Wednesday, December 24, 2014

sugar buzz

How very strange not to be racing around so close to Christmas.  It’s been many years since I’ve been so caught up with things before Christmas.  Perhaps it’s been since the time before Sarah was born that I’ve had so much spare time so close to Christmas.  Children take up a tremendous amount of time and energy, but that is how it is and I have no regrets about spending too much time on my kids.  In fact, my regrets are all about not appreciating them more when they were little and spending more time with them than I did.

I do still have things to do…a few small gifts to wrap, prepare some cards with cash to give the mail-lady (who is not a good worker) and the man who delivers our morning paper, mail some Christmas cards, and make food to take to Someone’s parents’ house for the big Someone’s-family-dinner on Christmas day.  Oh…and I suppose that means I need to fit in a trip to the grocery store.  The cards will arrive after the holiday, but better late than never, right?

I might just bring the marble slab up from the basement and try to make a batch or two of cream candy.  It’s a very big deal around here.  Most people know what it is, but it’s hard to come by because few people make it anymore.  There is a Kentucky candy maker that makes and markets it commercially, but it’s very expensive (about $12 for a very small container).

My grandmother used it make it every winter.  She made tons of it to give away as Christmas gifts (ok, admittedly that’s a bit of exaggeration).  She usually made it over the course of several weeks, making a batch or two every day while we were gone to school.  It’s hard work because you have to pull it for a very long time, and cutting it is no easy chore.  Hers was the best though, always very striped and she used dye to make it pretty colors of pink, green, yellow.  She also made chocolate and sometimes flavored some to be almond or coconut.  A tin of Mom’s cream candy was a gift everyone was happy to receive.  She was my grandmother, but my brothers and I called her Mom because we lived with her since we were toddlers/babies.    

During World War II, my grandfather was off in the Navy and my grandmother and her son (my dad) lived with her sisters.  One sister, Louise, was not married then and had no kids.  The other sister, Ruth, was a widow with three young children.  My dad and his cousin were the same age and became like brothers, he said.  All three women had jobs (two in shoe factories and one in a grocery store), but their schedules were such that there was always somebody home to babysit the kids.  Money was very scarce because women were paid significantly lower wages than men.  The ladies pooled their sugar ration coupons and bought sugar to make cream candy.  They took orders from people all over town who bought it for Christmas gifts.  For large orders, their customers had to give them sugar coupons because they couldn’t buy enough sugar to fill the order without extra coupons.

They made candy on cold, clear days on their back porch.  Low humidity was necessary for the candle to cream.  They kept their marble slabs outside because the colder the slab, the better.  The candy is super hot when it’s taken off the stove, then poured out onto a cold, buttered slab.  Just as soon as it’s cool enough to touch, you rake it together into a rope, pick it up, and start pulling it.  And you pull until the cows come home…or until it’s no longer shiny and it becomes too stiff to pull.  Then you lay it down, grab scissors, and cut it as quickly as possible.  The candy looks like little striped pillows.  When it dries out, it creams, and the stripes become less noticeable.

Yes, I have made the stuff a dozen times or so since my grandmother became unable to make it.  It’s hard work.  I usually end up with very sore hands after making a batch.  I get blisters from pulling the hot candy and from cutting it.  My grandmother did not like me to be in the kitchen with her when she was herself.  When she got older and dementia started setting in, she became kinder, and even invited me to come help her.  She made double batches using two slabs, and together we pulled the candy.  Invariably, my rope would become a mess of hot, slippery strings.  She would watch me struggle, then switch with me.  She could take my mess and make it into a perfect rope, while I sometimes took her perfect rope and lost control of it.  There’s definitely an art to making it look pretty and presentable.   

So when the batch just fails for whatever reason, it’s not all lost (well, usually).  Sometimes it just stays chewy like taffy.  Sometimes it creams suddenly before you can cut it.  Then you have ugly crumbly pieces, but it still tastes good.  If you cook it too long, you end up with hard candy.  It all tastes good; it’s just not what you hoped to end up with.

After my grandmother had full-blown-no-doubt-about-it Alzheimer's, I brought her a sample of cream candy I'd made.  She didn't say anything, but took a piece out of the tin and eyeballed it closely.  She frowned and studied it, turning it over to view it from all angles, then stuffed it down in the chair cushion.  I didn't take offense; she did that with food all the time after her mind was gone.

Second from left - my grandmother.  Far right, Ruth.  Center, Louise.  My grandmother and Louise both had Alzheimers before death.   

Sunday, December 21, 2014


I should go to bed.  I don’t want to.  As soon as my head hits the pillow, it’ll be Monday morning.  Never you mind that I’ve already planned to take Wednesday off (which means a 5-day weekend with Christmas!!!!), but I’m dreading tomorrow.  I’m going to a new dermatologist about a spot on my face that is most probably skin cancer.  Again.  Damn it.  No doubt my face will be all chewed up by some chemical or cut on like Frankenstein when I have to go into a classroom and stand up in front of a bunch of strangers on January 12th.  Great.  I’m hoping whatever happens, it can be done tomorrow, and hopefully not the 3-weeks of toxic chemical to my face.  I hope she can just cut/burn/freeze the spot somehow.  We will see.

I drove over and visited Sarah today.  She has a fabulous Christmas tree, and the perfect house for a fabulous Christmas tree because the ceilings are tall.  I couldn’t stay long because my task this weekend was to bake cookies for my brothers, and I had several batches to bake tonight.

Beautiful Christmas tree

It’s a long story.  Neither of my brothers are married.  Alcoholic brother has no girlfriend and little brother’s girlfriend doesn’t cook much.  Little brother asked his daughter to make cookies for him this Christmas, in particular Mexican wedding cookies that our grandmother used to bake nearly every Christmas.  Well, his daughter just had her first baby a few weeks ago.  She texted me and asked if I had the recipe.  I looked one up online and sent it to her.  She said, “Hell!  I don’t have time to make these damn cookies.”  Of course she doesn’t!  If she has any spare time at all, she’s probably sleeping.  My brother has no clue what being a new mother is like.  I told her not to worry, I’d make cookies for him.

So, little brother stopped over Friday evening.  He asked if I was baking cookies for him.  I assured him I would get some to him before Christmas.  He said, “While you’re at it, I’d really like some chocolate chip ones too.”  That’s my brother!  Anyway, I baked the Mexican and chocolate chip cookies, and then Someone pouted because they were not for him.  Being the good house slave that I am, I baked a double-batch of his favorite, oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies.  Of these, I set aside a dozen to add to my brothers’ boxes, and put a dozen on the platter for the girls and their friends to eat.  Someone will eat the rest before Christmas, no doubt.  He eats cookies a dozen at a time.

The empty platter...
Had cookies on it for about 20 minutes, until girls and their friends found them.  

I will fix a small box of cookies for alcoholic brother.  He really doesn’t eat, but the homeless guy who he lets live in his house might eat some.  Perhaps I shouldn’t call him the homeless guy anymore…he’s been living in my brother’s spare bedroom for nearly 6 months.  Rent-free.  Homeless guy has many of the same problems my brother has, but he’s been able to call an ambulance three times for my brother, so it’s probably good he’s there.  

In other exciting news, my Christmas cactus has eight very tiny pink buds.  I have done nothing to encourage it to bloom, but apparently the short days and light from the windows have enticed it to reward me with reason to hope it may bloom.

Look close to see the tiny pink buds 
I've been busy wrapping presents.  We are nearly ready for Christmas here at the KYLady homestead.  Molly loves to rattle around in the ribbon, tags, and boxes while I'm trying to wrap gifts.  She always finds a way to be in my way.  Perhaps I'll mail out some Christmas cards this week.  Maybe.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

ending well

I’ve not written much lately.  There’s been nothing to say, or perhaps it’s more that I’ve not been in the mood to say anything.  With Christmas little more than a week away and so much to do, reflecting on all that’s going on in the world is too much effort. 

However…yesterday was a shitful day.  A bad day can just slap you across the face, like “HEY!!  Wake up!!”  Yesterday pretty much did that to me.  It started off with me oversleeping and racing out the door only to find my car with a flat tire.  No time to deal with that, so I was going to drive the old van to work, but the keys weren’t in the expected place.  After 20 minutes of frantic searching, I found both sets keys buried on Someone’s dresser under a pile of papers.   Later that evening, Someone denied that he left the keys there, even though clearly he was the last one who drove the van.  His argument was completely untenable given that children NEVER drive the van and are mostly never home anymore, and I guaran-damn-tee I would never put anything on or near his messy dresser.   Evidently, elves hid the keys from me. 

Fast-forward to 4:30 PM, and I realized I forgot to order birthday cakes for Erin and Emily.  Yes, I could bake cakes but bakery cakes are so much prettier and more convenient.  Don’t judge me.  I wanted to place the order in person because I couldn’t remember what size to order and I wanted to see some before making a decision.  To beat closing time, I left work early in a rush, sped to the bakery, and ordered two cakes just in time.  Whew!  So finally heading for home, I realized the van was running on fumes.  Great!  Someone ran out all the gas.  I stopped for gas which is no chump-change for a mini-van.  Gas prices are low right now, but it still cost me $50+ to fill up.    

Alright, so I got home and the car in the driveway reminded me there was a flat tire to deal with.  By then it’s dark, sleeting, and blustery cold.  Also, UPS delivered a package that afternoon and it was 
nowhere to be found.  I checked the garage and all around the porch.  I checked with neighbors and then blamed Gracie.  She has been known to take packages off the porch to chew up in the nether regions of the yard.  I got a flashlight and slogged around the entire yard: no package or remains of a package.  Then I start thinking a thief may have taken it.  Totally bummed out!!  The package contained a birthday present for the girls and some Christmas gifts.  Anyway, my next step was to drag out a little portable battery jumper\air compressor and re-inflate the tire so I could take it to the tire-place today.  It took about 30 minutes, but it worked!  That was definitely a blessing because I was not looking forward to jacking the car up and taking the tire off in the cold miserable darkness.  (As it turned out, they found two screws and a nail in the tire today at the repair place.  Three plugs for $21 and it’s back on the road…but now I wonder if the other tires have hardware in them that hasn’t caused a problem yet). 

So last night, by the time the tire was unflat and the compressor put away, I was frozen and wet.  My socks and shoes were sopping and my feet were numb from cold.  I came in and changed into warm, fuzzy pajamas, fixed a cup of hot tea, and went to my desk to do some work.  Behold!!!  There was the missing package laying in my chair.  Emily had stopped by, picked it up off the porch, and placed it in my chair which is usually the first place I go when I come home from work.  No doubt she knew I'd find it there.  All’s well that ends well, and so it was yesterday.

Happy birthday to my youngest ladies.  Today they are 19 years old.  Their boyfriends came over to celebrate with us.  All in all, it's been a very quiet evening after a good day.  

Erin is 32 minutes older than Emily.

Gracie almost got Erin's cake while we were taking this photo.

Friday, December 5, 2014

just keep swimming

My blog is collecting dust, it seems.  No new words from the author lately.  She has been preoccupied with work.  Work.  WORK.  Today I learned that a colleague is going part-time starting January 1, and they want me to pick up some of her work.  Um well, OK.  My backlog is currently 41 months, and it’s only going to get worse if they give me more to do.  But it really is OK, because maybe I’ll be retiring next year if things fall into place for me.  Also, I worked her area of the business before (15+ years ago), and it’s interesting work – laboratory quality control.   

So similarly to the days when I was up-to-my-eyeballs in my dissertation, I come home from WORK, sit down at my desk, and start my second job – online adjunct professing-to-know-something (aka teaching).  It’s too much sitting for me all the time – two desk jobs.  Unless I explicitly schedule time to take Gracie for a walk or do something else for fun, it just never happens.  I need a wife – someone who can be responsible for keeping the house clean and stuff maintained, the bills paid, the laundry caught up, etc.  Next semester, I’m teaching two classes.  It’s only going to be worse than now.  Being the house-servant (aka wife) is really another job for me.  Someone is damn lucky to be married to me (at least, sometimes…sometimes, not so much).

Sarah came home to visit us over Thanksgiving holiday.  It was fun to have all three girls home together; it doesn’t happen often.  It’s wonderful to hear them talk and laugh together, and maybe they really do enjoy (or at least appreciate) each other’s company more now that they are all living in separate towns.   Hopefully we can take a vacation together next summer.  It’s never a dull moment when these three quirky-birds get together.  I tried to take a decent photo of them together but they had to be goofy.   

The Walking Dead is in mid-season break until February.  I miss it already.  Now there will be a great two-hour void in my life.  And this, folks, is why my blog is so…what?  Nothing.  My blog is shit because the highlight of my typical week is watching a TV show.

Perhaps I’ll finish the book I’m reading, Deliver Us from Evil (authored by Ralph Sarchie).  It really has given me a new perspective on evil and religion…especially evil, but also the potential for a whole new plane of existence.  The author tells first-person stories with such conviction and detail that he is believable, even though the content seems impossible.  I’ve oftentimes watched Long Island Medium and wondered how much of the show is staged and how much is real.  If her ability to communicate with the spirit world is anything like we are led to believe in the show, then surely Ralph Sarchie’s stories should be believed.  It’s mind-boggling stuff.

Anyway, tomorrow I do some Christmas decorating and perhaps some shopping.  Also, I’ll be doing some grading and work to prepare my classrooms for the upcoming spring semester.  There is much to be done…always.       

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Intra-organizational politics

I was in Texas all last week for my job.  The organizer called it a workshop, but it was more like a political rally.  A project to replace an existing enterprise-wide software application was the topic of the whole shebang.  About 30 people traveled to the workshop from all over the country because they thought the purpose was Agenda A, when in fact, Agenda B was the purpose.  I knew the real agenda, but didn’t think it wise to tell anyone (even my most trusted clients) the real low-down, lest it leak out that “KYLady said….”.  That would lead to accusations from the project team that I’m NOT a team player.  Well, I’m not a team player, but I do know when to keep my mouth shut most of the time.   

Understand, our corporation is divided into two factions: Business and IT (IT is information technology employees, for those readers who might not be familiar).  “Business” includes all employees supported by IT (which is really anyone not in IT).  Business does not trust IT because we are the evil demons who are always plotting to upset their world (when we’re not actually upsetting their world).  It’s true.  Change never stops.  They need us to make them and help them change, but hate us most of the time unless we are helping instead of confounding or impeding, which sadly, we do a lot of (even to ourselves).     

My presence at the workshop was important because I provide a critical link from the past to the future.  I am the sole IT support for an application that will be replaced by the project which was the topic of the workshop.  My role was to be an on-site bystander; to be there for moral support, to provide a sense of stability for Business, and to answer questions about anything regarding the present application or processes.  For the whole first day (13 hours of it, no kidding), Business people at the workshop were confused and full of questions.  Like politicians do, the project leaders answered all the questions in vague generalities and speculative answers.  I was amazed at how Business folks were willing to accept these non-answers to their valid concerns and questions. 

By the second day, everyone had had a chance to think about things and discuss among themselves what they’d heard and seen on the first day.  Some Business people were getting angry because it was all confusing to them.  The project managers were contradicting themselves with answers veiled in incomplete truths.  In the first morning break, a couple of Business people cornered me and began asking questions.  I advised them that perhaps they were not asking the right questions, that they needed to be very specific with their questions, and to reject answers they were hearing if the responses didn’t answer their questions.  In my own way, I gifted them with a strategy that proved helpful without giving too much away.  

My advice was taken.  Finally, Business began asking the right questions and the project managers squirmed, tap-danced around the truth, and finally admitted they were trying to demonstrate a prototype that will be pushed out (in the most aggressive of ways) just as soon as it’s developed…maybe piloted as early as the middle of next year.  Honestly, I doubt it can happen that quickly with everything else going on, but who knows what can happen if enough money is thrown at it.  Business was led to believe (before the workshop) that it was all ready to go and the purpose of the workshop was to give the project managers input on how things should be configured and scheduled for implementation.  Um…no.  If Business knew the truth up front, very few would have attended.  The purpose was to gain support for the project before the project managers asked for financial support next month.  

On the third day, there was no more nice-guy facade from the project managers and no more playing games.  Business could see all the handwriting on the wall and were angry that they came to the workshop under false pretenses.  I would call the workshop a failure.  It’s too bad.  The application really does need to be replaced in the worst way, and if they can at least get started on the implementation before I retire, it will be easier for everyone.  As a consequence, Business completely distrusts the project team.

On a happier and more personal note, my classes for next semester have enough students in them that they shouldn't be cancelled.  I will be teaching two sections of the same course starting January.  In February 2015, I'll begin Phase 2 of my career change - looking for a full time teaching position to commence fall term, 2015.  As soon as I can get something lined up, I'll begin making serious exit plans from a career that has carried me through 34 years.  

Monday, November 3, 2014


Someone and I visited Erin in Louisville last weekend.  She has no car with her at college so we made the drive not only to visit with her, but also to take her to a grocery store and to take her to a Laundromat.  The laundry facilities at her dorm are woefully inadequate – one washer and one dryer for every 150 students.  Ridiculous!  After the chores were done, we took her and her boyfriend to Old Spaghetti Factory, one of our favorite restaurants in Louisville, and also the place where we celebrated after my graduation last year.  As we were waiting for the waiter to take our order, I remarked about how nice it was having dinner there that day with all the people who came to see me graduate.  Even my own parents came from far away.  My girls all came as did some friends and Someone’s parents.  It was really just a very nice day having everyone there sitting together at a table.  Dinner with Erin and her friend was also very nice. 

We got home late that evening after the Louisville trip and I slept like the dead, except I had a nightmare that night.  In my dream, I was rushing around trying to get things ready and organized before my first face-to-face class was to start.  I was in the classroom and students started walking in and taking their seats.  My agenda and notes were buried in my briefcase; I was pulling stacks of paper out and in a panic because I couldn’t find them.  Then, Someone’s parents walked in, sat down in the back and smiled at me.  As if that weren’t enough, the department head walked in and announced she was just going to stand in the back and observe for a bit.  I noticed everyone was getting restless and that we were now past the class starting time.  I was thinking about what a bad impression I was making.  Then, to top it all off, I realized I had forgot to change clothes and put shoes on.  I was standing there in front of everyone in shorts, a South Park tee-shirt, and socks.  That was like the last straw, so I just woke up. 
Silly dream, but it reminds me I need to start preparing myself for next semester.  I think the course will be better for students to have some face-to-face time with an instructor (me).  For my current online class, I put important things in announcements for my students such as due dates and hints that will help them perform better with our course work, but it’s obvious that most don’t read the announcements.  Some of them just don’t follow instructions well, and some can only barely function with the online platform.   There are just lots of learning opportunities for them. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

paradise is real

What started out as a typical Monday became much better than typical.  I always feel like a caged animal at work, especially Mondays, but yesterday (Sunday) was beyond splendid.   Today, I’ve been on a high (happy?) all day.  It’s like living in an entirely different world.    

In sort of an impromptu decision, I took off on vacation this afternoon and left work two hours early.  Someone left work early too because he has a holiday tomorrow for some reason.  His boss always lets everyone leave early the day before a holiday.  It was sunny and 80 degrees today; how could I possibly waste the whole day at work?   Someone and I met up at the golf course which miraculously was practically deserted.  We pretty much played the entire 18 holes with nobody in front and nobody behind.  It was divine!!  I played well for me too which always makes golf more fun.       

Yesterday, I drove to Flemingsburg to visit Sarah.  The trees on the hillsides are becoming peak color now – the hills were blazing with drifts of red, orange, and yellow.  On a clear, sunny day like yesterday when the leaves are so colorful and the sky so brilliantly blue, it just gets no prettier than that in Kentucky.    

Sarah, her friend, and I drove over to Maysville for some lunch and a bit of shopping.  On a whim, we stopped at a house that has been for sale for awhile.  Sarah and her friend had seen it before and told me it was just spectacular up close (it sets far back off the road).  It’s a very old house, built in the 1800s in a very grand style.  Coincidentally, some people pulled into the driveway right behind us; people who Sarah and her friend knew; people who are archeological experts who had also come to tour the house and had access to the inside.  What fantastic luck!!!  They let us walk through the house with them.  

gingerbread trim and lovely attic window
The house became larger and larger as we drove up the winding driveway.  There are two gigantic trees in front of the house, even taller than the house.  The one on the right is the most fantastic, gigantic ginko tree that I’ve ever seen in my life.  It is wider than my arms stretched out from fingertip to fingertip.  Its leaves had only barely started to turn yellow.  We decided it must be a male tree because it didn’t have any of those stinky balls (technically, those things are called fruit) hanging on it or on the ground around it.  If you have no idea about the odor of those ginko fruit ball-things, they reek.  Imagine a women’s restroom where the trash is in dire need of emptying.   Multiply that level of gross by 10,000 and you’ll get an idea of what a small ginko tree smells like when its fruit starts to rot.  This ginko is like 100 times bigger (at least) than any ginko tree I’ve ever seen. 

Magnificent ginko

Larch on the left, ginko on the right

To the left of the house is a tree I’d never seen before.  One of the experts told me it is a larch.  Oh splendid!!  I love something new, and this is definitely something new for me.  This tree is an Eastern Larch, Larix Laricina, also known as a Tamarack.  One source said they are small to medium sized trees, but another source said they can become very tall (120 feet).  This one is very tall.  They look like evergreen trees because they have needle-like leaves.  They are, in fact, deciduous.  They have small pink blooms that transform into cones.  The bark is thin and light brown tinged with pink.  The wood is very hard, waterproof, and knot-free according to one source.  It is prized for use in construction.  That fact should appeal to Sarah's friend who is very-skilled in all areas of construction.    

How did it happen that this rare larch tree has come to be and survived so long in Mason County, Kentucky?  They prefer cold climates farther north, but apparently they are found in wetlands in the mountains of West Virginia and western Maryland.  One source said that they are fairly common around Lake Erie.  Perhaps long ago, somebody brought a sapling as a gift down the Erie Canal.  It was a popular transportation route between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River at Portsmouth starting around the time of the 1820s.  Maybe somebody brought it from West Virginia, or perhaps a bird innocently dropped a seed and there it grew. 

One source I read said that in Europe, the larch is a symbol of fertility.  Childless women sleep under it at night in hopes that its magic will help them conceive.  I believe trees have magical powers.  I think it can only be by magic that the ginko and larch in front of that house have survived for 200 years.

The house itself has beautiful hardwood floors and lots of stairs with curved banisters.  Indeed, lots of stairs are needed to connect the floors because the ceilings are 16 feet tall.  The doors and windows are proportionately tall.  It’s funny that I walked around the outside of the house  for 15 minutes, but it wasn’t until one of the men opened the door and stepped out onto the porch that I realized just how big those doors and windows really are.  It truly is a marvelous, beautiful place.    

The man in the doorway is not short!
Look where the doorknob is on this door.  That's a very tall door!
Sarah beside an upstairs bedroom window

The attic is unfinished, but the view is spectacular through arched windows
Beautiful maple trees in the back yard overlooking acres of cornfields.  This is Paradise.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

looking up

Writing a respectable blog post has been impossible lately.  I tried several times, but failed miserably after committing a single thought to a sentence or two.  Life in the deep rut of routine is shitty feedstock for blog post ideas.  Life is easiest in the deep rut of routine, but alas, it’s not very interesting.

Well, I’m writing, so something exciting has happened recently.  In fact, several exciting things have happened.  Until recently, I used to think I was one of most unlucky people who walked the planet.  Truly, I could not even win a coin toss.  This was demonstrated to me time and again throughout my life.  It was not so much a matter of bad luck, just no good luck.

About a month ago, I attended a conference for my teaching job.  At the end of the day, they had a drawing for a boatload of door prizes.  By the time they were ready to give away prizes, most people had left.  There were maybe 80-90 people left.  Anyway, they began drawing names and handing out gift bags.  Name after name was called.  People all around me were winning cool stuff and not so great stuff – tee shirts, books, umbrellas, mugs, software, satchels, etc.  After a while, it looked like everyone was going to walk out with something except me.  In fact, all the gift bags were gone and I was only one of a handful of people who had won nothing.  Then they brought out a small bag and announced they would draw for the grand prize.  I won!!!  It was a Kindle Fire HD.  Awesome!!!

This week has almost generated a whole paradigm shift in my feeble brain.  In fact, I’ve had so much good luck that I’m starting to worry.  Surely all this good luck is going to cause something terrible to happen.  No one person is going to have this many good things happen without paying some kind of penalty!

First, I won a $100 gift card (one of three) for completing a survey months ago.  Then, I was notified by ProQuest that they owe me royalties because my dissertation has sold enough copies.  How much?  I still don’t know, but they don’t cut checks for less than $25. I have a tax form to fill out and return L Next, I learned I was nominated for executive vice-chair for a professional organization I belong to.  Apparently I’m running unopposed, so I’ve pretty much won the election unless “bad luck” kicks in to interfere.   Last night, I learned I was nominated to be included in another honorary (sort of…it seems to be) professional organization.  They are reviewing my credentials and will let me know if I’m inducted. 

All of these things happened in the first three days this week.  I’m just so incredibly lucky lately…maybe I should buy a lottery ticket, or get me to the race track.  Maybe Lady Luck is my new girlfriend.    


Sunday, October 12, 2014


It’s Sunday night; nothing to do now but watch The Walking Dead and write a blog post about how I pissed away the whole weekend.  As soon as I close my eyes tonight, it will be tomorrow and time to return to work for another five days of hell.  Did I mention how much I hate my job?  Sad, but true.  Whine, whine, whine.  The paycheck is wonderful, the people are OK, the work itself is…I can’t even make myself define an adjective for it.  It Sucks with a capital S.    

Friday night, I sat up late (into the wee hours of the morning) working through a project that my students were having trouble with.  I struggled with two of the things they were struggling with.  The problem is that we use a simulator to grade the project files and the simulator expects things to be done a particular way.  The end result might look the same, but if you didn’t get the result using the expected process or method, you don’t get credit for that part of the project.  Anyway, after multiple attempts with different methods and much research, I still can’t get credit from the simulator for those two items.  I’m not giving up!  This stuff isn’t rocket science.   

So Saturday, I slept in until 11 AM.  After a long, hot shower, I settled in to watch an episode of Breaking Bad on NetFlix.  One episode turned into another, then another, then another…until I finished the series around 10 PM.  Somebody should have taken the remote away from me, but nobody did an intervention.  Someone was upstairs feeding his own TV addiction on ESPN channels watching football games and golf.  My unusual Saturday afternoon of hours-on-end TV is Someone’s usual habit.  How does he do that?  

Breaking Bad

It was kind of depressing finishing the last season of Breaking Bad.  The ending of the series was definitely more satisfying than the end of Dexter.  Now what?  All I have is The Walking Dead and South Park.  I was thinking to do more reading, but Sarah gave me a list of TV series she likes.  Actually, I already had a short list of my own, but now with Sarah’s recommendations, I’ll have to decide where to begin.  In no particular order, these are:

Game of Thrones
Downton Abbey
Orange is the New Black
American Horror Story
House of Cards
Bates Motel
Six Feet Under (first two seasons)

I may never read another book.  To watch endless hours of TV with no commercial interruptions is a wonderful mindless thing.      

herd created from too much TV?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

blue skies

October sky in the Ohio River valley, especially these past two weeks, has been nothing short of spectacular.  The humidity has been low lately – it makes the blue sky just vibrant.  When I was 18, I traveled out west for a vacation with my mother and her family.  We drove all the way to California and back.  I don’t remember much about the vacation, but I do remember that the sky over the desert was so blue it was purple in comparison to Ohio River sky.  I do hope to visit the Rocky Mountains and go visit more of the west again someday.  Someday…

oak tree has turned yellow - outside my office window

Texas is in the west, but it doesn’t count in my fantasy “out west” vacation.  To be honest, I’d love to visit San Antonio again, but every other place I’ve been to in Texas is no place I want to return to.  Unfortunately, it looks like I will be going to southern Texas again next month on business.  Bummer.

I’m on the schedule to teach two courses for spring semester; hopefully enough students will enroll.  These both will be the same course I’m teaching this semester.  One will be online and the other will be hybrid (meaning face-to-face one day a week).  It should be manageable.  The experience of f2f teaching will be good, but teaching online is where my interest is.  It’s what I really want to do most of all…full time if I could find a job doing it.   

Last night, a person was in my dream who I’ve never met in real life.  This person is a friend on Facebook and I really know very little about him on a personal level.  In the dream, we bumped into each other at an outdoor dinner party.  He asked me to leave the party and go to a dance with him.  He was dressed up in a suit and I was wearing a giant, pale blue Cinderella-style formal dress (just like the one in the Disney movie).  It made perfect sense for us to go to a dance because we were already dressed for it.  I told him to wait for me by the lamp post while I went to find my cell phone.  Of course, I couldn’t find the damn phone after looking everywhere…it was one of those dreams.  When I went back to tell him I needed more time, he was gone.  Probably just as well since I’m married.  Cinderella falls in love and I was wearing her dress.  Who knows what might have happened?

Cinderella dress (but mine was much fluffier)

My African violet has been dormant for several years...meaning it hasn't bloomed or even put out a new leaf.  It was on clearance when I first bought it.  It was large and healthy, and had one withered bloom.  It seemed like a good bet since it was thriving and cheap, so I adopted it.  After all this time of waiting and watching, it has finally bloomed.  It's just very special!  Violets are among my favorite flowers - African or wild, I'm not picky.  

African violet

Monday, September 22, 2014


The weekend was magnificent.  We had beautiful fall-like weather with very-low humidity, a few fluffy clouds in the sky, a light breeze, and temperature around 75 degrees.  Perfect golf weather!  Someone and I went to our usual golf course, Sandy Creek.  The course is nothing to rave about, but it’s convenient (20 minutes from home).  There are not many decent golf courses nearby.  My favorites are at least an hour drive. 

It was a fun round of golf for me Saturday, fun because I was playing well for me in comparison to how I’ve been playing all summer.  I had 4 birdies in one round of golf which is very rare, and two of them were back-to-back.  Sheer luck!  Maybe 90% luck and 10% skill. 

The #5 hole is a short par 4.  The tee is on top of a tall hill; the fairway is very narrow with big maple trees all along the left side.  The right side is a steep hill that is partly very rough tall grass at the lower section along the cart path, and woods on the upper section.  If a right-hander hits a slice or push, chances are good that the ball will hit a tree, bounce out and get swallowed up in the tall grass on the slope.  The green is guarded in the front by three mounds of tall grass.  It’s a tricky hole.  So anyway, Saturday, I hit my drive really sweet.  The ball sailed out over the middle and faded right which was a blessing, otherwise it would have buried in a mound for sure.  Because of the fade, the ball landed squarely onto the concrete cart path.  It took one big bounce and landed on the green rolling up 15 feet from the pin.  WooHoo!!  My putt for eagle was short, but I tapped in for birdie.  That was fun!   

From the front of the tee box, Sandy Creek #5, photo taken 09/2012

The #6 hole is a very short (about 115 yards) par 3.  It’s another narrow fairway with big pine trees on the left and out-of-bounds on the right.  The tee is elevated.  The green is also elevated and unwatered, so it’s hard as brick…meaning it rarely holds (which means if you land the ball on it, chances are good it will roll off).  My tee shot hit on the front fringe and rolled all the way across to the back fringe.  The pin was on the front, so it was a long putt…maybe 35 feet, with a slope to make it even more tricky.  The green condition was very poor; not much grass, lots of ball marks and twigs laying around everywhere.  In those kind of conditions, there’s little hope of making a long putt.  My hope was to finish the ball somewhere within a 5-foot circle around the hole.  I lined up, gave the ball a good rap, and watched it bounce and roll down the hill, all the way, and drop into the cup.  Someone looked at me and said, “You asshole.”  I’m a tough act to follow…sometimes.

Someone and I can have fun together playing golf. I suppose it’s a good thing that married people have something they can do together for fun.  Honestly, I’d rather play golf with women; it’s more fun.  To a pack of women, golf (at the amateur level anyway) is a social game.  To men, no matter how bad they are, golf is a competition or even a test of manhood sometimes.  Someone and I can play, but as soon as another man joins us, the game changes.  I have never seen a woman intentionally break or throw a club, but men do it all the time.  It’s senseless to get so bent out of shape over a game played for leisure.  Anyway, my worst day of golf beats my best day at work.   

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

abundant harvest

Fall weather is already here.  Sadly, it should be since the autumnal equinox is September 22.  The nights are getting colder, there’s fog in the mornings, and the leaves have a hint of yellow and orange.  I’m not ready to give up summer.

I visited our Farmer’s Market yesterday hoping to buy some banana peppers.  We didn’t grow any this year in our garden.  It seems like 95% of them go to the compost pile anyway, so why bother when the local farmers always have piles of them for sale?  Well, there were no banana peppers for sale yesterday, so the joke is on me.  I did buy pots of beautiful mums, a pumpkin, and one of my most favorite fall decorations of all time…Indian corn.  I also bought 4 giant tomatoes and a gigantic onion.

We have plenty of tomatoes growing in our garden, but Someone is very possessive of them.  I dare not pluck one of his precious (bug-eaten, blight-mottled) tomatoes for my purposes;  Someone’s wrath is nothing to toy with.  Anyway, I detest tomatoes, but I needed some to cook with. 

We have 12 green pepper plants in our garden this year (actually, they are more-formally known as bell peppers).  In eastern Kentucky, we call these things green peppers, even if they are red or gold.  I upped the number from last year because we had space due to my decision not to plant banana peppers.  Also, I tried some Miracle Grow on them this year.  Wow!  We got the miracle.  We started getting magnificent giant peppers in early August, and they just keep coming.  They look like the ones grown in California; they’re that big.  I’ve been making stuffed peppers with them twice a week, to the point where Someone and I are tired of eating stuffed peppers.

A few peppers from our garden

Last night I picked about 30 of the largest peppers.  So today, I ran home at lunch and put a bunch of stuff into the crock pot to make what I call Hungarian Goulash.  I’d share the recipe with you dear readers, but there is no recipe.  It’s wait-and-see every time; just toss stuff in, stir it up, and let it cook.
Today’s goulash experiment:

1.5 pounds browned ground chuck
4 large skinned, chopped tomatoes
3/4 gigantic onion, chopped
Green peppers, chopped….sorry, I lost count…maybe 5 or 6 of them
3/4 of a large jar of banana peppers, plus I dumped some of the jar juice into the pot too
2 cans of white shoepeg corn (fresh white corn works…but I didn’t have time today)
1 boatload of chili powder – no idea how much I dumped in…a whole bunch of it
1/8 (what was left) of the bottle of Texas Pete Hot Sauce that’s been in the refrigerator forever
1 Large can of tomato juice

Just before putting the lid on it

There you go…the crock pot simmered for 8 hours.  This was actually my first-husband’s mother’s recipe…er, maybe she had a recipe, but I never have used it.  Usually I make a pan of corn bread to go with it, but not tonight.  I left the office at 5:10 and was on the lake with my kayak by 6:05.  It was a wonderful evening!!!!  BY the time I got home, Someone had already eaten his fill.  I won't make corn bread for just myself…too much work and dirty dishes. 

As repulsive to me as fresh tomatoes are, I will eat them if they are cooked enough that they don’t look or smell too much like tomatoes.  My grandmother always insisted everyone likes tomatoes and I was just being too picky.  She forced me to try one every summer when I was young, with the same result every time – lots of gagging.  I just hate everything about them.  In fact, I’m somewhat allergic to them.  If I handle them for more than a few minutes, I get an itchy rash all over my hands.  My grandmother told me that when my mother was pregnant with me, she stood over the sink all summer long and ate tomato after tomato.  She’d never seen anyone eat so many tomatoes.  My mother must have had a very strong craving for them.

Life is busy all the time for me these days.  I get home from work and start answering emails from my students.  Tonight, I must do some analysis of my grade book and submit reports on students who are falling behind or failing.  My general impression is that about half my students are doing very well, a few are doing OK, and the rest are just not catching on at all.  It’s not easy stuff that we are wading through, but the training provided in the simulator is very good.  I think almost any student in my class who is willing to put in time with the training simulator can do well.  Very few have used it though, despite my repeated advice to try it and see if it helps.      

My new favorite TV show is Breaking Bad.  It’s partly why my life is so busy.  I’m always trying to fit some Netflix time in with working two jobs, walking Gracie, and keeping up with the housework (and golfing, and kayaking).  I’m NOT keeping up with the housework, but just merely trying to keep things sanitary enough.  Someone does very little housework.  What I didn’t realize is how much housework the girls were doing when they lived here.  Wow…I really miss live-in housekeepers.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

vicarious dialogue

“That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!”…Popeye

I visited my brother again in the hospital last night after work.  Oh boy!  I firmly believe that if you have nothing nice to say about a person, you should just say nothing at all.  Dear readers, you will be spared a long string of expletives.  My brother’s name suits him perfectly, “and that’s all I’m going to say about that”…Forrest Gump.  Needless to say, he pissed me off.  It’s not the first time.

Alcoholic brother is leaving the hospital Thursday.  He is still infected with some unknown bacteria and fungus in his lungs, but he’s much better, he’s finally able to walk out now (with a walker).  The hospital won’t keep him any longer.  It’s been a month of hospital time already, and he’s a charity case.  After our conversation last night, I told him good-bye.  I meant that in every sense of the word; if I ever see him alive again, he will be back to his usual state of oblivion.

Take that first step today.

This fortune was in my cookie months ago when Erin and I stopped for lunch at a not-so-great Chinese restaurant.  For some reason, it spoke to me and I kept it on my desk at work.  A few weeks ago, during a lengthy phone meeting, I was fiddling with the slip of paper and wedged it into a crack on my keyboard.  Now it demands my attention all the time, reminding me to do something…start something…but what?  What should I start?  There are lots of things to start, but it must happen that I will procrastinate while mulling them over.

“Dum spiro, spero.”…Cicero

“While I breathe, I procrastinate.”…KyLady

Thursday, September 4, 2014

one foot on the platform, the other on the train

I’m standing in the doorway of opportunity – people are waiting for my decision, which I promised to render by 4 PM EST tomorrow.  Do I dive into the deep end or continue to wade in the shallows?  The part of me who wishes life could be easy tells me to continue wading until I gather more information.   The YOLO part of me says to stop worrying and dive.  Just do it.  Do IT, DAMMIT!  The opportunity may not repeat itself. 

With not yet three weeks experience, I’m thinking to willingly commit to teaching two courses in the spring, one online and one F2F in a real classroom with real people.  It’s scary to think about, and exciting at the same time.  I don’t want to suck at it.  I might totally suck at it.  The thought of facing real students who ask questions and expect me to deliver intelligent answers on the fly is pretty frightening.


The most pressing worry is that I still have my real job…you know, the one that pays the bills for this family.  For the F2F class, I have to commit to being on campus Monday afternoons for 16 consecutive weeks (excluding spring break).  That means I will mark my calendar with vacation (real job) every Monday afternoon for 15 weeks.  If my boss notices, he’ll be wondering what’s going on.  Worse than that, I might get sucked into a meeting halfway across the country that starts on Monday morning.  It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.  You always have some young, studley-do-right manager-wanna-be who wants to demonstrate his promotion-worthiness by forcing everyone to F up their weekend by traveling on Sunday or Saturday.  It’s like “Look at me, I’m so dedicated to this company and my work is so important that I will donate at least part of my weekend to the cause and inspire others to donate theirs as well.”   But, as an employee with one foot out the door, I’m prepared to say “Oh, well, I have  vacation scheduled for Monday afternoon so if my attendance is required, you’d better reschedule your meeting…or perhaps you can just conference me in via phone? ”  It might work.  It would be like shooting my career in the head.  It’s OK, my career has been dead for a long time.  Still, the bonuses just get better every year, and I get 30 days of paid vacation every year, plus 10 holidays.  It’s hard to walk away from.

typical manager-wanna-be

I will take one more night to sleep on it, mull it over, and agonize over the decision.

My alcoholic brother is like a cat with nine lives.  It looks like he is recovering now, thanks to a horrible surgery.  They went into his lungs and surgically scraped the nasty gunk out of them.  They did that last week, he was in the ICU for days afterwards, and today they moved him to a rehab floor.  He expects to go home (or perhaps to a nursing home) in just a few more days if he continues to improve.  I think this was the 5th life he used up, or perhaps the 6th.

I visited him last night.  He insists he will never drink or smoke again.  He has been completely sober for nearly a month now.  His hands still shake.  He still has no concept of time – he doesn’t know if an event happened two days ago, two weeks ago, or two months ago.  We talked about things in the news, because all he does is sleep and watch the news lately.  He almost sounds like my brother again, which is kind of a sad thing for me.  I had completely given up on him more than a year ago.  In my mind, he was already as good as buried in the cemetery.  His death was over with, other than the formality of making arrangements and notifying people.  It sounds cold and heartless, but it was a good place to be, not having to worry about him or how or when it’s going to happen.  Now he’s promised to change.  He says as soon as he’s back on his feet, he’s going to look for a job.  If only he could keep his promise.  He just can’t.  I’ve been visiting a ghost in the hospital.

Well, this has become a pathetically depressing post for my poor blog.  Truly, my life is blessed and very good despite all the crazy shit.  I miss my daughters, but maybe I'll visit two of them this weekend.  My students are starting to figure things out.  The number of emails is decreasing (although I have several of their emails waiting for my attention right now).  I've started thinking more seriously about cleaning my house and clearing out junk.  In particular, the nether regions (dark corners, closets, and SCARY BASEMENT) need a lot of attention.  My goal is to have everything neat and clean by mid-November.  Place your bets.   

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


KyLady has been adrift this month, so much so that it’s very hard for her to think in first person.  Life this month is nothing like her life has ever been.  Perhaps an alien presence usurped control of the KyLady Command Center (KCC), and KyLady acquiesced, becoming a casual bystander in her own life.  For the sake of this blog post, she will now resume control so that she may issue an account of all that has transpired.
One thing that writing does for me is that it forces me to think about what has happened lately.  It’s so easy to just go and do and never think at all, sort of like putting life in auto-pilot mode.  Perhaps it is a flaw to do that too often.  I am guilty, or just predisposed or somehow conditioned to do that (i.e. autopilot) whenever things get hectic.  It’s just easier to take the head-in-the-sand route.

My babies moved out and started college this month, Jack died, I started a new career, my real job is killing me, my alcoholic brother nearly died again, the house has fallen to ruin, Molly has become a different cat, Someone has changed into somebody I don’t know…there, it’s all said.  Who could blame me for taking the easy way out?  If I plod along long enough, all this will become the new normal.  It will; it always does.
Having Jack euthanized was a hard decision to make.  His tumor grew to the point where it was hard for him to walk.  We were giving him pain medicine twice a day.  Someone refused to be involved.  The girls tried but giving medicine to a cat is difficult.  They wasted a lot of it and the stuff was as expensive as gold (well, almost).  The drug was working well for him; giving it to him on schedule was the least we could do for him, but it was becoming a drag.  Then he developed an ulcer on the tumor.  It abscessed and that became the deciding factor.  The big, gaping hole was not going to get better.  Emily wanted to be present when we put him down, she was leaving for college that very afternoon, and if not that day, it would surely need to be done within a few days.  I scheduled the deed with our vet.  Someone, both girls, and I took poor Jack to the vet’s office and were with him through the end.  It was a very sad occasion.  Death of a beloved pet is never pleasant.  We buried Jack in the pet cemetery in our back yard.  He lays in eternal rest with Chewy, Max, Tiger, Nosey, Belle, Norse, Josie, Bubbles, James Dean,  and a host of other creatures whose names and species I can’t remember.

Rest in peace, little Jack

With Jack gone, Molly has become a different cat.  She demands much more attention and more food, and she is asserting herself more with Gracie.  It was always Jack who intimidated Gracie, now Molly has taken over.  Molly was a young neighborhood stray who adopted Erin just a few months after we adopted Jack.  We let her stay only because Erin insisted it was unfair that Emily had a cat and she did not.  Perhaps it was just the “crazy cat lady” in me that let Erin keep Molly, or Someone just wanted his daughters to be equally happy.  We have no girls here now but Molly remains a permanent resident.

keeping everything equal is IMPOSSIBLE

Erin and Emily are adjusting to college life and adjusting to living apart from each other, while Someone are I are adjusting to our empty nest.  My first instinct is to declutter the house and clean thoroughly, but alas there has been no time at all.  This is middle of Week 2 for the course I’m teaching.  Facilitating an online course has been way more time-consuming than I ever imagined it would be.  Still, it’s much more enjoyable work than my real job, perhaps because it’s all still new and I’m learning new things.  Thank heavens I didn’t commit to teaching two courses this semester!

My alcoholic brother became very sick with a bacterial infection in his blood and lungs.  He’s been in the hospital for 10 days so far.  I’ve visited him a few times just to see how he is when he’s not plastered.  There is just no hope for him; his brain is too damaged from drugs and alcohol.  No doubt his first stop out of the hospital be to the bank for money, and then to the liquor store.

Someone is restless with his girls moved out of the house.  He’s bored.  To make matters worse, a tree knocked down a utility pole in our neighborhood which eliminated our cable, Internet, and phone service for three full days.  Someone was a wreck with no TV because not only is watching TV his primary hobby, he must have a TV to watch while running endless hours on his treadmill (his secondary hobby).  Admittedly, I was not happy with no Internet.  I set up my phone as a personal hot spot to survive the outage.  Someone really REALLY needs to find some friends or take up new hobbies because I have enough jobs without adding entertainment director to the list.

So now, it's back to work for KYLady.  She has stuff to grade, student emails to answer, a report to run, a kitchen to clean, laundry to start, and cookies to bake for a bake sale tomorrow.  It must be true that a woman's work is never done.    

Friday, August 8, 2014

covert worry

It’s been a very long time since I’ve lost sleep over anything.  Last night was crazy.  I must have waked up 800 times.  Someone said I flopped all over the bed and kept him awake too.  Even Gracie moved to the floor which is very unusual for her. 

Yesterday afternoon, I visited the payroll department at the college where I’ll be teaching.  A one-inch-thick stack of forms had to be filled out so that I could be added to the payroll…to receive a check for teaching a 15-week class that is less money than I make in one week at my real job.  It’s OK though, I’m not doing this for the money.  Sadly, some of the adjuncts are working for the money.  It makes me feel very fortunate.  Well, I am very fortunate.  Not many people have a job like mine…regardless of my opinion of it.

Last night, there was a meeting at the college for all the adjuncts (all those who showed up…apparently many didn’t come).  We all signed official employment contracts, and then we had 90 minutes of training on a new early warning system that needs to be incorporated into my syllabus and gradebook.  At least this system is new to everyone so I don’t feel behind with it.  We're all equally lost.  


My course opens a week from Monday.  It’s still not ready!  I still have lots of questions about best practices in the online environment and how things will work and be scheduled with the simulator we use for IT courses.  I still have four modules of Blackboard certification training to complete before next Friday.  Still – still – still.  Despite having a whole summer to prepare, I’m STILL floundering like a fish out of water.

So, driving home after the meeting last night, the realization sunk in that ready or not, this course is happening soon and I’m responsible for 30 people.  Teaching is something I’ve hoped for and daydreamed about for 15 years.  The opportunity and time is now…and now I’m in full panic mode.  Great!  Why must everything with me be do or die?  Why can’t anything in this life be easy?  Why can’t I be one of those calm, confident people who are successful just because they wake up breathing in the morning?  Ok…maybe those people don’t really exist….but there are a few who live a seemingly-charmed life.

Here are some bits of wisdom I’ve gleaned from chatting with experienced faculty.
  • Most students don’t want to learn and will put forth minimal effort. 
  •  All students will exploit any weakness in the system. 
  • Anything I say or write can and will be used against me. 
  • Most students will cheat if the opportunity arises. 
  • Some students will know way more than me, and some will read/write at grade-school level.
  • Some will have signed up and paid for an online class who have never used a computer in their lives.
  • I will piss off at least one student who will post my phone number on Twitter and ask the world to join them in harassing me.  Do not let any students know my cell number – EVER.  (They won’t…I signed up for a Google Voice number).

It all sounds like my role will be to lead a pack of wolves.  The idealistic part of me wants to believe that only a few students will be as malicious as portrayed by my colleagues.  I'm not looking for any glory or to trip anyone up.  I just want to help some people along in their journey to find a better life.  Who doesn't like to see good things happen to good people?