. In a single swipe with a sharpened metal bed slat, he nearly cut her head off. She was in her early 30’s when this happened. To this day, I wonder why tax dollars are spent to educate people sentenced to die.

I accidentally chopped my knee with a hatchet once. It was a very cold day (below zero), which contributed. I remember seeing the slit in my jeans and thinking, “Damn, I’ve put a hole in my jeans.” I continued to chop wood and after a few minutes, started to feel a strange feeling on my knee. I stopped and checked out the slit again and found it aligned with a similar hole in the long johns I was wearing under my jeans. I saw an ever so slight hint of blood too. “Well shit! How about that! Cut my long johns too.” Still not realizing the obvious implications of the holes in my clothes, I chopped another minute and felt the weird feeling in my leg again. I stopped and checked out the holes, then adjusted my clothes a bit and found the holes aligned with similar very deep gash that made me swoon to see it. What was interesting is that it hardly bled at all until I went back into the cabin and started to warm up. I learned a valuable lesson that day about using sharp tools, and am very grateful I didn’t chop a finger or thumb off – it could have easily happened.

Sorry for the digression there….

Anyway, so it was a shit morning. Then just before noon, my academic advisor called to chat. I asked her to go ahead and schedule me into fourth-year residency next month to get it out of the way so it wouldn’t hold me up when I'm ready to submit. She suggested that since I had no specific need to go, she could defer it. If my dissertation passes the final quality review within six months of first submitting it, she will cancel the residency completely. WHAT?? I didn’t even know deferral was an option. That brightened my day considerably and now I’m officially deferred from attending residency (and still happy about that).

I got home from work yesterday and hoped to start writing Chapter 4 of my dissertation. I no more than opened files and got situated to start when the phone rang. Older Brother called which turned into a long, convoluted conversation. He doesn’t have a good grasp on reality or much of anything else besides his vodka bottle (that's mean to say, but unfortunately true). We hung up and then I called Younger Brother to get the real story. It’s a complicated situation as most things are for alcoholics. Older Brother needs to get on government assistance and find a place to live ASAP. He lived on the street when he was younger, but he won’t survive long without shelter in his current state and given the fact that it’s almost winter. I suppose Older Brother has become my new project :(

So with most of the evening shot, I tried to work again, but Gracie wanted to play. She pestered me - dropping toys beside my chair, chewing on my sleeve and chair, pulling papers off my desk , etc. Obviously she is feeling much better since her encounter with the bee’s nest. I took her for a walk hoping she would sleep afterwards. To make the long story short, after the walk before I got her shock collar back on, she escaped out the door and bolted into the neighbor’s yard. Of course she wouldn’t come when I called. I worked for 30 minutes trying to catch her. She would come almost close enough for me to catch her, but then take off…teasing me. I told her, “Fine then! Get yourself hit by a car. You better hope you die because you’re max’d out on your healthcare benefits.” That was a lie. We have no pet healthcare insurance, but Gracie’s recent bout with the bees cost me about $500. When Gracie was ready to come home, she very politely sat in our driveway at the “invisible gate” waiting for me to bring her back into the yard.

So much for Chapter 4. I wrote two sentences of the introduction and went to bed. So it begins….

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

good and bad at the mountain top

Looks like it’s been a week since anything was added out here to the blog.  If I had been a Neanderthal woman living thousands of years ago (or ever how long people in various monkey-like forms have walked this planet), my cave walls probably wouldn’t have any drawings on them. Maybe that is the real source of my communication deficiencies – I just haven’t evolved yet. I have plenty of company though…many people are still like animals in one way or another. 

Things have been very hectic this past week. My survey is closing tonight!!!! I have enough data so now I leap into the next phase of my study. That is VERY good news. A friend (also working on her dissertation) said her chairwoman told her that once the data is collected, you have peaked the dissertation mountain. It should all be downhill from here on out. Dear God – please make that true!! Then again, she is doing a qualitative study and mine is quantitative. These are completely different methods, so what she said might only apply to qualitative studies. I’d ask my chairman but he doesn’t want to hear from me unless it’s something important (at least that is the impression he gives).

Other good news is that the four-day holiday weekend provided spare time to clean my house. It’s cleaner right now than it’s been since July 2008 when I started back to school. It’s W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L when the house is not wrecked, and so much nicer to be home when there isn’t a mess needing attention everywhere I look. With the music room (aka the living room) clean, I’ve been playing piano every evening. I mostly avoided the room for years because everything in it reminded me that work needed to be done.  Here are photos since it may never look like this again in my lifetime.


Bad news: my alcoholic brother is bad off again. I’ll drive over and try to visit him this weekend. Even a simple 30-minute visit is very complicated. It’s hard to find him awake and sober.  Also, Someone’s daughter got in trouble this past weekend for speeding and drinking, and will be spending some time in jail (maybe rehab too…but jail is mandatory). Someone is very upset about it, but jail might get her attention. Then again, jail time had no impact on my brother other than to keep him out of trouble for a few months at a time.

Other bad news is that on Saturday, poor Gracie had a severe allergic reaction. We weren’t sure what was wrong (she was not herself) and by late Saturday night, I started to suspect she was poisoned or allergic to something. Her head and neck swelled, we could see hives under her fur (really weird looking), she was wheezing, coughing, and shivering. At 2:00 AM Sunday morning, I thought she might not make it through the night so we drove her to the nearest emergency vet clinic and they gave her shots of Benedryl and steroid that improved her remarkably.  Sunday night, she started nasty gastro issues, so I took her to our vet Monday morning. They kept her for the day and gave her an IV and more steroids. She is much better today, but still scratching. The vet said she counted 15 bee stings before she stopped counting them - she has many more than that.  Someone is going to look for the bee’s nest this afternoon. I hope he finds it before Gracie gets into it again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

icing on the cake

Indeed – very good things are happening for me lately. The board sent an email stating I now have full board approval for the changes I requested. It’s especially good news given that I’ve almost got enough participants to close my survey.

Just four more people need to complete a survey to reach the minimum number that enables me to move forward. There are 16 on the string – 25% need to follow through for me and I will call it DONE!! Well, perhaps I will call it done if Dr Chairman ever answers my email and approves closing the survey…and if 4 more will be so kind as to log in and answer the damn questions. Surely it’s not too much to ask, or is it?

In light of this recent approval and success, I’m feeling quite capable and competent with my research project. It’s an unusual thing for me to think things are going to turn out OK regarding anything in my life. With that in mind, I refuse to get too happy about it. It’s really not a good thing to be so pessimistic all the time, but this is me and the way I was made. I do wonder if there are more pessimists than optimists in our world, or if the numbers are about even?

The fact is, I oftentimes pretend to be optimistic even when I think failure is imminent and highly probable. Part of my job is helping people with problems on their PCs. Do you want somebody changing stuff on your PC who hasn’t a clue what he’s doing? Of course not. But I’m not going to add to the person’s distress by saying “Gee, I’ve never seen anything like this before and it’s probably dire, so just give me a few minutes to waste your time monkey around and see if anything I change helps or hurts.” Actually, most of the time I know what I’m doing, but it’s good to be able to act geekier and more optimistic than I am if the client is difficult (i.e. mouthy or just cranky) or what’s worse, thinks he knows more than me. Sometimes he does know more than me. :(

It’s a four-day weekend coming up for me – short work week. Hallelujah! We have people coming for dinner Saturday so I want to get our pigsty house cleaned up. It’ll be like shoveling snow in a blizzard with kids at home on break starting Wednesday. They’ll invite friends over to stay and no doubt there’ll be a pack of girls taking showers, cooking, and eating around the clock. It’s OK, someday I will miss having all that nonstop entertainment and activity in our house.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

hurry up and wait

This old woman is getting mighty impatient!  I have to get 67 people to complete my survey.   Right now I have 57!!  Eleven more people have consented but have not yet logged into the survey site.  Five more have asked to participate but haven’t returned a consent form.  The anticipation of it all.   Who wants me to just get it done already and shut up about it (besides me????)?????   

My plans for today were grandiose.  I wanted to scrub all the bathrooms and uncarpeted floors, clear all junk out of the living room and give it all a thorough cleaning, and load donation boxes into my van.  BUT....and isn’t there always a but?...Someone insisted that today will be the last decent golf day of the year.  OK, so I did my wifely duty and played golf with the old man.  He takes great delight in harassing me on the golf course. 

Someone and I went over some playing-with-me basic rules while changing shoes and getting ourselves situated to play.  He is not ever supposed to say, “Hit you another one”,” lay you one out”, or anything else that sounds like he’s trying to tell me what to do.  JEEZ, don’t tell me what to do – ever!!  Obviously Someone has never read Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book.  It’s a two-stroke penalty to give unsolicited advice on the golf course.  He forces me to levy the penalty on him all the time (not really, I don’t keep his score or mine.  I just tell him he needs to add 2 and shut his mouth). 
Don't tell me what to do!
Anyway, I DID keep score on the #17 hole at Sandy Creek today.  I’ve played the red tees (ladies tees) all summer because I don’t play often these days - I’m out of practice.  I killed my drive – hit it sweet and it had enough top spin to roll about 90 yards from the pin (the cup was about 20 yards back from the front of the green).  The #17 green is slightly elevated and today it had a lot of dry leaves on it.  My second shot hit the green , rolled towards the pin, and disappeared.  It looked like it went in but I refused to get my hopes up.  I told myself it was only hidden by leaves or it rolled off the back and probably was sitting in the second cut of fringe.  F**K!!  But no, I walked up and there was my white Top Flight Plus 4 in the hole.  EAGLE!!!  Fun times.    

I declared my accomplishment to my non-golfing daughters on the way home.  This was the conversation:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

hawk love

Hawks are one of my most favorite birds. They are fairly common around here – I’m privileged to see or at least hear one a few times a week. Usually, they are perched on a power line or fence post watching over a big field or a smaller lot with unmowed grass and weeds. No doubt the magnificent bird of prey is looking for something to move so it can swoop down and grab its dinner in those sharp talons.
Sandy Spears takes lovely pictures of hawks

I’ve oftentimes watched them fly and glide overhead. They shriek when they are up in the air. I don’t know if they do that because it makes little rodents on the ground scurry for cover or maybe they are calling to another hawk. These birds are lovely with many shades of brown and tan in their feathers. They are delightful to me but perhaps not so much if one killed my kitten or puppy – I’ve heard that happens.

One time, while sitting at a traffic light on a very hectic day, I looked up and saw a hawk gliding overhead. I thought to myself, what a lucky creature to have the wide open sky to fly around in, to never have to sit at a desk all day long, and to never have to worry about stupid stuff. I lost myself in this fantasy (trading places with the hawk) until the car behind me honked to bring me back to reality – the light had changed to green. It was then I spied the decal on the back window of the pickup truck right in front of me. The owner of the truck was obviously a hunter. He had bird dog decals and one that said, “If it flies, it dies.” That abruptly ended my fantasy about being a hawk.

photo by Sandy Spears

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

reacquainting myself with the kitchen

Thanksgiving has been a holiday I’ve sort of blown off completely the past 10 years.  Good American tradition dictates we must cook huge varieties of food, and eat it all in one dinner.  It’s crazy!  I bet our founding fathers didn’t overdo it the way we celebrate now.  Since I married Someone, we have always gone to his parents’ house for every holiday dinner.  Someone’s mother will cook for days, and then each family who comes for dinner brings something too.  I already know what will be on the table this year – turkey, ham, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, beans, broccoli cheese casserole, deviled eggs, home-made dinner rolls, cranberry salad, fruit salad, and at least three kinds of pie, chocolate cake, and an assortment of cookies.  Add to that whatever I decide to make – vegetable casserole or salad.  There will be lots of people there because Someone has a huge clan of family – at least 25 people will show up.

This year, I’m going to cook a big dinner on Saturday after the Holiday.  Sarah and her very handy, very tall, very Irish “significant boyfriend” are invited, and I’m inviting my brothers.  As on any weekend, there will likely be a gaggle of teen girlfriends at our house who will have dinner with us as well.  Sarah always has Thanksgiving dinner with her father’s family. They have a big get-together like Someone’s family.  My brothers have no girlfriends to have Thanksgiving dinner with this year, so maybe they will come and try out my cooking.  We’ll see how it goes, but I’m really looking forward to it this year. If it does all turn out unfit for consumption, we’ll just order pizza. Surely some of it will be OK.  With enough beer and bourbon, anything I fix will be fine (because it won’t have any taste at all with enough beer and bourbon :)

Thanksgiving was a non-event for me for many years.  My grandmother hated to cook and disliked holidays because of the cooking involved.  We didn’t have much family so we usually had a larger than typical dinner, but it wasn’t a big celebration or anything.

When I started dating my first husband (and then for those years we were married), his family’s holidays were a very big deal and I was always invited.  A huge crowd of people came.  They brought out the fancy china, table linens, crystal, and silverware, always had holiday decorations, tons of food, and lots of drinking afterwards.  It was like a big family party, and it was always a good time.

Sarah with her dad
Then came the years after we divorced... Sarah and her dad went to his parents’ house for holidays.  I stayed home, or sometimes I drove over to help my grandmother cook.  This is about the time she started showing signs of Alzheimer’s and cooking became more challenging for her (and a bit dangerous sometimes).  A couple of times, Sarah’s babysitter invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with her family – she thought people shouldn't be alone on a holiday.  I really didn’t mind though...I found plenty to entertain myself with.
Then I met and married Someone.  His family goes all out for holidays too.  But for the past 10 years until just a few years ago, I was very preoccupied with caring for my grandparents (while working full time, with my own family to deal with, add going back to school).  Life has been a blur until my grandparents finally died, coursework ended, the girls can do much more for themselves, and now at last....I’m getting my life back. 
Sometimes, now that I’m finding free time, I just don’t know what to do with myself.  What did I do when I had so much spare time?  Cooking for Thanksgiving is going to be fun.  I’m even looking through cookbooks – Thanksgiving 2012 will be a new adventure in my own kitchen. 
kitchen science

Sunday, November 11, 2012

do or die shopping

It’s Sunday night and I’m not ready to end the weekend.  It was way too short and tomorrow morning starts five more days of hell.  Can you tell I’m burnt out on my job?  I’m also a bit disappointed about my survey – specifically, the lack of activity over the weekend.   To date, 48 have completed it, nine have consented but not taken it, and four said they wanted to take it but haven’t returned consent forms.  I have to get 67 people – I need to shake more trees and see who falls out.  I hoped to get 117, but looks like that number will have to remain a fantasy if I'm to finish before age 95.        

Yesterday, I took Erin and Emily to Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky for another arts workshop – this one was about architecture.  Transylvania is a very old place – it was founded in 1780 and is the 16th oldest university in the U.S.  It has gigantic old trees on campus and some old buildings – it’s small but lovely, and in a pretty part of town surrounded by really old, very large Victorian houses.  Lexington is about three weeks behind us as far as weather goes – some of their trees still have lots of leaves.
pretty maples
old restored building with gigantic columns
magnificent old maple - at least 400 years old
I dropped the girls at their workshop and set off to start Christmas shopping.  What a ridiculous prospect!  I’m not in the mood to start and nothing looked appealing.  Still, the stores were full of people getting it done.  No doubt Someone’s mother and sisters have already bought and wrapped gifts, but Someone’s wife (me) just can’t find any holiday spirit until the holiday is near and I feel pressured to get presents for people.  Why is that?  I love Christmas, but shopping is a drag.

Anyway, Chewy (our dog before Gracie) was my last ditch effort to make Christmas special for the girls (who were maybe ages 11, 3, and 3 then).  I had been traveling a lot for work and (as usual) hadn’t got much of anything ready for Christmas; it was less than a week away.  Someone was ticked with me for putting off the shopping and the house looking like Scrooge lived there (no tree or decorations up yet).  I got home from the airport; it was quite late on Friday night.  I was tired, he was mad, and we had an ugly argument.  I got up early the next morning, determined to make Christmas happen, and went straight to the mall with no idea what to buy anyone.  Of course the twins were little and easy –  any toys would be fine.   Someone and Sarah were much harder to shop for. 

Sarah only wanted a horse so of course she was going to be disappointed with anything I bought.  I found a few things for Someone – we’ve never been much in the habit of exchanging extravagant gifts.  I walked past the pet store and they had mutt puppies in a pen out front  – cute and only $25, but we hadn’t talked about getting a dog.  I walked past them and wandered the mall.  I bought a few things for Sarah, but nothing was exciting.  Terribly depressed because I knew none of the gifts were anything special, I saw the puppies again and decided to get one.  They had only one female left, so I took her. 
So, the puppy was a surprise for everyone...even me.  The kids were delighted.  We had a large round pen we used for the twins when they were babies that was stored in our basement.  I brought it upstairs and set it up in the kitchen for our puppy.  Someone came home from work, walked into the kitchen where I was folding laundry, and saw our new puppy asleep in the pen.

“What’s that?”  he asked.
“It’s a puppy.”  I replied.
“What’s it doing here?”  he questioned.
“It’s sleeping.” I answered.
“No, why is it here?”  (he was getting short and snappy at that point).
“It’s a present for the kids, and for you.  Merry Christmas.” I said cheerfully.
He was anything but delighted and even questioned my sanity.  I had no excuses - I offered that it was perhaps a lapse of good judgment, but more that nothing else seemed good enough.  But seeing that the kids were excited and delighted, he accepted that we now had a dog.  What a good sport!  Eventually (it took a few years) Someone and Chewy became very good pals.  Chewy was a great family dog, but sadly she died of lung cancer in November, 2009.  We still miss her.  

Sarah with Chewy