Friday, November 29, 2013

domestic tranquility

Yesterday was Thanksgiving.  We always go to Someone’s parents’ house for a big dinner on holidays such as yesterday.  We used to do this for lesser holidays and birthdays too, but Someone’s mother is getting older and it’s just too much for her to do so much so often.  Now that most of the grandchildren are older with lives of their own, it’s just not feasible to get everyone together every holiday.  When we have these big feasts, everyone brings one or two dishes, and Someone’s mother roasts turkey and ham, makes dinner rolls from scratch, and bakes pies.  It’s still a tremendous amount of work for her, but she doesn't do any clean up or putting away.   

Someone’s mother and sisters are wonderful cooks.  Someone tells me his sisters use to cook and bake all the time when they were growing up, and he was always happy to be their taste-tester.  Quite honestly, the man will eat almost anything and I’ve been told that as a boy, he was even less discriminating.  I’m not convinced his stamp of approval was much of an appraisal. 

As for me, my culinary skills are adequate, not brag-worthy, but at least nobody has starved to death under my watch.  Unlike Someone’s sisters, I didn’t learn much about cooking until I left home.  My grandmother hated cooking and everyone knew it, so I came to believe cooking was just another chore, like cleaning the bathroom or doing the laundry.  My grandmother didn’t like people in the kitchen when she was cooking, so I rarely even saw food being prepared.  It was always my responsibility to do dishes and clean up the kitchen.  When my grandmother cooked a big dinner, there were always extra pans and pots.  I came to dislike holiday dinners as much as she did, just because of the motherload of dirty dishes that resulted.
In 8th grade, all the girls in my school took a home economics class.  Whereas I was a wizard in sewing projects (my grandmother and great aunts taught me to sew), I was a dunce when it came to cooking projects.  We were taught basics such has how to peel and cut up stuff, how to measure, and safety when using a stove.  In teams, we baked cookies and loaves of banana nut bread, and fried chicken.  We learned to set a table too, and use basic table manners.  It was sort of like charm school in that regard. 

When I went off to college and began dating the man who would become my first husband, he sometimes asked me to cook it for him.  The first time he did this, I was so embarrassed – I had no idea how to begin. He expected me to just tacitly know (because I’m female) how to walk into any kitchen and stir up dinner.  It was he who really taught me to cook, and for that I’m grateful.

And so, because it’s Thanksgiving time, and someday maybe I will actually cook a real Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day for somebody, I always cook just for the practice of it.  I’m pleased to report, everything turned out acceptably well this year.  I baked pumpkin pie and pecan pie.  I roasted a turkey in the oven not the microwave, although I’ve cooked the best turkey of all time many times in the microwave.   Today’s turkey was roasted in the oven and it turned out just fine – not too dry.  I made a hash brown casserole, vegetable casserole, layer salad, mashed potatoes, dressing, corn bread, and believe or not, gravy. 
So here I sit in front of my computer now, procrastinating.  Everyone has eaten their fill.  All the leftovers are tucked into the refrigerator.  The girls have gone off to friends’ houses, Someone is taking a nap (of course…the Y gene requires sleep to process so much food), and soon I will begin cleaning the kitchen.  It’s OK though.  I’ll put some music on and sip some bourbon while doing my work.  By the time the kitchen is clean, I might just be in another world.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

drama queens

If you read my last post, you might have thought someone would find me hanging from the water pipe that runs above my desk, or maybe with my face over a bucket of hydrogen sulfide.  It was all gloom and doom when that last post was written.  I am pleased (oh boy, am I ever pleased) to inform you that I constructed a sound argument against allowing the holiday to be spoiled, delivered this argument to my supervisor in an adult and constructive way, and won my case!!

My supervisor is young and inexperienced.  He over-reacted to his supervisor’s email.  As soon as I pointed out to him that his supervisor types everything in bold (how could he have NOT noticed that?), his whole attitude changed.  It also helped when I interpreted some of the other emails for him.  He is not experienced in our area of the business, so even though the rational course of action was spelled out fairly clearly – he just didn't recognize it.  I explained things to him and convinced him that I was not the right person for that job.  Really, I’m not.  So, I will still be making a trip down to the dreadful place for some intelligence gathering and consultation, but I won’t be climbing into any trenches, and it will very fast – down and back for a two-night visit.  And so, my readers, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year Day are still on.

The boy on the left really looks like my supervisor's picture!  I've never met him in person.

How silly of me to just leap into a well of despair when I first got the news.  That makes me a royal drama queen…like my girls are at times.  Emily had an ever-so-slight fender bender in the school parking lot last week.  She backed into another car and a total meltdown ensued.  She cried so much that the driver of the car she hit was apologizing to her and to me.  She is still refusing to drive since the accident; she insists driving is just too risky.
drama queens
The parking lot incident had many facets – Emily was driving Erin’s car, the other car involved was driven by a very popular boy who had friends in the car with him at the time.  A very popular girl was waiting for Emily to back out and saw it happen.  In a brief space of time, the entire school learned that Emily “wrecked” in the parking lot.  So in that time of our “discussion” when I helped Emily break the news to Erin (because she just couldn't bring her self to go this feat alone), the two girls launched into screaming hate-fest with each other.  Both were being completely irrational, like children, not the young ladies who will soon be adults in just a few more weeks.  Listening to all that venom made me want to evaporate and disappear to a nicer place.  Erin was furious, not because of the damage to her car, but because she insisted everyone would assume she was the one driving when it happened, and Emily would not set the record straight.  Emily, of course, insisted the whole school was aware that she was driving and wrecked, and that Erin was being an insensitive shrew.       
Having two teenage drivers on our car insurance is expensive.  The school office called me to come over but not to worry, nobody was hurt.  What a relief to see minimal damage on the boy's car, because I knew we would pay out of pocket if it made sense to.  Filing a claim would raise our rates for five years.  Both cars sustained just minor scratches, no dents.  A police report was filed but the police didn’t issue any tickets.  I called the boy’s father this week for a repair estimate, but he said they’ve decided not to have it repaired – they intended to have the car painted this spring anyway.  WHEW!  We dodged a bullet.  Erin’s car has been hit in the school parking lot so many times (hit and run), that the scratches from this incident are hardly noticeable among the dents.  We’ll just wait until after she graduates to see about having it repaired.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

premonition dream

It was a very disturbing dream for me last night.  To think about it, it was nightmarish, but I didn’t wake up screaming like some nights.  I wasn’t afraid of anything in this dream – I was pissed off. 

In the dream, I must have been Jewish.  I was standing in a very long line with a bunch of strangers, waiting my turn to walk into a large concrete oven.  It was a concentration camp, everyone was thin and wearing dirty, gray clothes.  Armed guards made us take all our clothes and shoes off.  It’s hard to imagine that a person would feel anything but fear in that situation, but I was pissed off.  I didn’t want to be naked in public, I didn’t want to wait in line, but worst of all, I had to pee and there was no place to go – no restrooms.  My time came, so I walked into the oven.  People packed in around me like a very crowded elevator.  The door shut and it began to get hot.  Then very quickly, my head hurt like a bad headache, all the air went out of my lungs, and I somehow floated out of the oven.  I woke up.  I never die in my dreams. 

Having thought about it a lot today, it must be related to some bad news I got at work Friday.  I’ve been drafted – I will go into, what we in IT call “the trenches”.  My supervisor called Friday afternoon at 4 PM.  I was immediately suspicious, his tone was too jolly, he was too apologetic, it was late in the day.  It’s a long story, but I will be “on ground” to “help” with a critical new application being rolled out to 3500 people during a turnaround (i.e. very high risk period) who will not have adequate training beforehand.  And guess what?  I won’t have any training either.  Blind leading the blind.

What does this mean?  Days of working very long hours, no sleep, eating out of vending machines or they might cater in food sometimes if we’re lucky and have time to eat.  OK, we sleep, but it’s like go back to the motel, sleep for two or three hours, shower, and return.  Three days of that, and you hate living.  Believe me, I’ve done it too many times before.  It’s been six years since I’ve had to work like that, and at least that time it was not far from home and it was for a finite time frame – 4 days.  The times before that, I was much younger.  This time, according to the emails, they “don’t understand what the support model will be”.  They “don’t know how long the implementation phase will last”.  Worst of all, they “don’t know if the application will function adequately across our network”.  Bottom line, this ain’t ready for prime time, but we’re pushing it out anyway.        

Why now?  Why are they doing this crazy thing over the holidays during a turnaround?  My super forwarded all the emails about this project after he talked to me, and I’ve only begun to learn what is really going on down there.  The woman who knows the most about the application being replaced and the processes involved is retiring at end of year.  They need her help.  Does it get any better than that??  When I see her, I will most definitely give her a high-five. 

On the down side of this whole crappy situation, I will be making lots of trips to this hell-hole.  I will most likely be spending Christmas and New Year away from my family.  If I could retire right now, I would!  I would.  Oh, but it’s not all without compensation.  The last time some people in my department were involved in one of these killer things, one of the guys in my office worked 92 hours in a 5-day period and was away from his family for nine straight weeks.  The manager of our department sent all those who served in “the trenches” a nice thank-you note and a $50 gas card.  Um yeah…yur welcome.    

So that’s enough whining.  No more of that.  It’s time to soldier up, be grateful I have a job, and open the bourbon bottle.  Indeed, a little attitude adjustment never hurts.   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


When all my girls were very young, they played with their toys and were completely oblivious to anything going on around them.  I could stand in the doorway and watch, and they never knew I was there.  They could just lose themselves in a fantasy play-world for hours on end.

Sarah was my first child, so she suffered from inexperienced parenting.  Her father was also inexperienced with children.  We had no family nearby to tell us what we were doing wrong.  The first little baby I’d ever held in my life was my own.  My ignorance was evident right from the get-go.  A nurse in the hospital informed me I’d put Sarah’s diaper on backwards – she wasn’t even a day old yet.

Anyway, Sarah survived her early infancy.  I thought we were doing OK until I invited a new friend over who also was recently divorced with a son just two months older than Sarah.  Sarah was about 8 months old then, and pretty docile.  Chris (my friend’s son), was a 10-month-old wild-man.  He was already walking, climbing, and throwing things.  They came over, and my friend asked where Sarah’s toys were.   “Right there on the shelf “ I said, pointing to all of Sarah’s toys…which amounted to like three items.  “Where are the rest of them?” she asked.  I shrugged and asked, “How many toys does a baby need? “  She was aghast that I had such a paltry selection of toys in the apartment, and insisted we move the “play date” to her apartment.  Chris had a whole room just for toys, plus toys in every room of their apartment - everything you could imagine.  Sarah didn’t want to leave.  I felt so bad for her...that I had needlessly deprived her.

We weren’t home all that much so it didn’t enter my mind that Sarah needed lots of toys.  She spent days at the babysitter’s house.  The sitter had kids of her own and plenty of toys.   When we were home, it seemed like Sarah always found things to play with.  If she got tired of her toys, she pulled pans out of the cabinet, or chewed on a box…or something.   After that incident with my friend, I bought her a toy just about every time we went out.  The bad thing about that was that she started expecting to get something new every time we went out.  It was a hard lesson for her when, clearly, she had more than enough toys (though she never had as many as Chris).  Sarah learned the meaning of “NO”, which is an important word for every kid...some don’t hear it enough.

When Erin and Emily came along, we had toys out the wazoo on hand.  Someone’s mother and sisters brought new toys over all the time.  We still have a ton of toys in the basement (another thing on my to-do list - sort and donate them).  But I do believe, having so many toys for a kid is really not necessary, and maybe not even a good thing.  When Erin and Emily were about 4 or 5, we went on a camping trip.  We packed some toys in a box, but forgot to put the box in the van.  When we arrived and realized all they had were the stuffed animals in their hands, Someone and I thought the weekend would be miserable.  The girls, much to our amazement, found plenty to play with.  They picked up sticks, rocks, and leaves, and played with those just like they played with plastic animals and dolls.  No difference.  They had tea parties with paper plates and cups for their make-believe stick and rock people.  They were completely fine without toys (or maybe we were just very fortunate it didn’t pour rain).

It gives me great hope that in the poorest countries where parents can’t buy toys for their children, it doesn’t really matter too much.  Maybe those kids play anyway, and have just as much fun playing with whatever they find to play with.  I’d like to think so, even if it’s not true.      

Sunday, November 17, 2013

fish tales

The best thing about yesterday (besides it being the weekend) was that I got to be in my kayak in paradise for a while.  It was one of those days where it looked ready to rain all day, but it didn’t.  It was warm enough to be out in long sleeves and no coat.  I considered playing golf, but Someone has tendonitis in his elbow and can’t swing a golf club right now.

The lake was splendid!  Besides me, there was only one fishing boat on the whole lake.  It was occupied by three drunk men.  I didn’t get close enough to confirm that they were drinking, but from across the water I could hear them opening cans and laughing.  Nobody sober would be so loud if they were really hoping to catch fish.  I paddled far away from them, all the way to the dam.  It was silent there – no planes, trains, cars, or even birds.  Nothing.  That, my friends, is just amazing!

No boats at the marina.  Love that sycamore tree!

Fishing is not something I’ve ever liked doing much of.  My first husband liked to eat fresh fish, so he fished oftentimes in the summer.  Sometimes, I even went with him if he was fishing for bass at night.  We’d spray ourselves down with insect repellant because the mosquitos were relentless.  We used artificial bait, which I greatly appreciated because I don’t like impaling worms or crickets on fish hooks….it’s just gross.  For me the fishing aspect of the adventure was secondary, though I admit when the fish were biting, it was more fun.  I just liked being out in the boat at night listening to the frogs and bugs, and drinking whiskey.  We’d pass a whiskey bottle back between us and have a good evening….even if the bass weren’t biting.  Usually they did though.  We’d catch a few nearly every time we went.

When I was young, my grandparents sometimes took my brothers and me to Roosevelt Lake to fish on Sunday afternoons.  My grandmother usually fixed a picnic lunch and we made an afternoon of it.  My grandfather and little brother loved to fish.  One time, we had been fishing off the dam, which was made of large cut rock, and was about 10 -12 feet above the water.  I was about 6 years old and was not at that moment fishing or paying attention to anything in particular.  I heard a splash and turned to look just as my grandmother shoved me off the dam.  As soon as I surfaced in the cold water, I heard her shouting to save my little brother.  I looked over and he was close by, trashing around.  I grabbed his arm and swam over to some rocks we climbed up on.  My grandfather reached down and pulled us back up on the dam.  I remember thinking how strong he was to be able to pull us up like that.  It’s probably good my grandmother pushed me in.  I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to jump, even if was to save my brother.  By the way, he was a decent-enough swimmer to have made it without me.  He was thrashing because he didn't want to let go of his fishing pole. 

brothers and me, somewhere near Roosevelt Lake

Friday, November 8, 2013

selfish solitude

Wednesday afternoon, I took a half vacation day, loaded my kayak, and set off for the lake.  It wasn’t partly sunny like the forecast promised, but it was almost 70 degrees (pleasant).  The sun did peek between the thick, dark clouds for a few brief moments.  There were a couple of fishing boats on the lake, but nothing else.  It is better than any heaven I can imagine to be out there in the quiet, surrounded by beautiful tree-covered hills, and completely out of contact with all humanity (i.e. no cell phone).  I paddled to the back of a cove and just drifted for some long stretch of time…. time isn’t clearly defined out there.  A pair of hawks circled overhead before flying off in different directions.  Hawks are one of my favorite birds. 

Boots are the when the water is cold.  Drip rings on the paddle keep me from getting too wet. 
Greenbo Lake
I thought about asking some other kayak enthusiasts (friends) to meet me out there, but I wanted to be alone.  Sometimes, it’s a great luxury to just be somewhere and not have any obligations or expectations.  Maybe that’s a selfish way to be, but…too bad.  I am selfish then.  Friends are fun, and there are certainly more memorable moments when you do things with friends.  Still, alone-time out in nature – the lake or in the woods – is just divinely primitive…and selfish.  OK….call me selfish…very selfish.


Work has been hell this week, even with Wednesday afternoon off.  I started work on a small project that I estimated to take 4-6 hours.  It has suffered major scope creep, my fault.  The requester called me in tears and asked me to fix some other issues related to this little project.  Then she called a few more times.  Yesterday, she sent me a comprehensive revision affecting 90% of what I was almost ready to test…now it’s like starting over.  It’s as if she stuck a screwdriver into my carotid and now I’m bleeding out all over my cube.  Good thing there’s lots of paper to soak up the blood.  If she weren’t such a nice person, I would have just refused.   I’m a sucker when somebody nice calls up and asks for help.

Last night, I turned in at 9:30 PM and slept like KYLady Van Winkle.  When the alarm went off this morning, I still didn’t want to get up.  Perhaps our bed is just too comfortable, or maybe us old people just like sleeping…or maybe it’s just this old lady who likes sleeping. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

working the escape plan

November?  Indeed.  I said the leaves were not so great this year, but last Friday in the warm sunshine, they looked pretty fabulous.  If only I could have taken time off work Friday to put my kayak in the lake, it would have been such welcome respite from the long, scathing work-week.  Some mornings, I trudge into my office and think that I just can’t do another day in that place.  But I do, and I live to go back the next day, and the next, and the next….ad infinitum (so it seems).

Beautiful hickory in our side yard

Maple in front of our house

The weekend is as good as gone.  It’s Sunday night.  Saturday is a blur.  Today, Someone and I took Gracie for a walk at the lake where I would have taken my kayak had the weekend been at least 10 degrees warmer and less rainy/windy.  Gracie loves to get out with us, and especially when Someone goes because he holds the leash and gives in to her every whim.  He lets her drag him all over the place – through the briars, into the creek, up the muddy bank, etc.   I would never put up with that!  It’s funny though, if I linger to take photos or to inspect some unusual plant, animal tracks, or something…..Gracie will double back to find me.  She doesn’t like me to get too far away from her.  I appreciate her concern but I don’t worry much out there.  The forest rangers report that bobcats and black bears do inhabit those hills, but I’ve never seen any signs of them.
Gracie taking Someone for a walk
 It’s going to be another busy week this week.  I have another new boss – third one this year.  This was announced Friday morning.  No doubt she will want to schedule a staff meeting early in the week to make sure we all know how many project status reports and weekly/monthly progress reports she wants, and when they’re due.  She might want everything reported in a specific format.  Whatever.  The rest…..the rest is just more than I want to think about.  It’s too much.  With so many things going on and so many people changing priorities for me, deadlines don’t mean anything anymore.

I applied for an adjunct teaching position last week.  That’s two I’ve applied for.  The truth is, it’s likely I’ll never hear anything back on either one unless I plant myself (in person) in front of the department dean or chairman….or whoever is in charge of hiring decisions.  It’s the only way.  They’ll have to say no to my face, which is much harder than just ignoring me until I go away.  In fact, this job-hunting is just another thing that needs my attention.  Still, it’s a good thing because if I’m successful in finding a job, it could be a stepping stone to the escape hatch I’m looking for.